Rep. Adam Schiff said Sunday congressional Democrats may take up impeachment in the wake of the release of the special counsel report, but will consider the political environment when determining any action.
Schiff told "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz the decision whether to begin proceedings to impeach President Donald Trump will be made based on the "best interests of the country."
Raddatz asked the congressman, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, about calls by 2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for the House to open impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
On Friday, Warren tweeted that the "severity of [the president's] misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States."
Asked at a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Saturday if she believed the president should not only face impeachment proceedings but be impeached, Warren said "yes" in response.
The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 19, 2019
Schiff, D-California, said Warren "makes an important point," but added that Democrats will have to take the "political environment" into consideration when deciding whether to undertake impeachment.
He blamed Republicans for being "willing to carry the president's water no matter how corrupt, or unethical or dishonest the president's conduct may be" as the reason theoretical impeachment proceedings may ultimately be unsuccessful in the Senate.
But, he added, that "it may be that we undertake an impeachment, nonetheless."
"I think what we are going to have to decide as a caucus is, what is the best thing for the country?" Schiff said. "Is it the best thing for the country to take up an impeachment proceeding because to do otherwise sends a message that this conduct is somehow compatible with office? Or is it in the best interest of the country not to take up impeachment that we know will not be successful because the Republican leadership will not do its duty?"
Schiff also claimed Kellyanne Conway, who appeared before him on "This Week," "could not even acknowledge that the Russians tried to help the Trump campaign and did provide substantial help to the campaign."
Conway, the White House counselor to the president, had said earlier on the program that "the Mueller report does say that Russia tried to interfere with this election... The alleged Russian interference in the election was done, was unaided by anybody in the Trump campaign."
"The campaign that I managed in those last few months did not welcome help from Russia," Conway added.
The Mueller report did note that members of the Trump campaign unwittingly shared social media content created by Russian actors. And at multiple rallies, then-candidate Trump repeatedly cheered on the release of hacked emails from Hillary Clinton's campaign, which were released by WikiLeaks in the final weeks of the election.
Raddatz, meanwhile, pressed Schiff on what he told her on "This Week" on May 27, 2018, when he said that the Russia investigation examined a coverup "of a size and scope probably beyond Watergate."
Schiff said Sunday that he maintains that the inquiry has uncovered obstruction of justice that is "more significant than Watergate."
"The obstruction of justice in particular in this case is far worse than anything that Richard Nixon did," Schiff responded, referring to the former president. "The break-in by the Russians of Democratic institutions, a foreign adversary far more significant than the plumbers breaking into the Democratic headquarters. So yes, I would say in every way this is more significant than Watergate."
On Thursday, members of Congress and the public were finally able to read the highly-anticipated nearly 450-page report from special counsel Robert Mueller on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The report, parts of which were redacted, laid out the "sweeping and systematic fashion" with which the Kremlin meddled in the election with the goal of electing Donald Trump.
While the report detailed several interactions between members of Trump campaign and people claiming to be members of the Russian government, Mueller concluded these instances did not amount to a criminal conspiracy or coordination with the Russians. The special counsel outlined 11 possible instances of obstruction of justice, but ultimately did not make a determination on the issue.
"If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment," the report reads. "Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."
In a March 24 letter, Attorney General William Barr said he, in consultation with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, determined that "the evidence developed during the [investigation was] not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense."
Amid calls by some Democrats, including presidential candidate Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., for Barr to resign over his handling of the Mueller report, Schiff said that he's "not ready to speculate about whether he should resign or not."
He did, however, criticize Barr's summary of the report prior to its release.
"Bill Barr views himself as the president's lawyer, not the attorney general of the United States of America," he said. "I think that history will reflect that Bill Barr let the country down when it needed an attorney general of substance."