tv Newsmakers CSPAN October 11, 2015 10:00am-10:33am EDT
at "the washington herald," and we will talk about the obama administration plan to release 6000 nonviolent prisoners with julie stewart, the president and on family minimums and we will talk about charter schools with richard kahlenberg. we will see you tomorrow. ♪ which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> next, newsmakers with california congressman adam schiff, ranking member of the intelligence committee. after that, a senate hearing on
afghanistan with operations commander general john campbell. >> on "newsmakers" this week, we are joined by congressman adam schiff of california. he is the top democrat on the house intelligence committee. he also serves on the house select committee on benghazi. to help with our questions, we are joined by niall stanage, associate editor of the hill newspaper, and ryan lucas, intelligence reporter with cq roll call. ryan lucas has the first question. >> congressman schiff, thank you for talking to us today. i wanted to start off with the announcement from the white house that it was essentially scrapping the train and equip program for syrian rebels. instead of training and equipping them, they are going to essentially provide information to vetted insurgent leaders and then small packages of equipment to then send back with them. so that they can kind of be force enhancers in syria.
is this plan the way that the white house has outlined it -- is this something that you think would be more effective than the original program that the white house came up with? >> yes. it would be hard to imagine how it could be less effective given the small number of people who were successfully trained and equipped under that dod effort. so i do think it will be more successful. i think it will be far more efficient and effective to work with forces already on the ground and already demonstrating a will to fight. i think this is a change that is necessitated by the failure of the dod program but also makes a lot more sense. >> congressman, from the beginning of this debate on how to aid syrian rebels, you have expressed concern about how to vet the individuals receiving aid. so as we go from recruiting and training to what is being called
equip and enable, does it make the vetting process any easier? >> well it doesn't make it any easier. but we do have relationships with some of the commanders of these units. we can witness what they are doing on the ground and we have been witnessing what they are doing on the ground. so i think we have both a good sense of their fighting capability and the administration has been making an effort in combination with the intelligence community to identify -- are these moderate, are they radical, are they somewhere in between? and using those factors give us some good guidance about who we should back. >> congressman, the white house said today that essentially they were not going to drop the requirement that rebels state that they will only fight the islamic state. that they won't go after the assad regime as well. can this program succeed if they don't drop that requirement? >> i think ultimately that is going to cause a real problem. i think initially we can provide support to those groups that are fighting isis, that are on the front lines with isis.
but this is not a static battlefield. it is very dynamic and those battlelines change. a group we are supporting today because they are fighting against isis -- if they are successful in the fight against isis and that brings them into conflict with regime forces, they are going to be up against regime forces. so i think that line is going to be very difficult to maintain and that has been a problem all along. we also have the issue of whether the fighters understand that we will be there to support them if they come under bombardment by the regime or now by the russians. so it is a very difficult battle space and i'm not sure that distinction is going to be easy to maintain. >> congressman, if i may shift gears. obviously you have been a critic of the benghazi committee. at the same time, capitol hill has been roiled by the debate over the speakership. majority leader mccarthy made some controversial remarks about the benghazi committee. then he dropped his bid a few
days later. obviously you're a member of the other party, but how do you think those two things were related? >> i think that what representative mccarthy said was what everybody had long since recognized. and that is that this committee -- whatever its genesis, whatever its original purpose might have been -- and many of us were skeptical even from the beginning -- has become a committee interested in only one thing and that is trying to inflict damage on secretary clinton. if you look at the press releases put out by the committee, they are disproportionately about secretary clinton. if you look at the obsessive focus of the committee's work and its public statements, it is essentially all about secretary clinton. we have lost sight of what was supposed to be the object and that is discovering something new about that tragic night in benghazi. i feel terrible for the families but also for the american taxpayers that have supported this effort that has produced so little over this period of time. in terms of the connection
between those remarks and his dropping out of the speakership -- i'm sure those raised some questions among gop members about whether he was the best spokesperson for that conference. the speaker is among many other things the most public face of the gop in the house. and i think probably some of their members felt that if he was going to be so transparent about their object with the benghazi select committee, maybe he might give up the goods on some of their other efforts. or at least be less politic in how he described them. so it probably was a factor, but i imagine the overriding factor was the challenge of getting that freedom party tea party caucus to support him or anybody else on the house floor when it actually comes to a vote for speaker. >> let me get more into your view that the committee is really politicized and you believe it should be disbanded. just in the past few days for
example, the committee's work led to a revelation that -- a well-respected reporter of yahoo! news characterized it this way. hillary clinton used her private e-mail account to pass along the identity of one of the cia's top libyan intelligence sources. raising new questions about her handling of classified information. is that not the kind of thing that the public has a legitimate interest in finding out about? >> first of all, i wouldn't put much trust in anything that is leaked out of our committee. because historically, when there have been leaks from the committee, they have been proved to be inaccurate. i don't want to comment on the merits of this particular allegation. but there are many things the public may have an interest in that are well beyond the scope of what this taxpayer-funded committee was established to do. the question is, does the work of the committee shed light on the events in benghazi? is it going to tell us more about how these four americans lost their lives or what steps we could take to better protect our consulate or facilities?
