President Trump said some time ago that he believes his personal finances should be off limits to investigators. In an interview with the Times in July, 2017, he asserted that if Robert Mueller, the special counsel, sought to investigate the Trump family’s business dealings he would be crossing a “red line.” When, later that year, several news reports suggested that Mueller had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for records relating to Trump’s businesses, the President reportedly told members of his staff that he wanted to fire Mueller in response. It was never confirmed whether Mueller had actually subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, but the President’s aversion to the scrutiny of his business interests caught the attention of Representative Adam Schiff, who will become the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence next year. On a recent weekend, at a busy restaurant in downtown Burbank, in the heart of his congressional district, Schiff talked about his plans for conducting an investigation that will be parallel to Mueller’s, probing Trump’s connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other places around the world. As Schiff described his approach, it became clear that he wasn’t just planning to cross Trump’s red line—he intended to obliterate it.
“Our role is not the same as Bob Mueller’s,” Schiff told me, over a vegan burger. (He changed his eating habits a few years ago, in order to lower his cholesterol.) The job of prosecutors like Mueller is to identify and prosecute crimes, not necessarily to inform and educate the public. Congressional committees, like the one Schiff will soon lead, are supposed to monitor the executive branch and expose wrongdoing.