I’m Kara Swisher, and you’re listening to “Sway.” My guest today is Representative Adam Schiff. He led the prosecution for Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial. In the process, he became one of Trump’s favorite punching bags, a baffling experience he documents in his new memoir, “Midnight In Washington.” Now Schiff is a member of the House select committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol. And the subpoenas are flying fast and furious. So I wanted to talk to Schiff about how the investigation is going and what impact he hopes to have this time around. I wanted to understand how he and the committee are factoring in the revelations from Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen, as they contemplate social media’s role in the January 6th attack. So here we go with Adam Schiff — or as Trump like to call him, Shifty Schiff.
Thank you, great to be with you. I haven’t heard that nickname in a while.
Do you miss it?
Well I don’t have chance to miss it because at these rallies he’s out calling me “Watermelon Head.” That’s his new name for me.
I was “Pencil Neck,” and I told people that going from “Pencil Neck” to “Watermelon Head” — it’s a very difficult balancing act.
How does he come up with that one?
Well, he’s like a lot of fifth graders.
Yeah, right. Anyway, I’m going to start off with Facebook because these hearings just took place. Do you think their revelations? Your book looks at social media algorithms in the lead up to the 2016 elections and how Russia gamed the system. In the pandemic we’ve seen vaccine disinformation. President Biden criticized them, then backed off. You and I have talked about this a lot and I have certainly talked about everything that was in this testimony. So tell me what you think is important here.
Well, there’s so much that’s important, but you’re right. In many ways it’s not a revelation. What is new is hearing it from the inside and seeing it in such graphic detail and documented. I remember you and I talked about this at the time, back in 2017. The Intelligence Committee had a hearing with the tech executives. We were focused on Russian intervention, but I remember asking the general counsel of Facebook, what about the algorithms’ impact on our society? Are they balkanizing us? Are they turning people against each other? And his answer was, well, the jury is still out. I don’t know if the jury was out back in 2017 but the jury’s come back in. And you know, among the many allegations of the whistleblower that are disturbing, is in the Intel area, that Facebook is purposely not hiring the staff that they need, not designing the detection that they need, to look at all of the foreign interference that’s going on.
They just don’t want to see it, in other words.
They don’t want to see it because they’d have to do something about it. And of course, some of the other allegations of their changing back to the pre-election news feed.
Right. Immediately after election they did this. They had this civic integrity team which did a good job at taking the temperature down before the election, but after the election is when the temperature really went up.
Well, and if we had any assumption before the election that the worst would be before the election, we learned thereafter that, no, the worst was yet to come. And on the January 6th select committee, we’re obviously looking at the role of Facebook and social media in helping those who attacked the Capitol that day organize and helping to proliferate the big lie which led up to that violent insurrection.
Right. And does that mean — your book opens with January 6th. Among other things that whistleblower Francis Haugen said was that Facebook was partly responsible for the Capitol attack, that they prematurely turned off the safeguards against misinformation. What impact do you think that had? Because they had been doing the right thing and then decided to get back to business as usual.
I think it has a very big impact. There’s a, as you know, a funneling effect in social media where if you’re a Proud Boys or Three Percenters or other white nationalist group or violent group, you send out feelers very broadly. And those who respond, you send out more feelers to pull them into a more radical direction and the process continues until you have a hard core willing to do almost anything, willing to attack a capital and bludgeon police and threaten to kill the vice president and legislators. At the same time, we can’t ignore the effect of other media. The OAN’s and the Fox Newses and the Newsmaxes that are unapologetically pushing out the big lie and other big lies. There’s no civic integrity there.
Well, they can be sued though. Look at — Dominion systems is suing every one of them, right?
They can be sued but, you know, how much impact has litigation had so far?
Alex Jones just lost a lawsuit.
Well, it’s an important remedy.
The only point being is Facebook can’t be sued.