and the answer is, for 17 months work and four and half million dollars, we are no closer to really producing anything new than when we started. and at a certain point, you have to say enough is enough. that doesn't mean that there aren't legitimate issues over whether a certain e-mail should have been classified. many of them are now being classified after the fact, and it is hard to quarrel with the secretary when they weren't classified at the time. those are legitimate questions and the justice department is looking into the proper classification and the intel committee is looking into the same thing. in terms of attacking the secretary over this, that is the job of the rnc. that is not the job of a taxpayer-funded committee. the democratic party committee can go after jeb bush for his use of a private e-mail server as governor of florida and his use of it for official business. that is the work of the parties. i would no more advocate the democrats create a
taxpayer-funded committee to look into jeb bush then i think the republicans are justified in doing the same with secretary clinton. >> congressman, i should note that we are recording this on a friday afternoon for our viewers. as of right now, house republicans are working on a concerted effort to recruit ways and means chairman paul ryan to run for the speaker spot. do you think democrats can find a way to work with paul ryan at least better than they did with speaker boehner? >> i certainly think we can find ways to work with paul ryan. i like paul very much. i think he is a bright guy. he is a very personal guy. i don't find him to be the kind of striking ideologue that you find that characterizes the tea party or freedom caucus. he is absolutely someone that democrats can work with. that may be the most serious indictment against him. i think speaker boehner was someone we could have worked with had he been given the latitude by his conference to do so.
the challenge for the gop is that you have this rump group of tea party members but then you have a broader group of more mainstream republicans who run in fear of having a tea party primary. and when you add those two groups together, it often constitutes a majority of the republican conference. that is the tea party and those that are afraid of the tea party primary challenge. and paul ryan if he becomes speaker is going to have exactly that same dynamic to work with. yes, he is someone we can work with. so, frankly, was speaker boehner. but they had this internal problem that they need to overcome. and i will say this also. i take no satisfaction in the turmoil going through the gop conference right now. i am certainly glad it is them and not us having the turmoil, but at the same time, they are the governing party. we need them to be able to be functional. we need them to be able to govern. we need someone we can work with. we need a speaker who can deliver his conference. or at least enough of them to get to yes.
and for a long time we just haven't had that. >> i want to turn back abroad. specifically to syria. and russia's intervention there. you mentioned that the u.s. needs to continue its support for rebels on the ground. but russia's intervention has significantly altered the dynamic on the ground of the conflict more generally. u.s. officials have said they are not going to have their campaign against the islamic state changed at all by the russian campaign. but already there are reports that planes had to alter their flight plans. and there is the broader problem of u.s. backed rebels being targeted by russian strikes. how should the u.s. respond to this? should the u.s. up their support for the rebels? should they vow to protect rebels from russian strikes? this puts u.s. officials in a bit of a tight spot.
