Schumer Floor Remarks Demanding A Fair And Honest Impeachment Trial Including Key Witnesses And Documents

January 6, 2020

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for a fair trial with key witnesses and documents after former National Security Advisor John Bolton issued a statement saying he would testify in the Senate impeachment trial, if he is subpoenaed, which can also be viewed here:

As my colleagues return from the holiday recess, one question looms before us: will the United States Senate conduct a fair impeachment trial of the President of the United States? Will we search for all of the facts or will we look for a cover-up, a sham trial, on one of the most important powers the founding fathers gave the American people? The framers gave the Senate the sole power to try presidential impeachments because they could not imagine another body with “confidence enough” in its own status to “preserve the necessary impartiality.” It is up to every Senator now to live up to that awesome, profound, responsibility.

At the moment, there is very clear difference of opinion between the Republican Leader and myself about what it means to have a fair trial.

I believe a fair trial is one that considers all the relevant facts; that allows for relevant witnesses and documents, a feature of every single impeachment trial of a president in the history of our nation. We have never had one with no witnesses, not once. Leader McConnell likes to cite precedent and that one stares him in the face and he can’t answer it.

My Republican counterpart believes that a trial should feature no relevant witnesses, none of the relevant documents, and—as he made clear in his public appearance on Fox News—should proceed according to the desires of the White House, the defendant in this case. Glaringly, the Republican leader has yet to make one single argument why witnesses should not testify. One single argument. I’m waiting to hear Leader McConnell give a specific answer why these witnesses should not come forward. Don’t call names, don’t finger point, don’t get angry at Speaker Pelosi—tell us why, here in the Senate, witnesses and documents should not come forward, that are directly relevant to the charges against the President of the United States of America.

So Leader McConnell has sort of exempted himself from fair debate. He doesn’t want a fair trial, he wants a quick and sham trial.

Now, it’s up to every Senator, every other Senator. Every Senator will have a say in deciding which of the two views wins out. Will we have a fair trial or a cover up. Will we hear the evidence? Or will we try to hide it? And it will not me, and not the Republican leader alone—but a majority of Senators will decide whether we have the fair trial with facts and evidence, or a Senate-sponsored cover-up of the president’s alleged misconduct.

Make no mistake: there will be votes on whether or to call the four witnesses we’ve proposed and subpoena the documents we identified. Under the rules of the Senate trial, the minority will be able to offer motions, subject to a majority vote. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle, your constituents, the voice of history is watching. You will be required to vote on whether we have a fair trial with witnesses and with documents or you will say I’m running away from the facts, I’m scared of the facts, and go for a cover up.

A few hours ago, the momentum for uncovering the truth in a Senate trial gathered even more momentum. One of the key witnesses I’ve asked for, Mr. John Bolton, former National Security Advisor to President Trump, correctly acknowledged that he needs to comply with a Senate subpoena for his testimony, if issued. Previously, Mr. Bolton said he was leaving the question of his testimony up to the courts. Today, he made it perfectly clear that he will come if the Senate asks, as he should. The other potential witnesses we’ve identified—Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Duffey, and Mr. Blair—should do the same.

We know that Mr. Bolton, like Mr. Mulvaney, Mr. Duffey and Mr. Blair, the three other witnesses, has crucial, crucial, eye-witness knowledge of the President’s dealings with Ukraine, about how decisions were made to withhold security assistance, and how opposition within the Administration to that delay that President Trump seemed to want, was overcome.

A simple majority is all it takes to ensure that the Senate issues a subpoena for these witnesses. If only four Republicans decide that Mr. Bolton and the three other witnesses ought to be heard, they will be heard, because every Democrat will vote to hear. It is now up to four Senate Republicans to support bringing in Mr. Bolton, and the three other witnesses, as well as the key documents we have requested to ensure all the evidence is presented at the onset of a Senate trial.

Given that Mr. Bolton’s lawyers have stated he has new and relevant information to share, if any Senate Republican opposes issuing subpoenas to the four witnesses and documents we have requested they would make absolutely clear they are participating in a cover up, in one of the most sacred duties we have in this Congress, in this Senate. And that is to keep a President in check.

Now, Leader McConnell has suggested we follow the 1999 example of beginning the impeachment trial first and then deciding on witnesses and documents after the arguments are complete. He keeps making this argument, it doesn’t gather any steam, because it’s such a foolish one. Let me again respond, for the benefit of my colleagues: witnesses and documents are the most important issue and we should deal with them first.

To hear Leader McConnell say ‘no witnesses now but maybe some later’ is just another indication, he has no argument against witnesses and documents on the merits. He’s afraid to address the argument, cause he knows it’s a loser for him. So he says, let’s decide it later. Why? Why? No reason. In fact, it’s sort of backward, we’re going to have all the arguments pro and con and then say maybe well have witnesses and documents. The arguments first and the evidence later?

As I have said, Leader McConnell’s view of the trial is an Alice-in-Wonderland view. First the trial, then the evidence. And, more important than precedent is the fact that it plainly doesn’t make sense to have both sides present their arguments first and then—afterward—ask for the evidence we know is out there. The evidence should inform the trial, not the other way around. When Leader McConnell proposes that we follow the 1999 precedent, he is essentially arguing that we should conduct the entire impeachment trial first, and then once it’s over, decide on whether we need witnesses and documents.

Again, Leader McConnell’s view of the trial is Alice-in-Wonderland. First the trial, then the evidence. If the Senate were to agree to Leader McConnell’s proposal, the Senate will act as little more than a nationally televised meeting of a mock trial club.

Leader McConnell’s proposal to vote on witnesses and documents later is a poorly disguised trap. He has already actually made clear what his goals are. He said it. On Fox News Radio: “After we’ve heard the arguments, we ought to vote and move on.” No witnesses, no documents. Well, at least 47 Democrats and I hope some Republicans won’t fall of that kind of specious logic. What Leader McConnell said, doesn’t sound like someone who will reasonably consider witnesses and documents at a later date. It more sounds like someone who has already made up their mind.

You cannot, you cannot have a fair trial without the facts; without the testimony from witnesses with knowledge of the events and the related documents. A trial without all the facts is a farce. If the president is acquitted at the end of a partisan, sham trial, with no witnesses, no documents, his acquittal will not carry much weight in the minds of the American people or in the judgment of history.

So, if President Trump, you’re hurting about this acquittal, this impeachment, and you’re wishing for a fair trial, and a real acquittal, join us in asking for the witnesses to come forward. Join us in asking for the documents. What are you hiding President Trump? What are you afraid of President Trump? If you think that you’ve done nothing wrong, you wouldn’t mind having witnesses, your own witnesses. These are people you’ve appointed, to come here. Most Americans know President Trump is afraid, seems to be afraid of the truth.  64% of all Republicans who almost always side with President Trump in the polling data say that there should be witnesses and documents. 64%. A trial without all the facts is a farce. The verdicts of kangaroo courts are empty.

It is time for a bipartisan majority in this chamber—Democrat, Republican—to support the rules and procedures of a fair trial. A vote to allow witnesses and documents does not presume a vote for conviction in any way; it merely ensures that when that ultimate judgment is rendered, whatever that judgment may be, it will be based on the facts.

We don’t know what the witnesses will say, they could be exculpatory for President Trump or they could be more condemning. But whatever they will be, we should have the facts come out, let the chips fall where they may. 

Senate Democrats believe we must, must conduct a fair trial. Do Senate Republicans? We’ll see.