And I think we need to look at that Section 230 immunity, which was something Congress provided when it was a nascent industry and we didn’t want to stifle innovation. Well, they’re not nascent anymore. They’re the behemoths.
So what would you say to their argument? That they’re like phone companies. People use phones to organize. How different do you think that is?
I think it’s completely different from a phone company — although like the phone company, they’re in need of regulation. But different in the sense that they moderate and curate — or don’t moderate — the content. And because that content is visible to them, because they have policies which they are empowered to utilize, they can protect their customers and the public. A private company can decide what kind of incendiary hateful divisive rhetoric it will tolerate or not tolerate. I think that Section 230 has given the companies an incentive not to moderate. It was actually designed, as you know, to —
So they could moderate.
So they could moderate and not be sued for moderating. But it’s had, I think, the opposite impact over time. But I mentioned Fox and OAN and Newsmax just because that 230 is not going to be the complete answer. And I do think in terms of immunity and 230, we need to look not just at how they moderate content, but also the fundamental problem of algorithms enhancing engagement and the model that essentially stokes the fire.
You know what I always say. Eengagement equals engagement.
Well, that is very true.
Another thing they’ve been doing — Nick Clegg, the vice president of global affairs, called the accusations misleading. He said that Facebook and social media in general are not the primary cause of polarization — though I never — no one ever accused them of that. They also are sort of saying, basically, humans were bad before we got here.
Yeah. Well, those arguments only go so far and for me they don’t go that far. As I mentioned, I think there’s truth to the argument, why are you so focused on us and not looking at Fox?
Yeah, that’s their new thing.
And they’re completely unapologetic. But you don’t respond to actors who are not responsibly carrying out their civic duties by saying, they are worse people than us. That’s really not what corporate policy should be about. And you know, I certainly concur Facebook didn’t start out to be a destructive voice and they thought they were doing a lot of great good. When we watched people organize in Tahrir Square using social media, calling for more representative government, and empowered Iranians and others to be able to communicate with each other and organized protests against human rights abuses, but we have seen that those goods are not unmitigated goods and there are some very serious ills.
Because it can be gamed so easily.
It can be gamed so easily. And even now, you know, I’ve been working for some years and trying to attack, even before Covid, the problem of vaccine misinformation online. It’s still easy to monetize the sale of information that kills people, misinformation that kills people on these platforms. And there’s no way that any of these platforms should enjoy immunity as long as that’s the case.
So back in March, Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Sundar Pichai of Google all testified in front of Congress and were pressed on whether they thought their companies were partly responsible for the attack. Let me play you Zuckerberg’s response.
Chairman, my point is that I think that the responsibility here lies with the people who took the actions to break the law and take — and do the insurrection. And secondarily, also the people who spread that content, including the president, but others as well.
What do you think of that response?
I think the answer to that question should start out with, here’s our role in this. And this is what we are seeing and have seen and this is what we need to do better. And we recognize tragically our own contribution to that nightmare on January 6th. Look, people were organizing on social media. Like-minded people who are willing to literally attack the seat of government could find themselves, could organize, could finance, and there’s no ignoring that responsibility.
Are you going to subpoena these tech executives to talk about this? Obviously, they’re not the main cause, although you can sort of spread blame all around. How much focus will be on them?
Well, this is one of the challenges we have, which is we have a very broad remit. We want to write the definitive report, we use the 9/11 commission report as our model and clearly, social media played a very integral role in helping to organize this attack and to propagate a big lie which is tearing at the fabric of our democracy. So we are definitely pursuing this. I’m not able to tell you who would be subpoenaed or whether subpoenas will be necessary. We’ve already made document requests of the social media companies. Some are complying more than others.
Who’s not complying?
Well, I don’t want to disclose that at this point.
What does not complying mean? Just slow? Or…
Well, some are not complying at all. Others are providing some information, but we feel there’s a lot more out there. And —
They often drag their feet on government requests in general, they have a long history of that.
