By Alyssa Seidman
On Friday, April 7, the LIU Global Institute hosted Adam Schiff, the U.S. Representative for California’s 28th congressional district, in a conversation on global policy and current events.
Congressman Schiff, a Democrat, is the Ranking Member of the United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which began hearings last month on Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Former U.S. Representative Steven Israel, the chairman of the LIU Global Institute, invited Schiff to the Brookville campus to offer his perspective on current events.
About 40 people, including students and faculty, attended the program. Israel opened the talk by outlining five global trends that will develop over the next 30 years. In the year 2040, it is stipulated that 1.2 billion people will be added to the population, there’ll be the largest growth of the elderly due to advanced medical technology, 60 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, mostly everything will be made by robots as the result of accelerated technology, and world powers will fight wars not over borders or ideologies, but over resources, such as food and water. Schiff then offered his intel expertise, which was followed by a brief Q&A session.
The main issue that Congressman Schiff addressed was the U.S. military strike on a Syrian airbase the evening of April 6. The airstrike was launched in an effort to combat chemical attacks that killed dozens of civilians earlier in the week. Israel mentioned that Schiff was informed of the attack just minutes before he was set to appear on “The Rachel Maddow Show” that night.
“It proceeded to be a momentous day in the institution of Congress because the Senate leader used the nuclear option [to gain approval of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee], and effectively turned the Senate into the House, and that wasn’t a good thing,” Schiff said.
The Democratic Congressman described that the military strike on Syria abdicated congressional power to declare war, another example of how the Trump administration is executing a broad interpretation of the Constitution, resulting in a “terrible confluence of interest.”
“We’re now using [the] authorization to use force against those responsible for 9/11 against a different group, Isis, that didn’t even exist at the time and indeed has been at war with Al Qaeda,” Schiff said.
Congressman Schiff also discussed U.S.-Russia relations, stating that the existing tensions are not a result of conflicting economies as in the past, but rather conflicting governments. “Putin is at the vanguard of an autocratic movement around the world, and the pushback against those forces has always been a coalition of Western democracies led by the United States, and right now the leadership of that is very much at risk,” he said.
Schiff described Donald Trump as Russia’s “dream candidate” for U.S. office, someone who would disparage NATO and do away with sanctions if elected, encouraged Brexit, and talked eagerly of other countries leaving the European Union. “It’s the perfect way to take down the American democracy, and discredit the whole idea of democracy around the world,” Schiff said. “And there is the danger.”
The Congressman stressed the importance of Americans understanding exactly how the “Russian cyber onslaught” influenced the 2016 election. “They’re very sophisticated in their media, in how they use paid media trolls and bots so that they can [manipulate] social media [so] the stories that are critical of a candidate they don’t like rise to the top.”
Schiff and Israel answered questions mostly regarding President Trump’s relationship with the Kremlin, his accusations against Susan Rice, and his fervent tweeting tendencies.
Whereas Schiff said that past presidents would have renounced Russian interference in a U.S. election, in Trump’s case it was invited. “How can we accept foreign involvement in our election and not repudiate it?” he asked.
The LIU Global Institute offers members of the university community access to global and national leaders in many facets of American government. Student-leader events are designed to facilitate discussions about top, pressing issues in order to deepen students’ understanding of global issues. Future Institute speakers will include Trump presidential transition team member Jim Woolsey, General David Petraeus, Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and former President Bill Clinton.