LOS ANGELES — Reacting to President Donald Trump’s latest Twitter barrage, Rep. Adam Schiff demanded during a visit to Los Angeles City Hall May 12 that Trump turn over to Congress any secretly recorded conversations with the recently fired FBI director.
“For someone who accuses the former president of illegally wiretapping him, it is mind boggling,” Schiff, D-Burbank, said, referring to Trump’s previous accusation that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump’s office.
“If there are tapes it is because President Trump made them, and they should be turned over to Congress.”
Schiff said ex-FBI Director James Comey “was not only fired in the middle of the Russia investigation, but he may be also now be a witness.”
Trump, who fired Comey last week even though he was leading the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, wrote on Twitter, “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
Critics have suggested that the tweet amounts to a threat against Comey, something White House press secretary Sean Spicer denied during a briefing.
Spicer did not directly address the possibility that conversations between Trump and Comey may have been recorded — something that would be reminiscent of the Watergate era of President Richard Nixon.
“The president has nothing further to add on that,” Spicer said. “The tweet speaks for itself.”
Schiff, who represents the 28th District which includes West Hollywood and parts of Hollywood, was at City Hall to participate in a news conference with three City Council members to denounce alleged human rights abuses in Chechnya against gay men.
Schiff is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.
As a result of his position, Schiff has become one of the most visible critics of Trump on Capitol Hill, and reporters at the City Hall news conference were eager to get his thoughts on the unfolding news from the White House.
“It certainly sounds very Nixonian. As I recall it, that system was set up pre-Nixon, but Nixon obviously utilized it,” Schiff said.
“But I have no idea whether this is the president once again suggesting things that are only true in a reality in which he occupies alone, or there is more to it than that, but if there are tapes he needs to provide them to Congress.”
Schiff also commented on reports that Trump met with Comey in January and demanded the FBI director’s loyalty.
“Hard to know where to begin with how unethical that is. And this is the president’s own justification. It’s just shocking,” Schiff said.
“For the president of the United States not to understand that it’s completely inappropriate for him to be demanding loyalty from the FBI director who is in the midst of an investigation into the president’s own associates. … Our president doesn’t understand how our system of checks and balances work, doesn’t understand the Justice Department or the judiciary or the FBI director.”
Schiff also responded to Trump’s recent suggestion that his administration may no longer hold press briefings.
“You know, telling the American people the truth about your own administration is a core part of the job, and if he didn’t want to undertake that responsibility, he should have never run for this office. It’s so deeply disturbing today at a variety of levels,” Schiff said.
Spicer would not say whether canceling briefings was actually being considered. He said Trump was dismayed at media tendencies to “parse every word” said by press secretaries.