>> it does put the administration in a difficult challenge. absolutely. i think we should push back harder against the russians than we have and i have been advocating this for some time. i think we should have pushed back harder in ukraine. i think we should provide defensive arms to ukraine to defend against these russian vacationers, these so-called little green men. but i also think that the battle space in syria is now changing and we are going to have to change strategy along with it. some of the things that have been considered by the administration i think are going to have to renew consideration over and that might be in the shape of some kind of a safety or no-fly or secure zone. it may also be establishing a policy where we no longer permit bashar al-assad to drop barrel bombs on his own people. that i think would enjoy the support of the vast sunni population in syria. it certainly would be consistent
with our stand for human rights and undoubtedly there are both internal legal issues to overcome with that in terms of the dated aumf that we have as well as international law considerations. but i think that we ought to open our eyes again to some of the other possibilities and reassess where we are right now and how things have changed given the russian military involvement. the one last thing i would say in this is i think the president is exactly right when he says that putin is making a mistake by jumping into this thing with both feet. for two reasons. first it is going to prolong the war. it will prolong the agony for the syrian people. it will prolong the refugee crisis for the rest of the world. and for those people going through the trauma of being refugees. i also think that russia is going to find just as we have and just as others have that there are real limits to what you can accomplish through the air. so they are buying a big piece of that.
i think they will regret that. that doesn't change the fact that it also must cause us to reassess the battlefield and what response we're going to make. >> you could certainly make the argument that the russians have a more effective fighting force on the ground with which to cooperate. iranian backed militias, hezbollah on the ground. syrian military forces themselves. this has been a problem for the u.s. the kurds have emerged as somebody they can work with. a reliable partner on the ground is part of the struggle that the administration has had. specifically, should the u.s. look into providing surface-to-air missiles to rebel groups to try and push back against what the russians are doing? >> i don't want to see us provide manpads to the opposition that could he later used to down civilian airliners. we have seen unfortunately all too often that weapons that are
provided to moderate rebels or people we might support -- whether it is in iraq or syria -- can easily end up in the wrong hands and it can be an utter nightmare if they got in the wrong hands and they started to use them against civilian aircraft. that is not something i think we ought to entertain. i think there are other ways that we can raise the pressure on the regime as well as raise the pressure on russia. that don't involve providing those kinds of lethal weapons that can be used against civilian craft. >> i want to ask, was the u.s. intelligence community caught flat-footed about the speed and force level with which russia went into syria? and if so, is that something the intelligence committee is looking into? >> we certainly had evidence and i think could see the russian buildup. that the russians would decide to use this buildup to go after the moderate opposition, that they would embark on as aggressive and air campaign and
perhaps a ground campaign, that i think is a surprise. a matter of months ago i think we would have expected the russians perhaps to increase their material support for the regime as we saw the regime weaken. but i don't think we expected russia to mount this kind of operation to prop up the regime. i don't think that just because something unexpected happens that it necessarily means you have had an intelligence failure. putin keeps a very small circle of decision-makers. this may have been a decision that he himself made quite last-minute to take this change in direction. we had hoped obviously that as the regime weakened, the decision putin would take would be to work with us and other nations on figuring out what the transition ought to be and who ought to be part of the coalition that would follow. instead the russians have decided to double down on the regime in a big way.
it is a provocative and dangerous move. ultimately a counterproductive move. but i'm not sure that we can say this is something we should have predicted. >> congressman, circling back to the benghazi issue. your party colleague congressman grayson of florida filed an ethics complaint against representative mccarthy. the accusation being that mr. mccarthy was using taxpayer dollars to make political attacks upon hillary clinton. it seems like you share his underlying view. but do you think it was the right thing to do to file an ethics complaint? >> i have not read the ethics complaint. certainly if there is a deliberate effort to abuse taxpayer dollars, if there is coordination between the committee and the republican national committee, there may be a very good case to be made that this is also a violation of law and ethics. but i haven't read the ethics
complaint so it is hard for me to talk about any specific allegations. i certainly think ethics violation or not it is a terrible abuse of taxpayer dollars. and at this point it is no longer serving a valid purpose not to be disbanded. >> to get back to the speakership issue, this is a somewhat hypothetical question. it seems at least plausible that we may be in a situation where no republican nominee can get the true 118 votes on the house floor that is required for a speaker. it would seem unlikely in that scenario that nancy pelosi could do so either. what happens in that situation? how do we get to a point where the substantive issues that you alluded to earlier can be addressed? >> i think as speaker boehner has said, he is willing to stay on as long as it takes to find a successor. i have to think the speaker although not enjoying what is going on in his conference right now must be having some
well-placed i told you so's about the difficulty in running the conference. this is not really about speaker boehner or any failings on his part so much as it is about a structural problem within the gop and the party at large. and in particular within the republican conference. i happen to think they will arrive on someone. as the days go by, as their dysfunction is showcased before the american people, they will be increasing pressures on the republicans to get their act together. and that pressure will be most significant on that freedom caucus and those tea party members. so i think you will see a new speaker chosen that will be able to get enough votes on the floor. but not until sufficient pressure is brought to bear on that rebel faction. >> i want to turn briefly to cyber security. and the massive hack on the office of personnel management.
