Schiff: Criticisms of Mueller probe meant to discredit potential future charges

Story highlights

  • Schiff said GOP criticism of the Mueller investigation is meant to discredit future findings
  • Two on Mueller's team have been focused on for potential anti-Trump bias

Washington (CNN)Rep. Adam Schiff is dismissing the GOP's accusations of bias in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, saying they're partisan efforts to discredit the significance of the investigation's potential findings.

On CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday morning, host Jake Tapper asked the California Democrat about the GOP's accusations of bias within the investigation into allegations of collusion by the Trump campaign in Russia's efforts to influence last year's election. Schiff, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Republicans' criticisms are "an effort to tear at the very idea that there is an objective truth."
"(T)he intent here is not to do oversight," Schiff said. "The intent here is nothing short of discrediting Mueller, then discrediting the Justice Department, then discrediting the FBI, then discrediting the judiciary, should the judiciary convict some of the people that Mueller has charged or may charge in the future."
    Several incidents within Mueller's team have sparked the GOP's criticism in recent weeks. Senior FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation over the summer after an internal investigation found he sent messages that could be interpreted as showing political bias for Clinton and against Trump. Electronic records show that Strzok also changed a key phrase in former FBI Director James Comey's description of how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton handled classified information, modifying draft language describing Clinton's actions from "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," according to US officials familiar with the matter.
    According to government emails published by the conservative activist group Judicial Watch, another lawyer on the Mueller team, Andrew Weissmann, praised former acting Attorney General Sally Yates after her decision in January not to enforce the Trump administration's travel ban -- a move that led soon after to her firing by President Donald Trump. Weissmann served under Yates as a top prosecutor in the Justice Department's criminal division at the time.
    The GOP slams on Mueller's investigation come alongside a flurry of tweets by Trump last weekend that took aim at the Justice Department and FBI after his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.
    "I think that this President, in an astonishing speed has remade the Republican Party in his own, deeply flawed image, and that will be ruinous to the Republican Party," Schiff said on Sunday. "But as we depend on a two-party system and two functional parties it will also be deeply damaging to the country. The discrediting of our institutions, the justice system, the judiciary, the press, is enormously destructive."
    What was far more significant than the incidents on Mueller's team, Schiff argued, was that Comey failed to disclose a federal investigation into the Trump campaign but did disclose the Clinton email investigation, which Clinton has claimed affected the outcome of the election.
    Schiff said he thought Comey's move was "an error in judgment," as opposed to a partisan act, and it was appropriate to do oversight on the issue.
    Asked to provide any proof of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Schiff outlined a chronology of interactions involving Trump campaign associates, WikiLeaks and Russians dating back to late-April 2016, when, according to court filings, Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos learned that Russians had Clinton's emails.
    "So, we have all of these facts in chronology," Schiff said. "You'd have to believe that these were all isolated incidents not connected to each other -- just doesn't make rational sense."