Schumer Floor Remarks Demanding A Fair & Honest Impeachment Trial That Seeks The Truth, Including Documents & Testimony From Key Witnesses

January 13, 2020

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today on the Senate floor demanded a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial that includes documents and testimony from key witnesses. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

The President of the United States is charged with committing a grave injury to our democracy: trying to shake down a foreign leader to get him to interfere in our elections, using the powers of his public office to benefit himself and jaundice our elections. These are the kinds of actions that the framers of our Constitution most feared when they forged the impeachment powers of the Congress.

The House of Representatives decided the president’s conduct warranted his impeachment. The Senate’s constitutional duty now is to try that case to the best of our ability, with honesty, with integrity, with impartiality, and with fairness. A fair trial is one that considers all the facts and gives the senators all the information they need to make an informed decision. That means relevant witnesses. That means relevant documents. That means the truth. Without these things, a Senate trial would become a farce—a nationally televised meeting of the mock trial club.

There’s a reason, that with one exception, every impeachment trial of any official in the history of the United States has featured witnessed. That one exception was the trial of a fellow senator—in the 18th Century—and the question of his impeachment was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds before the issue of witnesses could even come up. Every other trial had witnesses. So when Leader McConnell talks about precedent, he’s talking about witnesses. Plain and simple.

So the Democratic request for four fact-witnesses and three specific sets of relevant documents is very much in line with our history. We don’t know what those witnesses will say; we don’t know what those documents will reveal. They could help the president’s case or they can hurt it. Regardless of the consequences for the president, Democrats are on a quest for the truth.

At the moment, Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are opposing witnesses and documents, but they can’t seem to muster a real reason why. Instead, Leader McConnell and Republican leadership have labeled the Democratic request for witnesses and documents as “political.”

If seeking the truth is political, if doing our constitutional duty is political in the minds of our Republican colleagues, then the Republican Party is in trouble. History is not kind to political parties that fight to hide the truth. History is not kind to parties that participate in cover-ups.

If anything, these absurd accusations by Republicans demonstrate just how unable Republicans have been to make an affirmative case about why the Senate shouldn’t ask for evidence. The Republican argument against calling witnesses is basically non-existent. The most commonly repeated talking point from the other side is that we should follow the example of the 1999 Clinton trial by deciding on witnesses after both sides complete their presentations.

Republicans are so unwilling to argue against witnesses; they can only support delaying the decision, like a broken magic eight-ball that keeps saying: “ask again later.”

Leader McConnell has represented his position as being fair and open-minded. He has said that he’s not foreclosing the possibility of witnesses, the Senate should just discuss them later.

As I’ve made clear, this makes no sense from a trial perspective. Why should both sides make their entire presentations before we even consider requesting evidence? Leader McConnell’s proposal is completely backward and through the looking glass.

Let’s consider what—practically speaking—Leader McConnell is suggesting when he claims to be open to witnesses at a later date. What does he really mean when he says that?

In the 1999 Clinton trial, the Senate waited three weeks into the trial to confront the issue of witnesses. Once they decided on three witnesses—with the support of several Senate Republicans here today, including Leader McConnell—it took time for the witnesses to be deposed and for the Senate to consider what they had submitted. Ultimately, the Clinton trial ran for two more weeks.

I want my fellow Republican Senators to ask themselves: after the Senate concludes the part of the trial that Leader McConnell wants to get through, do you think he really wants to extend the trial by several weeks?

Leader McConnell has gone on the record and said that he wants the trial to span two weeks—total. Leader McConnell has gone on the record and said that “after we’ve heard the arguments, we ought to vote and move on.”

Are we to believe that Leader McConnell, after two weeks are up, really has an open mind about extending the trial several more weeks?

Or does he want to delay the question of witnesses and documents until later, and then, when the time comes, exert enormous pressure on Republicans to reject them to avoid prolonging the trial? He’ll say we can’t go on any further, let’s just end it.

Every Republican, every Republican, should ask themselves that question.

Democrats are not advocating a lengthy and drawn-out trial. That’s why we’ve proposed handling this issue up front, so evidence can be part of the presentations and so we don’t have to extend the trial unnecessarily. We’ve proposed a schedule that would save the Senate a whole lot of time.

So before voting on a resolution that would punt the question of witnesses until after all the presentations are complete, Senate Republicans must ask themselves: what are Leader McConnell’s true intentions?