Well, I think what this whistleblower has revealed is how much important information there is to society to see — inside these big companies. And I think that the push to require transparency is an incredibly important one.
What could have they done? Would you think? Kick Trump off sooner? Zuckerberg, you know, he mentioned Trump. Trump bears responsibility but they bear responsibility for keeping you on despite rule breaking and at the same time, he’s the President of the United States. So it’s a real pickle they put themselves in.
Well, it is. And I don’t think we can minimize the complexity of some of these questions. When the most destructive propagandist is also the President of the United States, what do you do about that? And when that President United States is also willing to use all the levers of state power to punish those who stand up to him, what do you do about that? And Donald Trump couldn’t do this on his own. He had a lot of enablers. The enablers that I frankly hold most responsible are the men and women I served with in Congress who surrendered everything they cared about, everything they professed to believe in, to uphold this deeply unethical man who was tearing at the fabric of our democracy. So before members of Congress point fingers, we need to do our own introspection. Had leaders in the G.O.P. stood up to Trump instead of so readily capitulated, we would have avoided this nightmare.
And they’re still doing it.
They’re still doing it. They’re still doing it.
Seeing Mike Pence do it was quite something.
The ultimate act of obsequiousness on the one hand and betrayal of our democracy on the other. I was on the floor on January 6. I had suggested to the Speaker months before the election that we form a rump group of members to prepare for whatever might happen in the election and aftermath. Of course, we looked at about 1,000 different scenarios and never came up with the one that happened. We did not think. We did not think of attack. We did think of violence. We certainly were concerned about violence around the country and yet what happened was far worse I think than anyone’s expectation. But I remember Republican colleagues coming up to me because I was hanging back to let others who were more worried leave the floor, and plus we had all these Republican members not willing to wear masks, and I didn’t particularly want to be jammed in with a bunch of people not wearing masks. And I had Republican members come up to me on the floor and say, you can’t let them see you. I know these people, I can talk to these people. You’re in a whole different situation. You can’t let them see you. And my first reaction was to be touched by their evident concern of my well-being, but my next impulse was, if you hadn’t been making up all this stuff about me, if you all hadn’t been pushing this big lie, I wouldn’t need to worry about my security. None of us would.
Which is what Liz Cheney said. Get your hands off of me. I don’t need your help.
Exactly, exactly. But what I discovered in these last four years, is something that the historian Robert Caro once said in an interview. Power doesn’t corrupt as much as it reveals. And power revealed a lot of the people that I served with to not believe anything that they said they believe. One of the most frequent questions I get from people is, do the Republicans really believe what they say when they’re talking to you in private? Most of my Republican colleagues do not believe the big lie. They know it’s a big lie. And yet they push it because they’re afraid of Trump, because they’re afraid of a primary, because they want to advance to the Senate or maybe they want a cabinet appointment in another Trump administration. And it turns out nothing is quite as important as that. Not their oath, not their ideology, not what the party used to stand for. And that was a terrible realization for me.
So let’s talk about the January 6 committee because one of the things that happened is you aren’t getting a bipartisan committee. You do have two, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. Can you talk about whether you can have a meaningful conclusion without G.O.P. involvement? And obviously you don’t have it, so that’s what it is. And what they mean — because they’re taking heat, they’re taking heat from Kevin McCarthy, obviously Liz Cheney’s under huge pressure, so is Representative Kinzinger. Representative Gonzalez is not running. Like, price is paid.
Well, first of all, I would disagree that we don’t have G.O.P. involvement in the committee. Probably the two most important members of the G.O.P. are, in fact, on the committee, because they’re two who have the courage of their convictions. They’re two who I would like to think represent the future of that party when that party returns to being a party of ideas and ideology again. So their participation is enormously important. Our report will be judged, I think, by those who have an open mind. By the quality of its analysis, by the quality of the evidence we gather. That’s the standard we have to shoot for. And I think the Speaker made it the absolute right judgment in wanting a functional committee with members devoted to getting to the truth rather than having the appearance of a broader bipartisan membership where half the people in the committee were determined to propagate the big lie.
