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Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., insinuated on Sunday former President Donald Trump’s “incendiary rhetoric” regarding the raid at Mar-a-Lago was to blame for a recent threat at an FBI office in Ohio.
Schiff’s remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union” come in reaction to a question from host Jake Tapper regarding U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart recently ordered the Justice Department to redact the affidavit related to the FBI raid on Trump’s Florida residence for a possible release on Thursday.
“As a former prosecutor, what do you think we could learn from what’s in this docket, what’s in this document?” Tapper asked Schiff. “And do you agree that there’s a clear public interest in learning the justification, at least some of it, for this search?”
“You could learn a great deal,” Schiff said, suggesting the affidavit could show what witnesses have seen in terms of the handling of the documents or people coming and going from where the documents were located. He also posed it could show whether representations were made that proved to be false in terms of whether the documents had been declassified.
“That’s just the problem, though, for the Justice Department. I think probably their concern is very legitimate. That is that if this affidavit is revealed, it will put those sources of information at risk,” Schiff continued. “We’ve seen the president retaliate against anyone he considers a whistleblower, accuse them of treason. And, of course, we’ve seen the president’s incendiary rhetoric already led someone to go to an FBI building with an assault weapon who was shot to death by the FBI defending itself. So the risks the Justice Department identify are real.”
“Now, the public interest is also real. But I think the question is, at what point in time does the public get to see that affidavit?” Schiff added. “I think the department makes a powerful case that at the early stage of the investigation when it could jeopardize the pursuit of justice, this is not the time to be giving essentially the Trump lawyers a roadmap into how to intimidate witnesses or how to derail a legitimate investigation.”
Schiff referenced the recent security threat at the FBI Cincinnati Field Office where an armed man clad in body armor attempted to breach the visitors’ screening area before fleeing the scene and engaging in an hours-long stand-off with agents and state troopers on a rural Ohio road.
The suspect, identified as 42-year-old Ricky Shiffer, was ultimately fatally shot by police. Unconfirmed reports said he might have been at the U.S. Capitol on or around Jan. 6, 2021, but he was never charged with a crime in connection to the riot. The Washington Post reported Shiffer was a Navy veteran who once handled classified material.
Authorities are looking into social media posts made on Shiffer’s accounts on Truth Social, a platform created by Trump’s media company; Facebook; and Twitter. He is suspected of posting extremist views on several social media platforms in which he encouraged his followers to “kill the F.B.I. on sight.”
Schiff, also chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, asked for a damage assessment and a classified briefing from the intelligence community last week regarding the unprecedented search at Mar-a-Lago, but he said on Sunday that so far, he has not received a response to the requests.
“We haven’t received a damage assessment yet. I assume that is being undertaken and I have every expectation that it will be shared with us,” he said. “I think as a committee, [we’d] like to see what documents that were marked top secret SSCI were in the President’s possession at Mar-a-Lago. This is very serious business. When documents have those markings, it generally indicates that the source of information is very sensitive. And if the document itself was revealed, it could jeopardize that source, and it might be a human source or technical source. But you would not only expose the information in the document, you would lose any future intelligence you might gain from the same source.”
“We want to get to the bottom of it in terms of the precedent,” he added, saying he has full faith in the Justice Department. “I’m confident that Merrick Garland took every precaution. Made every effort short of executing the search warrant to obtain those documents. And if the public reporting is correct, that the Trump lawyers asserted in an affidavit that they’d given all these documents up and the Justice Department had good reason to believe that wasn’t true, then it justifies this means of getting the information, the execution of a search warrant. So, yes, it’s a very powerful precedent. At the same time, I’m confident that it was used appropriately, given the circumstances.”
Tapper also asked for Schiff’s reaction to a comment made by former Vice President Mike Pence a few days prior suggesting he might be available for testimony before the Jan. 6 House committee.
“I was encouraged to hear it and I hope it meant what it sounded like it meant. We have been in discussion with the vice president’s counsel for some time, so he knows of our interest in having him come before us,” Schiff said. “And I am confident that if he is truly willing, that there is a way to work out any executive privilege or separation of powers issues.”
“There is, of course, nothing precluding the vice president should he decide to come before Congress,” he added. “And I would hope, given the severity of the issues we’re addressing here, an attack on our capital, an attack on our very democracy, that he would be willing to come in. He could plainly share a lot of very firsthand information about what it was like to be the subject of those efforts to get him to violate his constitutional duty and arrogate to himself the power to decide who won or who lost an American presidential election.”