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Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, House Intelligence Chair, On Latest Iran Developments


President Trump says he's ready to embrace peace with all who seek it. He made that statement during remarks this morning about the Iranian attack on two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops last night. The president also said Iran will never have a nuclear weapon on his watch. So what happens next with Iran? We're going to put that question to California Congressman Adam Schiff. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He joins us now from Capitol Hill.

Welcome to the program.

ADAM SCHIFF: Thank you. It's great to be with you.

CORNISH: You have been briefed at this point by the administration. Do you think that they took a valid action in going after this Iranian commander?

SCHIFF: I don't think the intelligence supports the conclusion that killing a top Iranian official is going to improve the security for Americans. And I think that, in fact, the opposite has happened. We've had now two American bases attacked. We've had to pull back from our counterterrorism mission. We have taken the pressure off the Iranian regime back home, where there were anti-regime protests...

CORNISH: And it sounds like you're saying, based on the intelligence you saw, this was not worth the risk - the consequences that you've seen so far.

SCHIFF: I think the intelligence predicted a lot of what we're seeing in terms of the likely Iranian response, the likely Iraqi response. And at the end of the day, I don't think this attack or the maximus campaign of which it's a part has improved American security. Iran is now going back to enriching uranium. It's going back to the pathway towards, potentially, a bomb. And there's a heightened risk of war now, greater than any time since I've served in Congress.

CORNISH: You're saying this as the administration and others are describing Iran's response as a form of de-escalation.

SCHIFF: Well, look. I thank God that no one was killed last night. That was very fortunate. And I don't think that we can always count on that kind of a result, that this won't simply spiral out of control. And in fact, what has gotten to this point is an ever-increasing series of provocative actions, many on the Iranian part but also now on the American part by taking out a top Iranian general. So...

CORNISH: But what about the point of view that the president effectively used this moment to draw a red line against an aggressive foreign power?

SCHIFF: Well, look. If that was going to improve our security, then it's a good line to draw. But that's not been the effect of it, in fact. Look. You can make an argument, I suppose, in the theoretical that over the long term, this will somehow improve our security. But over the long term, that has not been the effect of this maximus pressure campaign. And in the very near term, it has dramatically increased the risk to U.S. service members in the region, to U.S. diplomatic personnel. And we may be expelled from Iraq. It's one thing if we choose to leave Iraq. It's another if we are forced out while ISIS still remains a threat to our country.

CORNISH: I want to look forward because the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said that Democrats would be bringing a war powers resolution to the House floor. This is a resolution that would limit what the president can do militarily without congressional approval. These have not fared well in the past for Democrats. You have not been able to claw back any of this authority. Do you think that this has a chance?

SCHIFF: It has a chance. And it certainly should draw increasing amounts of bipartisan support, and that could be...

CORNISH: Increasing, but is increasing veto-proof?

SCHIFF: No, it probably won't be veto-proof. And, you know, frankly, we'll be lucky if we can get a sufficient degree of bipartisan support for it. If there was ever a time and ever a presidency where there needed to be a meaningful constraint, today is that time, when you have a president who makes decisions while on vacation at Mar-a-Lago by the seat of his pants. This is a time when Congress needs to reassert itself, needs to put constraints on the ability of this president - or, frankly, any other - to bring us into war without the approval of Congress, and through Congress, the American people.

CORNISH: The backdrop to this here in terms of domestic politics, two articles of impeachment awaiting transmission to the Senate from the House. And you have some Democrats now in the Senate speaking out - Dianne Feinstein of California saying, look. The longer it goes on, the less urgent it becomes. She says if it's urgent and serious, send them over. If it isn't, don't send it over. This impatience is now coming from within the party.

SCHIFF: Well, you know, ultimately, I'm not going to make the decision about the transmittal. That will be the speaker's decision. But it has certainly been worth the wait in flushing out and exposing for the American people the complicity of the Senate leader with the president. And, in fact, the American people have, I think, quite overwhelmingly, including a vast majority of Republicans around the country, rejected McConnell's idea of excluding witness testimony and documents. So, yes, it has forced them to go on the record, and I think that was well worth the wait.

CORNISH: California Democrat and House intelligence chairman Adam Schiff.

Thank you for speaking with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

SCHIFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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