So right now you’re in the middle of that in terms of subpoenas. You sent out three rounds to top Trump advisors and organizers of the rally that preceded the attack. Can you give us a quick overview of how you pick who you want to hear from?
Well, what we’ve done is essentially scope out the investigation. And then we’ve mapped out, O.K., who are the key witnesses in each of these subject matter areas? And then what’s the right priority order to bring people in? And there can be a lot of factors that go into those considerations, including the centrality of their testimony. But also who we think we’re going to have a fight with and we need to bring them in early because if they’re going to fight, we need to use whatever compulsion we can, whatever tools that we have and we need to get started now.
Right, except they are fighting. Issuing subpoenas is one thing but getting people to comply is another. This is a group of people who actively have realized you can break the laws and not pay the price.
Well, they could for four years. Because for those four years, we had an attorney general who viewed his job, whether it was Bill Barr or Jeff Sessions to varying degrees, particularly Bill Barr, as defending the president’s personal interests, not the Constitution and not his own department. That’s not true anymore. And so witnesses who fail to show up now will need to contemplate they may very well be prosecuted.
Well, we will find out. We will find out.
If witnesses fail to show up, then the committee can make criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. We can hold them in criminal contempt and seek prosecution by the Justice Department, and it will be the decision of the Justice Department. Now I have to hope and pray that we will not have another four years where people can flout the rule of law and get away with it.
But they’re flouting right now. They’re supposed to submit to depositions. Let’s do a lightning round about where they stand and what you’ve heard back. Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff.
I’m not free to disclose that until the committee does. But what is in the public record is the president is telling these people not to.
Kash Patel, former Pentagon chief of staff.
Patel was a former Nunes staffer who was a demonstration of the principle in the Trump administration that the more willing you were to do anything the president wanted, no matter how unscrupulous, the higher and faster you could rise. And he rose Phoenix-like through the Trump administration one position after another, even being contemplated to take over the C.I.A.
So basically remora fish action.
Well, I kind of view it more like an evil Zelig.
But it was, you know, part of the broader story last four years, which is anyone of any stature or integrity like Mattis, would be gone and be replaced with someone of lesser stature.
Who’s willing to do this. Well, they seem to be willing. Dan Scavino, he’s the deputy — he just basically did the tweets. I think that’s what his job was. He was the tweet guy.
He was one of the social media people. Yes.
Thank you. It’s a nicer — the tweet guy. Steve Bannon.
Well, I can tell you what Steve Bannon did during the Russia investigation and that as we brought him into the skiff. At the time the investigation was being chaired by the Republicans. He initially refused to answer questions about his conversations with the President and even the Republicans were a little bit taken aback by the breadth of his obstructionism.
Wow, Steve Bannon’s brazen. What a surprise.
Well, at that point, he was on the outs with the President. He was a man without a country. And so I remember Trey Gowdy acting very indignant to that —
This is representative Trey Gowdy, who was Republican.
Yes. Bannon wouldn’t answer questions. So we actually subpoenaed him, he came back two weeks later. This time he was even more brazen. He came with 25 questions written out for us. He said these were the questions that he would deign to allow us to ask him. And they were already answered for us. And the answer was no to each one of them. We asked him where did this list come from? Did you write it up? His answer was the White House. And all the indignation that we saw from Trey Gowdy two weeks earlier, vanished in a puff of smoke. They wouldn’t hold him in contempt, they wouldn’t move forward. Because they understood that if they tried to force Bannon, this man without a country, to testify, it would set a precedent. What do you do when Hope Hicks doesn’t answer questions? Or Corey Lewandowski doesn’t answer questions? How do you respond to the obvious hypocrisy while you’re willing to insist with Steve Bannon, but not with the rest of them? And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened when we brought these other witnesses in.
