CNN's Jake Tapper grilled Rep. Adam Schiff Sunday morning on whether or not Schiff should step down rather than continue to investigate Donald Trump's corrupt relationship with Russia, as Republicans want him to do, forcing Schiff to explain why Tapper is off on the wrong track entirely.
Tapper cannot seem to make the distinction between compromise and criminal activity, or the nuance of a distinction between a "conspiracy with the Russian government" that rises to the level of criminal charges and simple corruption at the highest levels of government. He also seems to have difficulty with the concept of Congressional oversight as a tool to root out waste, fraud, and outright corruption in government, preferring instead to parrot Trump administration talking points in place of an interview.
Where was Tapper on the topic of Benghazi hearings, an investigation provably hatched in the dens of right-wing strategy shops? Was he asking Republicans whether they should stop investigating, since there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing? Well, of course he wasn't. He complained that Bridgegate got more coverage than Benghazi, and even gave Trey Gowdy and the wingnuts a leg up on publicizing what truly was a partisan witch-hunt.
How about Hillary's faux email scandal? You know, the one where she testified before Gowdy's committee for 11 hours about a thing that wasn't a thing? Yes, Tapper was helpful to Republicans there, too. He had Clinton's campaign manager on to discuss what he called the "email cover-up" and was gobsmacked that Clinton wouldn't hold a press conference to throw more fuel on the fire.
Then there were the numerous tweets from Tapper basking in all the dirt from the Wikileaks email dumps. Every time they'd dump more, he'd be right there, live-tweeting the nuggets from hacked and stolen emails like they were gold.
But when it comes to Democrats doing their oversight duties, Tapper thinks perhaps "ethical judgments" are not something they should engage in because that's what Mick Mulvaney said and everyone knows he's the last word on everything, right?
Schiff put him back in his place, however.
"Now Jake, you've asked the question many times, is there risk of doing too much oversight?" Schiff said. "There is a risk when you have an immoral president, a president lacking in basic character who violates the norms of office, there is an even greater risk of doing too little oversight."
"So, I make no apologies for that. I'm going to continue holding this administration accountable," he emphasized.
Full transcript below, with thanks to Heather.
TAPPER: You've been criticized a great deal for saying you still see “evidence of collusion” even though according to Attorney General Barr, the Mueller report says, “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities,: So are you saying that Mueller got it wrong?
SCHIFF: No, and what I've said on your show and others Jake for over a year now was that yes, there's ample evidence of collusion in plain sight, but that is not the same thing as proof of a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, and that I would defer to Bob Mueller's judgment and I do.
But I think what we're talking about here is the difference between conduct that rises to the level of criminality and conduct that is deeply unethical, unpatriotic and corrupt but may not be criminal. And I think you saw from Mr. Mulvaney on your show last week and as we've seen from Mr. Nunes and Mr. McCarthy, and attitude that ethics don't matter. If there's no crime, there's no foul. And I think if we get to that point in this country, then we are in a very desperate situation.
TAPPER: You say you think what they did was immoral, unethical and corrupt even if not enough for criminal charges. Mulvaney did tell me on the show last week that ethical judgments are ultimately not your job. […] What's your response, sir?
SCHIFF: Well, that is certainly the president's attitude, it's not the job of Congress to do oversight, period. And indeed under the GOP congress, they did no oversight. But it's our responsibility to root out fraud, corruption, waste, abuse, whether it rises to the level of criminality or not.
If Mr. Mulvaney's standard is Congress can't look unless there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt of crime, then Congress would be able to do little or no oversight. That's simply not how Congress should or ever has acted. We need to our legitimate oversight. We need to ferret out any kind of malfeasance or abuse, whether that rises to something the Justice Department can prosecutor not.
TAPPER: How do you respond to the suggestion made by every Republican on your committee, they've called for you to step down, that you going out there before this report came out and saying there's evidence of collusion and then Mueller comes out and says we don't find any evidence of conspiracy or even coordination, that what you're saying and what you said is irresponsible because you're kind of muddying the waters? There is a standard that Mueller has and then you have a different standard and maybe people got confused and maybe the Democrats got their hopes up.
SCHIFF: Look, I think there is a different standard here between the Republicans and the Democrats. The Republicans seem to think that as long as you can't prove it's a crime, then all is fair in love and war, that it's all okay, what the Trump administration, what the Trump campaign does.
I don't feel that way. I don't think most Americans feel that way. And Jake, what I've been saying all along is that the evidence that I'm concerned about is in plain sight, and I've used those words probably 100 times. It's the fact that the president called on the Russians to hack Hillary's emails. It's the fact that or Don Jr. said that he'd love to get the Russian's help. All of this is in plain sight.
If the Republicans think that's perfectly fine because it doesn't amount to the crime of conspiracy, then we are going to part company, and I'm not going to stop making the point that we should hold our president, our campaigns, our elected officials to a higher standard than mere criminality.
TAPPER: And you have no regrets of anything you've said in the last couple years?
SCHIFF: I don't regret calling out this president for what I consider deeply unethical and improper conduct. Not a bit. And I think the moment that we start to think that we should back away from exposing this kind of malfeasance and corruption is a dangerous point.
Now Jake, you've asked the question many times, is there risk of doing too much oversight. There is a risk when you have an immoral president, a president lacking in basic character who violates the norms of office, there is an even greater risk of doing too little oversight. So, I make no apologies for that. I'm going to continue holding this administration accountable.
TAPPER: I don't think that's exactly I phrased that question, but I take your point.