Schumer Floor Remarks On Attorney General Barr’s Disgraceful Performance Before The Senate Judiciary Committee, Schumer’s New Letter Questioning Attorney General Barr About His Statements On Obstruction Of Justice, The Trump Administration’s Recent Attack On Women’s Health Care Access, And Leader McConnell’s Refusal To Bring Legislation To The Floor, Making The Senate A Legislative GraveyardMay 2, 2019
Schumer Floor Remarks On Attorney General Barr’s Disgraceful Performance Before The Senate Judiciary Committee, Schumer’s New Letter Questioning Attorney General Barr About His Statements On Obstruction Of Justice, The Trump Administration’s Recent Attack On Women’s Health Care Access, And Leader McConnell’s Refusal To Bring Legislation To The Floor, Making The Senate A Legislative Graveyard
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Attorney General Barr’s disgraceful performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Schumer’s new letter questioning Attorney General Barr about his statements on obstruction of justice, the Trump administration’s recent attack on women’s health care access, and Leader McConnell’s refusal to bring legislation to the floor, making the senate a legislative graveyard. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Mr. President, Attorney General Barr’s performance in yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing was abysmal, raising all types of questions about his willingness to be a faithful steward of the law. But of several outlandish claims, one stood out – one that should send shivers down the spine of anyone who believes in this democracy. It would probably send shivers down the spines of the Founding Fathers if they heard the Attorney General say what he said. Attorney General Barr said yesterday that the president could not have obstructed justice because he believed he was falsely accused.
But he even went further. He made a broad principle. Here’s what he said. This is Attorney General Barr: he said if an investigation is “based on false allegations, the president does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow it run its course. The president could terminate that proceeding and not have it be corrupt intent because he was being falsely accused.”
What a statement! What a statement. If the president himself believes he was falsely accused, he can terminate any investigation or proceeding against him? Any at all? And is that determination in the president’s own head and nobody else’s?
So I am sending a letter to the Attorney General this morning and asking him a whole bunch of questions based on that awful, confounding statement. First, we know he had a theory of the unitary executive. He wrote that memo before he was chosen as Attorney General. Many believe that’s why he was chosen.
But this is the first time he has stated it so crassly and so baldly as Attorney General. Does he stand by that or is it a mistake, is my first question? Does he stand by the statement he said yesterday, “based on false allegations the president does not have to sit there constitutionally and allow it run its course. The president could terminate that proceeding and not have it be corrupt intent because he was falsely accused”? Terminate the proceeding! So who is the determiner of what is a false allegation? Is it the president himself? Solely? I’m going to ask Attorney General Barr that question.
And what about other proceedings and investigations? Let’s say one of the president’s family is being investigated. If the president determines that it’s based on false allegations, does he have the unilateral power to terminate the proceeding? What if it’s one of the president’s business associates and the president believes those are false allegations? Does he have the ability to terminate? What if it’s one of his political allies? Again, does he have the ability to terminate?
And I will ask him, does that mean that Richard Nixon, who certainly believed he was being falsely accused, could have simply dismissed the entire Watergate investigation? Is that what the Attorney General believes?
I mean, my god, what president doesn’t believe that they’re not being falsely accused?
If this were to become the actual standard, then no president could be guilty of obstructing a federal investigation – and every president would have the right to terminate any investigation, certainly about that president and maybe about many others with some relationship to the president. Attorney General Barr’s comments are as close as it gets to saying the president should be above the law.
So I will be writing him a letter and sending it to him this morning asking him these questions explicitly and asking him if he stands by his statement. Because if he does, he should not be Attorney General. He should not be Attorney General. I will await his answers. I hope he doesn’t stonewall as he’s been doing over in the House.
Next, on a related matter: one of the clearest takeaways from yesterday’s hearing – in addition to the astounding statement of the Attorney General that the president can terminate any investigation or procedure against him if he believed it was based on false facts – was the discrepancy between the opinions of the Attorney General and the conclusions of the Mueller report.
My colleague Senator Harris also uncovered – masterfully – that the Attorney General did not examine any of the underlying evidence in the Mueller report before making a prosecutorial decision, and to his knowledge neither did the Deputy Attorney General. The arrogance of these men is amazing. This is one of the most serious issues we face. Half the country at least believes they’re very serious – more than half – and they don’t even bother to look at the underlying evidence before they issue a statement that indicates the president is exonerated? At least in the president’s own mind.
But that’s to say nothing of the fact that there are so many unanswered questions about the reasoning behind some of Special Counsel Mueller’s decisions, regardless of what Barr thought or did or wrote.
So it’s imperative that Mueller come testify.