So when you’re saying you’re hoping and praying the Justice Department will reinforce these subpoenas, is it realistic that they aren’t going to just rope a dope you all?
Well, it is realistic. In some of the most important testimony thus far from former Department of Justice officials, who testified that essentially Trump was trying to use the Justice Department to overturn the election, the current administration, which is the holder of the privilege, said, we are not going to assert privilege. And so these witnesses came forward, testified. And that’s very important evidence. And the fact that we have an administration now which is willing to publicly assert that we’re not going to allow these witnesses who have relevant testimony about a violent attack on our capital to hide behind privilege is a seminal difference from what we saw.
But then what about the ones — the ones that Donald Trump is saying, say nothing? Omertá — whatever the heck it is.
Well we need the administration, again, to make it clear they’re not going to let these witnesses hide behind privilege. And at the end of the day, if the witnesses continue to stonewall, we need the Justice Department to reinforce through prosecution that, no, the rule of law is back.
O.K., you’ve had up to 18 subpoenas now. The latest round went to three main organizer of the protests around the country, including Stop the Steal L.L.C. Is there a strategy in zooming in on the organizers?
It makes a lot of sense to look at who organized these rallies. What was their understanding? What was their expectation about the propensity for violence? How are they coordinated? What kind of communication was there between the rally organizers and the White House? How was this paid for? What was the purpose of the march on the Capitol? How did people know to come armed with tactical gear, with communications equipment? We want to know at all. Because we want to be able to tell the country about all of it. And so, yes, it makes sense to start with them, but certainly not end with them.
So are you going to subpoena Mike Pence?
I can’t speak for the committee, we’ll make that decision jointly. And it’ll be announced by our chairman, in terms of any high profile witness. But one thing that we are very uniform about is that we will go to whoever has the information that we need, and —
It sounds like you’d like to.
No one is off the table.
Including Donald Trump himself?
No one is off the table.
I’d love you to then talk about the first impeachment trial. Didn’t seem to hurt him at all. You warned about this. Neither did his second impeachment trial, which charged him with inciting insurrection. In your book you write that Trump’s acquittal only emboldened him. “He had an iron grip on the base of the Republican Party. He could say whatever he wanted, and they would believe him. Or at least profess they did.” What’s the end goal this time? What is this committee going to do that the impeachments didn’t?
Well, first of all, I think the impeachment did accomplish something very important, which is they exposed the president for what he is, for the danger that he represented. Now that work is obviously not over. As president, he was using the biggest megaphone in the world to broadcast the biggest lies. He doesn’t have the biggest megaphone anymore, but he still has a very big one. And that megaphone is, of course, amplified by this right wing media ecosystem. And that’s a lot to overcome. There is no equivalent on the left of Fox and OAN and —
That group doesn’t get as excited, you can’t keep them interested that long.
Well, I would—
Nor would you want to either.
I think that we are not willing, and we shouldn’t, to engage in the kind of destructive falsehood that we see on Newsmax and OAN and Fox. And that doesn’t mean we don’t fight hard. We have to fight hard and we have to fight smart. And right now as long as the Republican Party is a cult around the former president. They just need to be beaten. The most corrosive thing that Donald Trump did over four years was this relentless attack on the truth. And these two conversations we’re having about social media and about January 6 are related in many ways. But to me, one of the most important is, we’ve had this revolution how we get information. And it’s made it very difficult to talk to each other. It’s made it very difficult to understand each other. One of my colleagues Mike Quigley put it better than anybody I know when he said, it used to be people would say, I’ll believe it when I see it. Now it’s more, I’ll see it when I believe it. You can show people video of white nationalists attacking the Capitol, beating police officers. You could show it to them, they won’t believe it. Actually they won’t see it, they won’t even see it. Until they’re ready to believe it, and they’re not ready to believe it. Because Donald Trump tells them, you can’t believe anything you see. You can’t believe anything you read, you can only believe me.
