House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, one of the most visible purveyors of the narrative that Trump and his associates engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to rig the 2016 election, apparently no longer believes that Trump committed a crime by "colluding" with the Russians.
During an appearance on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, Schiff ticked off a litany of suspicious activities involving Trump and his associates that he said suggest that collusion did take place - but instead of labeling the behavior as evidence of a criminal conspiracy, Schiff declared that "there's a difference between seeing eidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt" and that it would be "up to Mueller" to determine whether Trump or senior members of his campaign team broke the law.
Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff: “You can see evidence in plain sight on the issue of collusion, pretty compelling evidence. Now, there’s a difference between seeing evidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt” #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/Ep6Cj4u7Mu— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 17, 2019
Schiff was responding to a question about the Senate Intelligence Committee's recent decision to wind down its probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. Senate Intel Chairman Richard Burr - whom, as CNN said, hasn't "exactly been a rapid partisan" on this topic - declared that the committee didn't find sufficient evidence of collusion.
Thouigh Schiff said that both he and Senate Intel Ranking Member Mark Warner disagreed with this assessment, he conceded that it would be "up to Mueller" to reach a final conclusion.
BASH: This week, the chair, your counterpart in the Senate, the Republican chair of the Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, said that his committee has found nothing to suggest collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
You said - quote - "That's not our view in the House."
But, you know, Burr hasn't exactly been a rabid partisan on this. Until the last couple of weeks, he's been working very closely with the Democrats. So, why do you think he's wrong?
SCHIFF: Well, it's not just that I think he's wrong. Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Intel Committee in the Senate, also disagrees with that assessment.
But, look, you can see evidence in plain sight on the issue of collusion, pretty compelling evidence. Now, there's a difference between seeing evidence of collusion and being able to prove a criminal conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt.
But Mr. - Chairman Burr must have a different word for it, because, when you look, for example, at the e-mails to set up the meeting in Trump Tower, it was offered to the Trump campaign, to the president's own son, dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of what was described as the Russian government's effort to help Donald Trump in the campaign.
And the response from the campaign was, we would love to have the help.
Now, that's an offer of help. That's an acceptance of help. There's an overt act in the Trump Tower in furtherance of that. And, of course, that's not even contemplating the discussions with George Papadopoulos or the information about the efforts that Mike Flynn made to work with the Russian ambassador secretly to undermine sanctions and then lie about that.
All of this is evidence of collusion. And you either have to look the other way to say it isn't, or you have to have a different word for it, because it is a corrupt dealing with a foreign adversary during a campaign.
But, again, it will be up to Mueller to determine whether that amounts to criminal conspiracy.
As CNN producer Marshall Cohen pointed out in a tweet, Schiff's phrasing suggested he was "moving the goalposts a bit" as Mueller prepares to wind down his investigation.
Schiff is moving the goalposts a bit here as Mueller winds down, saying there is proof of collusion but not not necessarily in a criminal sense. https://t.co/dhE7NimsUM— Marshall Cohen (@MarshallCohen) February 17, 2019
Schiff's comments followed the revelation by Mueller that his team had come into possession of copies of Stone's correspondence with Wikileaks, which hadn't been concluded in the original indictment. When asked about this, Schiff said that it's just more evidence that there's more going on behind the scenes in the Mueller probe than has been revealed in the indictments.
But whether that includes any actual evidence of criminal wrongdoing will likely remain a mystery until Mueller's final report is released.