do you have faith in the opm to continue to process and told security clearance information for the federal government? there is talk in congress about shifting the responsibility elsewhere. is this something you could get behind and where exactly should it be put? >> it's a good question. there have been a number of members looking to shift that responsibility elsewhere. certainly opm didn't demonstrate the kind of alacrity they needed to to beef up cyber security in advance of these attacks or in the wake of these attacks. i think they have adopted a new management strategy and i'm willing to give it time to see whether they can get their act together. but i have to say, when this story broke and the hack was revealed, and we were briefed in the intelligence community by opm, it was one of the least impressive briefings i have ever had. i don't even feel that the briefers were fully candidate
with us. which is not an allegation i easily make about anyone. so i start out with deep skepticism about opm. its track record is very poor. i am willing to give the new management and effort to see if they can demonstrate success. >> congressman, yet another issue. the issue of gun control has of course become prominent for rather tragic reasons in the past couple of weeks. on that point, on your twitter account, you addressed those who are rallying on social media around the do something hashtag, and you tweeted, i hear you, i agree with you, words are not enough. action needed on background checks, mental health, and gun violence. obviously many people would agree that words are not enough on that issue. but being realistic about congress and about capitol hill, how much action can we reasonably expect on that topic?
>> unfortunately if you are a betting person and you bet against congress you almost always win. and certainly on the issue of gun safety, you would invariably win. but i'm not willing to give up trying. i just can't accept that we are going to have to go through this national tragedy each and every month or week. we had another campus shooting just within the last 24 hours. we can't accept this and it is a terrible indictment of our current congress that something that is so broadly desired by the american people like universal background checks, that enjoys not only vast majorities of the general public but even majorities of the nra, and we still can't seem to accomplish that. so i think we need to stay at it. and we need to fight this until we get it done. people around the country need to make their voices heard. and they need to drown out those people that are standing in the way a very common sense reforms that would help improve the safety of the community.
i do think that probably the one area that is more essential than others just given the common denominator in a lot of these shootings -- and that is too ready access to guns by people with serious mental health problems. we have to find a way of addressing that. in california, we took a significant step forward just recently by enacting a new law that essentially allows family members and law enforcement to work together to get a restraining order against a mentally ill member of the family who seeks access to firearms. i think that is a vitally important step and i would love to see the rest of the country follow suit. >> do you think the democratic candidates for president are doing enough to focus on these issues? >> i think secretary clinton has just recently outlined a very aggressive platform in support for a variety of gun safety legislation as well as actions
she would take using the executive power of the president. one of the items that secretary clinton mentioned is a bill that i have been carrying for a number of years and we may reintroduce. that is a bill to end the unique immunity from liability that the gun industry enjoys. we passed something in congress many years ago called placa. it gives the gun industry a form of immunity even from negligent sales to people who go on to use weapons to commit violent crime. they have an immunity no other industry has and we have to end that unique safe harbor for the gun industry and take a great many other steps as well. and i think the secretary certainly has been very vocal on this. >> we have about a minute or two left. just one or two more questions. >> i will be very brief.
the u.s. recently reached an agreement with china about not conducting economic cyber espionage against one another. the director of national intelligence has said that he is not optimistic that this is actually going to work. he doesn't trust the chinese or the implementation. do you think that this is going to be effective or has the administration gone out on a limb with it? >> i think we have taken a first step. the president of china was here and acknowledged that use of cyber espionage is something all nations should condemn. that was a positive step. china has been the number one culprit in terms of cyber theft for r&d. china would be very latent in coming to the game if they suddenly put an end to this kind of economic espionage. nonetheless, acknowledging the rules of the road is a first step. there are public reports of china making arrests.