And then what do we do?
After we finish our analysis? Well, I have to hope that what we show the American people. Through our hearings, through our report, helps change minds. Helps provide a record for history, of the danger this man represented and the fragility of our democracy.
That means you do need Trump there, to talk about it, at the hearing. He’s kind of the main character.
Oh, I see—
It’s kind of like not doing “Moby Dick” without the whale. You need the whale right?
When my son was younger. Probably too young to watch Gregory Peck in “Moby Dick.” Nonetheless it was one of my favorite films. Sat down, we watched it together. And I said, so what’d you think? Because he was a bit speechless afterwards. And he said, that was awful! That sucked, they didn’t even kill the whale! They didn’t kill the whale! That was the whole point!
Yeah, they didn’t kill the whale.
The whale kind of killed them.
That was my effort at deflecting your question.
Yeah I see that, I’m on to you.
I’m just not in a position to be making determinations about that.
All right, would Representative — you, yourself, Adam, want him? Do you think he’s critical to speak to?
Look, I’m going to come back to what I mentioned before. Which is, anyone who has relevant information, I think we should hear from.
Yeah you need to hear from the whale, just so you know.
We’ll be back in a minute. If you like this interview and want to hear others. Follow us on your favorite podcast app. You’ll be able to catch up on “Sway” episodes you may have missed, like my conversation with former Trump advisor Jason Miller, and you’ll get new ones delivered directly to you. More with Adam Schiff after the break.
So you talked about McCarthy’s loyalty to Trump — he’s a central figure in your book. And you describe his flirting with turning against Trump after the insurrection. It didn’t happen.
Well, his flirtation with conscience lasted about 30 seconds.
Yeah it did.
To me —
But it was grand.
— the more important player was Mitch McConnell. Because you could almost see him struggle. You could see, I think from him, how much he despises Donald Trump.
Despises, probably more than you, I would guess.
Well, we’d be in a tight competition. But he couldn’t hide the disdain, in my view. And he is smart enough to understand what a horrible destructive force he’s been on the Republican Party. And how much Trump has battered an institution that he has served in for decades. And when you listen to his comments after the second impeachment. About Trump being morally and practically responsible for the insurrection. And the vehemence of those comments, you could tell that there was a struggle going on.
He was talking to history, that’s what he was doing.
Well, yes, and he wanted it both ways. I mean after all his espoused reason to vote for aquitting someone that he acknowledged incited an attack on our own capital was that the trial didn’t start while he was in office. And the trial didn’t start while he was in office because he wouldn’t let it start. But nonetheless, you could at least see some wrestling with the idea of throwing Trump overboard. And I think McConnell ultimately concluded that, instead, if he tried, he would be thrown overboard. Now that may be very true, but this is something that I have grappled with.
Yeah, you write a lot about in this book, the stranglehold that has continued. Because even Mitch McConnell holds his nose. You spend a lot of time in the book ruminating on Trump’s appeal not just to the G.O.P., but also to voters. What do you think is at the root of that? He’s not the president, he’s been de-platformed, yet it continues.
I think the appeal, and you see it of other despots around the world, or aspiring despots around the world, is he doesn’t make much of an effort to say that he’s not corrupt. Instead he tries to say everyone else is corrupt. And the intimation is, we’re all corrupt. But I’m corrupt, and I’m your corrupt guy. I hear you, those others they look down on you. And if you can persuade someone, however falsely, that the other side looks down on you, you will never win over their support. And so I think Donald Trump gave a daily dose of poison into the body politic.
But what’s the appeal? There’s an appeal there too. Before he was running I was with a group of White House reporters or political reporters at a party. And they laughing, and I said, don’t laugh, he’s very appealing. I talk about this — like I was the only person who ever watched “The Apprentice.” I’m like, he’s extraordinarily appealing, he’s funny. And he makes people feel like he’s listening to them. So if there are disgruntled people, boy, are they going to love it.
