Congressman Adam Schiff talks democracy, 2020 elections in Aspen Security Forum finale

Congressman Adam Schiff voiced his concern of a failing democracy in the United States and took plenty of opportunities to call out the president when he spoke Saturday in the final significant event of this year’s Aspen Security Forum inside the Greenwald Pavilion.

Schiff, who is the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, talked about defending the U.S. against foreign adversaries, touching on topics such as the increased hostilities with Iran and the Mueller report. Kristen Welker of NBC News moderated.

“The ability that we have to champion democracy around the world is inextricably tied to the idea of what America is and who we are,” Schiff said. “My broadest concern is the ideological struggle that we are in between democracy and authoritarianism. We have seen a real rise of autocracy around the world. This would normally be resisted by the full force of the president and presidency and the state department. And it’s not.”

Schiff, who is a democrat, said he isn’t particularly confident in the U.S.’s ability to prevent other countries, notably Russia, from meddling in the 2020 elections. More so, he said he’s concerned about the current administration’s apathy toward the interference and views it as a threat to democracy.

“Every time the president says this is a hoax, every time he talks to (Russian President Vladimir Putin) and says this is a hoax, he is essentially telling the perpetrator of the last attack that they are invited to do it again as long as it’s on his side,” Schiff said. “Russia is using its own malevolent interference to undermine democracies, but probably nothing is more worrisome than our own actions to undermine our own democracy.”

Without saying it directly, Schiff questioned President Donald Trump’s leadership tactics in regards to international relations. Despite the president’s outwardly friendly approach to North Korea, the Asian country remains as much of a threat at it ever has. Schiff worries that a similar tactic with Iran could lead to increased conflict, even though he also believes neither side truly wants war.

“Withstanding the love affair and the love letters and the walks in the park and the handholding, North Korea still is building bombs and making missiles. Maybe we have a breakthrough with Iran,” Schiff said. “I don’t think for the most part Iran wants war with the United States and I think for the most part the president doesn’t want war with Iran. The bigger risk is that we blunder our way into war.”

Despite his concerns, Schiff feels good about the democrat’s chances in next year’s elections. He said the key is getting people to vote and urged his party to make that their focus, instead of the current inter-party battles going on between candidates.

“The good thing about being a democrat right now is we are in control of our own destiny. If we turn out democratically inclined voters, we win. If we don’t, we lose. It’s on us,” Schiff said. “Any difference between the most progressive and the most moderate of democrats is nothing compared to all of our differences with this president. I am counting at the end of the day in Donald Trump being the great unifier of the Democratic Party.”