Schiff: Trump pressing Putin 'strains credulity'

Schiff blasts Trump's Russia negotiations
Schiff blasts Trump's Russia negotiations


    Schiff blasts Trump's Russia negotiations


Schiff blasts Trump's Russia negotiations 02:00

Story highlights

  • President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit
  • Schiff said he did not believe Trump's claims about the meeting

Washington (CNN)Rep. Adam Schiff says it "strains credulity" to believe President Donald Trump pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin on election meddling during their meeting at the Group of 20 summit Friday, and lambasted the proposed US-Russia cybersecurity team.

"How can we really believe that the President pressed Putin hard when only the day before he was denying whether we really knew Russia was responsible?" the California Democrat said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Schiff said the US should not "move on" from the election meddling issue and accused Russia of ongoing attempts to unsettle elections in other countries
    "I don't think we can expect the Russians to be any kind of a credible partner in some cybersecurity unit," Schiff said, referring to a proposed joint working group that Putin and Trump talked about in their meeting. "I think that would be dangerously naive for this country. If that's our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow."
    Schiff argued that expecting Putin to work constructively with the US served to ignore Russia's behavior.
    "Putin wasn't a tangential player here," Schiff said. "He was the one who ordered this orchestrated effort to interfere in our democracy."
    The US intelligence community issued a report in early January accusing Russia of being behind attempts to bolster Trump's candidacy and hurt Hillary Clinton's through several measures, including ordering the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
    Russia has denied the allegations, and Trump said on Twitter Sunday morning that when he "strongly pressed" Putin twice on the matter during their bilateral meeting, the Russian president again denied it.
    Trump tweeted that he has already given his opinion on the issue and called for cooperation between the two nations.
    Speaking in Poland before his meeting with Putin, Trump said he believed Russia probably attempted to influence the election, but suggested other countries might have been involved as well.

    House investigation

    Schiff is the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee, which is conducting an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and any potential involvement by Trump's associates.
    Donald Trump Jr., the President's oldest son, has told CNN that he, Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer last year -- the first known meeting of several of the senior-most members of Trump's team and a Russian national during the campaign.
    The New York Times, which first reported the previously undisclosed meeting, says it occurred at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016 -- two weeks after Trump clinched the Republican presidential nomination.
    In a statement, Trump Jr. said the "short, introductory" meeting was mostly about an adoption program.
    The Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, founded a group purporting to seek the removal of the Russian adoption ban. That ban was put in place by the Russian government as retaliation for a US law known as the Magnitsky Act, which allows the US to withhold visas and freeze the assets of Russians thought to have violated human rights. Veselnitskaya has also sought the repeal of the Magnitsky Act.
    CNN has reached out to Veselnitskaya. She told The New York Times: "Nothing at all was discussed about the presidential campaign." And she added, "I have never acted on behalf of the Russian government and have never discussed any of these matters with any representative of the Russian government."
    When asked about report, Schiff called into question Trump Jr.'s characterization of the meeting.
    "They claim that this meeting had nothing to do with the campaign and yet the Trump campaign manager is invited to come to the meeting," Schiff said.
    He said the committee would try to question everyone at the meeting.