Well, I think part of what resonated for people is — in the last 30 to 40 years, the middle class has become increasingly at risk of falling apart. And people are most willing to rebel, to bring about a revolution, not when they are most impoverished, but when they feel they are most exposed to losing what they have. And he saw around the country millions and millions of people who had had a Bush as president, and their life didn’t change. And they had a Clinton as president and their life hadn’t changed. And he said, I’m going to break everything. And they were ready for somebody to break everything. And they didn’t necessarily believe he was going to improve their lives. But at least he was sticking it to those that they thought were responsible for their circumstances. So I think that was part of the appeal. And an enormous part of what my party needs to do. We need to show that the democracy can work and can deliver for everyone. We could create an economy that works for everyone. Which is why the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill are not somehow separate and distinct from promotion of democracy.
Do you think that this logjam will are Democrats in the midterms? And risk control of both the House and the Senate?
Well, that’s certainly the G.O.P. strategy. Which is, as one of them said in a private meeting, we want chaos and gridlock for the next 18 months. That’s their strategy. That’s McCarthy and McConnell’s strategy. But I’m confident we’re going to get it done. We will get the reconciliation bill passed. The Build Back Better bill, and we’ll also get an infrastructure bill passed. And the combination of those two things. And the Rescue Plan we already passed. That will have a demonstrable impact on people’s lives that I think will be the most powerful agenda —
So you think this logjam will pass? How do you get Senator Manchin and Sinema in line? Manchin wants to slash the proposed spending on the domestic package by more than half. No one seems to know what Sinema wants.
Look. I’m for the biggest and boldest package, so that’s where I am. But I also know, having been at this now for 20 years, you don’t get everything you want. I’m not expecting to get everything I want. But if at the end of the day, we have a rescue plan that’s already been passed. We pass a major infrastructure bill, and we pass a major human infrastructure bill that helps with child care and helps with higher education and the green economy. If we can do all that, that’s a superb accomplishment.
All right. So are you worried about the midterms, if they get the House and the Senate? Talk about chaos.
Well, I think we have a slight edge at holding the House. And do I worry about what would happen if Republicans —
Because your friend Kevin gets back in charge.
Well, this is the thing. This is why I wanted to let people know exactly who he is in the book. Because that man can never go near the Speaker’s office. Someone who has no commitment to the truth. Someone who, if they can tell right from wrong, doesn’t act on that distinction, cannot be given a position of that kind of responsibility, just cannot. This is a guy of course sorting Starbursts for the president. He will do whatever the president wants. No matter how unethical, no matter how destructive to our democracy. As long as he can climb the ladder. And someone like that cannot be allowed to lead.
So you’re not drinking buddies?
That used to happen, didn’t it?
It did, but look there’s bipartisan work that gets done.
Well, everybody hates Facebook this week.
Well in the Intel Committee, for example. We passed the Intel Authorization Act on a unanimous bipartisan basis. If I can work with Mr. Nunes, given all that we’ve been through, then any two people in Congress should be able to get things done.
Who among the Republicans, besides the ones on your committee — is there anyone that will step up?
Well, I think Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger certainly have.
Every now and then Chris Christie says something I think.
Well I would not —
I find it very difficult to applaud people who enable someone’s bankrupt conduct year after year and occasionally depart from that.
Are there any Republicans you feel would step up?
There have always been Republican voices speaking out against Trump. The problem is very few of them are in elective office. And even people leaving elective office are still too worried about what they’re going to do next, to speak truth to power.
Right. And let me ask, what is your relationship with Liz Cheney now? You’re on this committee together. Obviously, you couldn’t be more different in terms of point of view on lots of policy.
Yeah. Well, look, I have enormous respect for Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. And other Republicans who are willing to speak the truth. And who live their convictions, even if we disagree vehemently on policy. And I’m careful about what I say because I don’t want to make their life more difficult.
