Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) said Sunday that President Donald Trump might be headed to prison once he leaves the Oval Office.
Schiff, who is set to take over the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats’ assume the majority in January, said court documents filed by federal prosecutors on Friday should have the president worried about going to jail. The documents link Trump to campaign finance violations.
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"My takeaway is there's a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office the Justice Department may indict him, that he may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time," Schiff said during an appearance on CBS's "Face the Nation."
The new documents implicate Trump in his former lawyer Michael Cohen’s campaign finance violations, to which Cohen has pleaded guilty. But they do not assert Trump committed a crime, prompting Trump to tweet that the filing "totally clears the president. Thank you!"
Schiff argued Trump was still in hot water, however, and may not be able to use pardons to get himself clear of the law.
"We have been discussing the issue of pardons that the president may offer to people or dangle in front of people—the bigger pardon question may come down the road as the next president has to determine whether to pardon Donald Trump," Schiff said.
However, Schiff stopped short of agreeing with Rep. Jerry Nadler (D., N.Y.) that what's reported at this point could constitute impeachable offenses.
"I think we need to wait until we see the full picture," Schiff said. "The question that is presented just by Michael Cohen's plea and the Justice Department filing: Is a crime directed and coordinated by the president, which helped him obtain office, sufficient to warrant his removal from that office? That's a legitimate question to ask. But I think we need to know what is the quality of the proof on that."
Schiff also said Trump is in deeper trouble than former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who did not go to prison on a similar case regarding campaign funds being used to hide an affair.
"It's clear that Justice Department here is making the argument that the principle purpose of these payments was to affect the election, and Cohen has admitted as much. I think in the case with Edwards there were problems of proof," Schiff said. "Here it appears the Justice Department doesn't think there's any problem with proving that this was intended to principally affect the election."
Cohen’s connections to Russia also worried Schiff, who said there is evidence that still must be redacted in the Justice Department's filing.