Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks Announcing A Bipartisan Agreement On The Structure Of The Impeachment Trial Of Donald Trump

February 8, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the bipartisan agreement on how the upcoming impeachment trial will proceed. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Tomorrow, the second impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump will commence, only the fourth trial of a president or former president in American history, and the first trial for any public official that has been impeached twice.

For the information of the Senate: the Republican Leader and I, in consultation with both the House managers and former President Trump’s lawyers, have agreed to a bipartisan resolution to govern the structure and timing of the impending trial.

Let me say that again: all parties have agreed to a structure that will ensure a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial of the former president.

Each side will have ample time to make their arguments: 16 hours over two days for the House managers; the same for the former president’s counsel. If the managers decide they want witnesses, there will be a vote on that, which is the option they requested in regard to witnesses. The trial will also accommodate a request from the former president’s counsel to pause the trial during the Sabbath: the trial will break on Friday afternoon before sundown and will not resume until Sunday afternoon. As in previous trials, there will be equal time for Senators’ questions and for closing arguments, and an opportunity for the Senate to hold deliberations, if it so chooses. 

And then we will vote on the Article of Impeachment, and if the former president is convicted, we will proceed to a vote on whether he is qualified to enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.

The structure we have all agreed to is eminently fair. It will allow for the trial to achieve its purpose: truth and accountability. That’s what trials are designed to do: to arrive at the truth of a matter, and render a verdict. And following the despicable attack on January the 6th, there must be truth and accountability if we are going to move forward, heal, and bring our country together once again. Sweeping something as momentous as this under the rug brings no healing whatsoever. Let’s be clear about that.

Now, as the trial begins, the forces aligned with the former president are prepared to argue that the trial itself is unconstitutional because Donald Trump is no longer in office—relying on a fringe legal theory that has been roundly debunked by constitutional scholars from across the political spectrum. 

Just yesterday, another very prominent conservative Republican constitutional lawyer, Chuck Cooper, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Republicans are dead wrong if they think an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional.

Here’s what he wrote: “Given that the Constitution permits the Senate to impose the penalty of permanent disqualification only on former officeholders, it defies logic to suggest that the Senate is prohibited from trying and convicting former officeholders. The Senators who supported Mr. Paul’s motion should reconsider their view and judge the former president’s misconduct on the merits.”

That’s no liberal, that’s Chuck Cooper—a lawyer who represented House Republicans in a lawsuit against Speaker Pelosi, a former advisor to Senator Cruz’s presidential campaign – driving a stake into the central argument we’re going to hear from the former president’s counsel.

Now, I understand why this fringe constitutional theory is being advanced. For the past few weeks, the political right has been searching for a safe harbor: a way to oppose the conviction of Donald Trump without passing judgment on his conduct; to avoid alienating the former president’s supporters without condoning his obviously despicable, unpatriotic, and undemocratic behavior. 

But the truth is: no such safe harbor exists. The trial is clearly constitutional by every frame of analysis, by constitutional text, historical practice, Senate precedent, and basic common sense.

A president cannot simply resign to avoid accountability for an impeachable offense, nor can they escape judgment by waiting until their final few weeks in office to betray our country. The impeachment powers assigned to the Congress by the Constitution cannot be defeated by a president who decides to run away, or trashes our democracy on the way out the door. This trial will confirm that fact.

The merits of the case against the former president will be presented. And the former president’s counsel will mount a defense. Ultimately, Senators will decide on the one, true question at stake in this trial: is Donald Trump guilty of inciting a violent mob against the United States, a mob whose purpose was to interfere with the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power?

And if he is guilty, does someone who would commit such a high crime against their own country deserve to hold any office of honor or trust, ever again?

Consistent with the solemn oath we have all taken to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws” of the United States—that is the question every Senator must answer in this trial.

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