Schiff suggests Justice Department could reopen Trump hush-money probe once president leaves office

The Intelligence Committee chairman said he assumes the case "will be reopened when he leaves office ... and the Justice Department will have to weigh whether to indict the former president."
Image: Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., walks out of the House Chamber on July 16, 2019.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., walks out of the House Chamber on July 16, 2019.Patrick Semansky / AP

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By Allan Smith

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Sunday that he does not believe the conclusion of a federal investigation into 2016 hush-money payments to women who allege they had affairs with President Donald Trump means Trump is in the clear of a potential indictment.

Speaking with CBS's "Face the Nation," Schiff said he assumes that case "will be reopened when he leaves office provided that the statute of limitations has not run, and the Justice Department will have to weigh whether to indict the former president."

Schiff earlier said "it's been clear," based on comments from special counsel Robert Mueller, that the Department of Justice is bound by an Office of Legal Counsel memo that says a sitting president cannot be indicted.

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"From my point of view, if the evidence supports that, he should be indicted," Schiff added. "And it's certainly the view of the Justice Department, that's reflected in that indictment, that Donald Trump was the one who coordinated and directed that illegal scheme."

"And why should Michael Cohen go to jail but the guy who did the direction and the coordination himself evade justice?" Schiff continued. "He is not above the law. He may have a temporary reprieve while he occupies that office, but I think the Justice Department will have to seriously consider reopening the case if that's what it requires and indicting him when he leaves office."

This week, a federal judge disclosed that prosecutors concluded their probe into the campaign finance violations and Cohen, Trump's former longtime attorney, and released previously redacted documents that showed the FBI believed then-candidate Trump was closely involved in the scheme to hide hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claimed to have had an affair with Trump. The president has denied the allegations of affairs.

"The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance," Judge William Pauley III said in court filings. "Now that the government’s investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials."

Cohen is currently serving a three-year prison sentence for a litany of crimes that included the campaign-finance violations he said he committed on Trump's behalf. Cohen admitted to facilitating payments to Daniels and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who also alleges an affair with Trump, in the run-up to the 2016 election.

In a statement from prison, Cohen said the shuttering of the probe "exonerating the Trump Organization's role should be of great concern to the American people and investigated by Congress and the Department of Justice," adding that an earlier statement from Trump's personal attorney Jay Sekulow was "completely distorted and dishonest."

Sekulow said, "We are pleased that the investigation surrounding these ridiculous campaign finance allegations is now closed."

"We have maintained from the outset that the president never engaged in any campaign finance violation," he added.