that is also a positive step. ultimately i agree with director clapper. i think it is going to be necessary for the united states to initiate a series of escalating sanctions on chinese companies that are making use of stolen american research and development. the challenge is that china will reciprocate by sanctions against american countries and american companies don't engage in this kind of economic espionage but they will come up with a ruse or some kind of an explanation for why they are going to do a tit for tat. we will have to be prepared for some kind of economic reciprocity. until we embark on these graduated sanctions, i don't think we are really going to get china to alter its behavior at all. >> congressman adam schiff, thank you for being our newsmaker this week. >> thank you. >> we will continue with our roundtable with niall stanage of
the hill newspaper, ryan lucas with cq roll call. ryan lucas, i want to begin with this revamped effort in syria. some have called it an admission of failure of the original strategy. what did you hear from congressman adam schiff about how hard this new effort is going to be? >> i think that he acknowledged it is going to be an uphill battle. but the main accomplishment is that they have realized that the train and equip program, which congressman schiff said and that many outside of congress have said, didn't really have a chance to succeed. it was never a good idea. building a force from scratch was not going to work. scaling that down and using smaller groups with the right sort of support may be effective. it is basically building off of a model that they used with syrian kurds. u.s. air power helped deal the islamic state one of the worst defeats in the past year.
>> tens of millions of dollars spent already on that training and recruiting effort. there is an expectation that the administration wants to shift the money that congress has already approved for this effort to this new revamped program. do you expect congress to look into the use of that money a little bit more and put more restraints on how the administration tries to divvy that money up? >> i don't think so. there has been about 50 million of the 500 million that has been used. lawmakers have been calling for this program to be overhauled. some went as far a saying it needed to be scrapped entirely. i think so far the reaction has been positive to with the administration has proposed. >> lots of questions from you on the benghazi committee. the congressman of course is a member of the select committee.
how do you think democrats are changing their approach to hillary clinton's appearance before the select committee later this month? >> i think one of the key things that has changed pretty recently is that democrats are starting to see an upside to the benghazi committee. in other words they believe that there could be a view among voters that republicans are overreaching with this. and i think that is what we heard the congressman talking about. i think they will obviously be hoping that hillary clinton acquits herself well on october 22 when she goes before the committee. i think they now see a potential political dividend and we see that even at the presidential level where hillary clinton recently released a video picking up upon the remarks by kevin mccarthy that we talked about, suggesting that the committee was from her point of view sort of hopelessly politicized. >> you mentioned an ethics complaint that has been filed. what is the timeline and process
for that? could that have an impact on the committee's upcoming hearing? >> i think the broader approach is not on the ethics level. i think it is a general atmosphere of disapproval and frankly democrats are trying to get -- use various weapons against the committee if that is not a bad choice of metaphor in this case. and so a combination of these votes that they have taken in the house as well is committee as well as the claims that hillary clinton has made are all intended really to undercut the idea that the committee is generally interested in finding the truth and instead make the case that it is interested in trying to capsize hillary clinton's presidential hopes. >> i want to get your thoughts on what he had to say about cyber security. certainly an issue he is very much involved with in his subcommittee work.
>> i think he had a point. that the u.s. may have to ultimately turn to sanctions to make sure that the chinese live by the agreement that the chinese president made with president obama. everyone that i have spoken to has definitely expressed concern that the chinese are not going to live up to this agreement. i think it was very much worth doing but that ultimately it may require further steps on the administration's part to make sure that it is in limited. >> we're going to leave it there. this week, ryan lucas of vq roll call, niall standage of the hill newspaper. thank you for joining us. >> tonight on q&a, gary hart on
his new book. >> the founders used the language of the ancient republic, greece and rome. and warned against corruption. their definition of corruption was not bribery or quid pro quo money under the table. it was putting special interests ahead of the common good and by that definition, washington today is a massively corrupt place. eastern onat 8:00 c-span's q&a. our road to the white house coverage of the presidential candidates continues in new hampshire. monday morning, live coverage from the no labels problem solver convention in manchester. speakers include eight republicans and democratic presidential candidates talking on the issues of uniting the country, jobs