Meaning you as a friend is not the friend they need.
Well, meaning they have enough on their hands without giving additional fodder to the voices of hate on Fox. But we need people of good conscience to be willing to speak the truth at this critical moment in our history.
And why are they doing it, do you think?
Well, like I was saying, power reveals people for who they are. And it has revealed, I think, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger of being people of courage and conviction. And tragically, revealed too few of their colleagues to be the same.
Are you going to get them to get on board with infrastructure?
I have not talked infrastructure with them. So I don’t know about that.
Probably not, you’re spending too much money. You Democrat, you socialist. Anyway — no, I’m teasing, they’re going to go back to that. Which is a more comfortable place for you to debate, presumably. On actual policy issues.
Happy to debate any of my colleagues, including Liz and Adam, about infrastructure.
O.K. Let’s finally talk about your political future. You’re in the 11th term in the House, you’re one of those people. Your seat is considered very safe. Are you sticking around in Congress, or onto another seat soon? You were rumored to be up for California A.G., which didn’t happen.
I’m sticking around. If my constituents will have me, I’m sticking around and —
And why? Because so many congressmen are leaving.
Well, because one of the few ways in which I felt fortunate during the last four years is I was in a position where I could do something about what was going on. And I think I’m still in a position to do something at this really fragile moment. I think we’ll look back on this time as a time when whatever we did either helped speed our recovery or retarded it. And forced the country to go through more turmoil. And so I still feel I have a very important place in the Congress, and determined to do my part in trying to keep our institutions together.
O.K., my last question. Do you think Trump will run in 2024?
And you know why? It would be intolerable to him to see anyone else get the attention. I mean the idea of Donald Trump sitting at home watching Mike Pence become the nominee, or Nikki Haley, or Chris Christie, or any of these people. He would go out of his mind. And so I think he feels a compulsion, it’s a pathology. I also think that he suspects that it’s a great way to make money. And it may keep him one step ahead of the jailer. As long as he is a president, or a presidential candidate. Maybe he can keep ahead of the jailer.
Do you think he’d win?
No. No. I don’t think the country is going to want to go back to that nightmare. And I think with every passing day, when we gain more and more perspective on what we’ve been through, I think people will recoil more and more every day at the idea of ever going back to that. They’re not going to want to go back to the days of a president calling everything a hoax. And attacking the media as the enemy of the people.
Do you think you’ll be reinstated on social media? Because that’s where he did a lot of it, including attacking you, like a lot.
I don’t know. As long as he is pushing out big lies and attacking people and dividing people along racial lines.
You think you shouldn’t be re-platformed, I guess.
I don’t think there is any reason he should be allowed back. I don’t see how his behavior is consistent with any technology company’s code of ethics, corporate policies, policies for their users. Look, I don’t pretend to think that this is an easy question.
But I also think that you cannot maintain a policy against hate if you allow the biggest hater to have the biggest platform in your media. You can’t have a policy against undermining our election integrity if you allow someone who does more to undermine that than anyone else. You just can’t. And so at the end of the day, I don’t want to see those voices of bile and hatred and lies occupying the places in social media.
O.K., on that note, Representative Adam Schiff, thank you so much for coming.
“Sway” is a production of New York Times Opinion. It’s produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Matt Kwong, Daphne Chen, and Caitlin O’Keefe. Edited by Nayeema Raza. With original music by Isaac Jones, mixing by Sonia Herrero and Carole Sabouraud. And fact checking by Kate Sinclair, Michelle Harris, and Kristin Lin. Special thanks to Shannon Busta and Mahima Chablani. If you’re in a podcast app already, you know how to get your podcasts. So follow this one. If you’re listening on The Times website, and want to get each new episode of “Sway” served to you like a subpoena you can’t outrun, download any podcast app, then search for “Sway,” and follow the show. We release every Monday and Thursday. Thanks for listening. [MUSIC PLAYING]