Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the United States House Intelligence Committee, has made headlines across the country in recent weeks for his growing role in the investigation into the links between Donald Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.
He addressed the investigation and more while speaking at Perry World House on Thursday in an event titled “Threats to Democracy at Home and Abroad: An Update on the Congressional Russia Investigation.”
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Pennsylvanian before the event, Schiff responded to questions regarding the most recent development in the Russian probe, which centered on a secret memo drafted by Congressional Republicans to reveal evidence of Federal Bureau of Investigation corruption during the Russia investigation.
On Jan. 31, Schiff wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post criticizing the decision of House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee to release the classified memo.
Hours later on Jan. 31, news broke that Representative Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had made secret changes to the memo, unbeknownst to the members of the committee.
And just hours after Schiff spoke at the Perry World House on Feb. 1, The New York Times reported that President Trump planned to allow for the public release of the Republican memo.
Schiff said the memo is a sign of desperation, a move he likened to a defendant putting the government on trial when the facts are stacked against their client.
“As the Mueller investigation has gotten closer and closer to the president, some of the president’s allies in Congress are worried about what that means,” Schiff told the DP. “They have tried to put the FBI and the DOJ on trial and mounted attacks against people like Bob Mueller and tried to undermine his team.”
In the interview, Schiff also stressed society’s need for college students to contribute to government and change the current polarized system.
“One of the reasons I’m here is that I really want to encourage young people to pursue careers in public service,” Schiff said. “We need good young people with new ideas, and while we are seeing a surge of political activism, I do worry that people are going to be turned off to the idea of government service.”
Schiff cited careers in the Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and the judiciary branch as areas where the next generation can push change.
“We need great people — I would say now is more important than ever,” Schiff said. “It always gets me energized again to see how committed and passionate and idealistic college students are about the political process.”
He added that the benefit of new perspectives from younger generations can be applied to heal the increasingly polarized political environment.
“The way people now get their information only serves to reinforce the views people already have, rather than exposing them to other ideas,” Schiff said. “It’s taken a while for us to get into this hole, and it’s going to take a while for us to get out, and that’s part of the reason why we are counting on an influx of new, idealistic young people.”
During the event, Schiff gave a speech where he discussed the fragility of American democracy. He expressed concern over government institutions that were previously untouchable being attacked from within the United States. Citing attacks on the FBI, the Department of Justice, the court system, and freedom of the press, Schiff said the country was at a crucial inflection point.
“The very idea of America is at risk,” Schiff said. “There is a real ideological struggle going on about the fate of liberal democracy.”
This message of public service was echoed during Schiff’s conclusion to his speech, where he urged concerned citizens to resist tuning out the news and instead implored Americans to make a difference.
Penn Dental freshman Tim Wang said he thought Schiff's speech was engaging.
“I thought it was relevant to everything that is happening in society and government,” Wang said. “It was pretty cool he came to Penn to talk to us face-to-face during such a revolutionary time.”
In his ending remarks, Schiff said, “We will get through this, it’s going to require a lot of us to do our part. We are resilient, and I’m encouraged by the millions of people becoming active for the first time.”
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