House intel chair: Trump's warning to Mueller about probing his personal finances is 'not a line that can be observed and still protect the country'
When California Democrat Adam Schiff took the helm of the House Intelligence Committee, he quickly announced a sweeping investigation focused on Donald Trump's finances. Now it's clear that Schiff's main concern is ascertaining whether Trump is under foreign influence, and he views Trump's finances as the most fertile ground for examining that question.
In an interview with NBC News, Schiff maintained that the counterintelligence investigation was far more urgent to national security concerns than the inquiry into Trump’s potential criminality. "What Americans should be concerned about is whether the president's Russia policy is not dictated by our national interest but is dictated by his desire to make hundreds of millions of dollars off a tower in Moscow," Schiff said. He also noted the limits of indictments in terms of revealing whether someone is compromised by a foreign power. In fact, NBC reports, most counterintelligence probes don't end with indictments because criminality is difficult to prove, and the information involved is often too sensitive to make public. Public officials found to be compromised often leave their posts quietly rather than being brought into the spotlight.
Georgetown University Law Center Professor Martin Lederman agreed with Schiff, arguing that what's motivating Trump's actions in office is far more critical than any criminality that may have taken place during the campaign. "It's more important to know what Trump is NOW than to know what he did in 2016," Lederman observed.
Schiff is concerned that the question of foreign influence on Trump through his finances may not have been fully explored by Mueller, if at all. "From what we can see either publicly or otherwise, it's very much an open question whether this is something the special counsel has looked at," Schiff said. He added that the red line Trump drew at Mueller examining his personal finances is "not a line that can be observed and still protect the country."