The result is that we have a gap – we have a gap in our understanding of key details in the Mueller probe; a gap that leaves a cloud hanging over this country, over this president, over this Justice Department; a gap that could easily be erased by having the Special Counsel come before the Senate to testify!
So I was frankly shocked, appalled – I thought it wasn’t true, it must’ve been a misquote – when I read on Twitter that my friend, Lindsey Graham, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee said he would not ask Special Counsel Mueller to testify. That he would send Mueller a letter asking him to respond if he disagreed with the Attorney General’s testimony, but not invite him to testify.
“It’s over,” he repeated – to the committee and then to me on the floor when I really confronted him, even though he’s my friend, because I was so amazed about this, when I confronted him here on the floor of the Senate. He modified his request after we talked to say if Mueller said that he was misquoted he could come.
That’s not a way to do this. Mueller should come, no ands, ifs or buts. The American people deserve it. And frankly, my friend Sen. Graham is being totally derelict in his duties as Chair of the Judiciary Committee not to invite Mr. Mueller.
So I would ask Sen. Graham to reconsider. To think about the country, to think about his long history of trying to be fair and often – not so much recently – but often bipartisan. He’s someone I worked with on – and he showed great courage – on immigration. He must reconsider. He cannot have the Judiciary Committee simply be a political arm of the president, which is where it’s devolving under his chairmanship.
Congressional oversight requires that Mueller come. The Constitution, if you read it, would indicate that it’s perfectly within our ability – and an obligation – to bring Mueller here. Please, Senator Graham. Reconsider. Invite Mueller. His testimony is desperately needed to clarify what he actually meant and said after Mr. Barr’s.
Madam President, on women’s health care. Last month, the Trump administration proposed instituting a radical Title X gag rule, which would have regulated the kinds of conversations women could have with their doctors and risked cutting off family planning clinics from millions of dollars of federal funding.
The rule was set to go into effect on May 3, but courts around the country have granted preliminary injunctions to prevent it from taking effect – as they should.
Those decisions are great news and should be celebrated as an affirmation of a woman’s right to make her own medical choices. Not to have some courts, some judge, some legislator tell a woman what to do with her medical choices.
But they are also a reminder that President Trump and Congressional Republicans continue to undermine the rights of women to make their own health care decisions.
Since taking office, President Trump and Republicans across the country have launched an assault on women’s reproductive freedoms and women’s health. In Mississippi, in Georgia, in Kentucky; Republican statehouses are forcing through radical proposals that would dramatically limit women’s ability to make their own choices.
Here in Washington, the Trump administration continues to seek the total destruction of our health care law. Just yesterday, the administration issued a brief arguing the entire ACA is unconstitutional, an opinion that would gut protections for the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions and strip away health care from millions of American families.
The House has sent us a bill that would protect people who had pre-existing conditions, but the Senate is not acting.
And that leads me to my last point. We have just concluded another “legislative” week in the Senate, but it was a legislative week in name only. There was no legislation. As you may have seen, we have done little more than process nominations. Later this afternoon we’ll see what the Majority Leader plans for next week, but I have a suspicion: just more nominations.
Meanwhile, there’s no shortage of legislation we could work on—the House of Representatives has passed no fewer than 100 pieces of legislation. Guess how many of those hundred have received consideration on the floor of the Senate: zero. Zero of the House-passed bills on legislation.
Commonsense background checks, voting rights, paycheck fairness, defending protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. All bipartisan. All supported by the overwhelming majority of the American public.
But in the Senate? No action. Nothing. We have become a conveyor belt for nominations and a graveyard for legislation.
I’ve said again and again to Leader McConnell, if he doesn’t like every aspect of the House Democratic bills, that’s fine, that’s democracy—but let’s at least debate them! Let’s have amendments! If the Leader truly wants to start from scratch, we’d love to hear his plan. If he doesn’t think we should close loopholes in our background check system—then what’s his plan to reduce gun violence and mass shootings? He doesn’t like the Green New Deal, fine – what’s his plan to deal with climate change?
Before Leader McConnell became the Majority Leader, he promised that if he were in charge he’d do things differently in the Senate—he’d have open debates and an open amendment process, and he’d have us vote on the issues of the day, no matter which party the ideas come from.
Eventually, the American people are going to take a hard look at this obstructionist, Republican majority of the 116th Congress and wonder what the heck we did with our time. When they realize that the Republican Senate has spent nearly all of its time so far rubber stamping nominees – so many of whom are unqualified, so many of whose views, whether they be judicial or executive appointments, are so far out of the American mainstream – and ignoring real legislation that could help middle-class families, I wouldn’t blame them for wanting to change the leadership of the Senate.