Schumer Floor Remarks On Judicial Nominee Thomas Farr And The Need To Pass Bipartisan Legislation To Protect The Special Counsel Investigation

November 29, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke today on the Senate floor (at approx. 10:30 AM) on the controversial judicial nominee Thomas Farr and the need to protect Special Counsel Mueller. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, later this afternoon the Senate is scheduled to vote on the confirmation of Mr. Thomas Farr for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

I have made my opposition to this nominee clear on a daily basis, but allow me to remind my colleagues, to recap, before this vote just what we’re dealing with here.


We’re being asked to confirm the go-to guy in North Carolina if you need a lawyer to defend voter suppression. Some might think that’s hyperbolic, but I sincerely ask my colleagues not to go for hyperbole, but to look at the evidence:


Mr. Farr was the lead lawyer in defending North Carolina’s discriminatory congressional maps, drawn by the state’s Republicans, which were struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional. This is a very conservative Supreme Court, which has been mostly unsympathetic to arguments on disenfranchisement – as evidenced by the Shelby County case. But in this instance, they could not help but overturn the maps for racial discrimination despite the defense provided by Mr. Farr.


Mr. Farr was also the lead lawyer in defense of North Carolina’s insidious voter ID law, which the Supreme Court ruled “targeted African Americans…with almost surgical precision.” “Targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision.” North Carolina’s Republicans designed the law after asking for and receiving data sorted by race on voting practices. Mr. Farr not only defended the law, he described the voting restrictions – which forbade the use of government employee ID, student ID, and IDs used for public assistance – as “a minor inconvenience.”


That’s only Mr. Farr’s recent history involving voter suppression. If we go back and look at the campaign of Senator Jesse Helms in 1990, Mr. Farr represented the Helms campaign and defended it against accusations that it sent over 120,000 postcards, almost exclusively to black voters, that falsely warned them they could be charged with a crime if they tried to vote. Falsely, falsely warned them. The mailers were sent after statistics emerged that African-American registration was outpacing white voter registration.


The sordid history of Mr. Farr’s efforts to suppress voting goes back even further. Mr. Farr was a member of Senator Jesse Helms’ 1984 campaign. In that campaign he wasn’t merely a hired gun, he was a close legal associate of Senator Helms, a man that David Broder of the Washington Post called the “last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country.” In that 1984 campaign, according to memoranda by the Voting Rights section of the Department of Justice, Mr. Farr was involved in the so-called “ballot security” program run by the Helms campaign and the North Carolina Republican Party.  The so-called “ballot security” program included sending postcards to minority voters in an effort to suppress voting.


In 2006, Mr. Farr’s association with these noxious voter suppression attempts by Helms’ campaign was enough to deny him confirmation to this very seat. In the intervening years, he has not repented or even moved on to different issues. He’s still defending attempts to disenfranchise African-American voters. I’m not from North Carolina, but if I were I’d be embarrassed to have this man nominated and placed on the federal bench.


It takes but an ounce of principle to say ‘no, I’m not defending discrimination and voter suppression.’ And yet, time and time and time again, not just in 1984, not just in 1990, but in 2013 and 2015, Mr. Thomas Farr has stepped up to the plate to represent and defend voter suppression in the court of law.


And we’re being asked to reward him, reward him with these activities, with a lifetime appointment as a federal judge, in a district that’s twenty-seven percent African American, where he will have the power to make decisions on voting rights and civil rights for a generation.


I prevail upon the conscience of my Republican colleagues, who I know want to be fair to this man: look at the body of evidence impartially. There is simply a preponderance of evidence that Mr. Farr was involved – often intimately – in decades of voter suppression in North Carolina.


The standard for this vote is not whether or how Mr. Farr should be punished or excoriated for what he did, but a much higher one: whether a man with this history deserves to be elevated to a lifetime appointment on the federal bench.


Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, this all has to be, has to be disqualifying for a seat on the federal bench.


Now, on another matter, the special counsel’s investigation.


To date, the special counsel’s investigation has produced no less than thirty-five indictments or plea deals. Thirty-five. And that does not include two additional guilty pleas of people initially investigated by Mueller but were handed off to other branches of the Justice Department.


Just this morning, Michael Cohen has pled guilty to lying to Congress about projects in Russia.


It’s a reminder that there has been a remarkable volume of criminal activity uncovered by the special counsel’s investigation. No one – especially not the president – can credibly claim that the investigation is a fishing expedition. Calling Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt” is just a lie. Plain and simple. A lie.


The president’s actions clearly show he has a lot to hide, but he is afraid of the truth and doesn’t want Mueller or anyone else to uncover it. It hasn’t stopped the president from repeating these lies. In fact, in recent days, President Trump has escalated his attack on Special Counsel Mueller. Almost daily, the president’s twitter feed is littered with baseless accusations about the investigation. President Trump re-tweeted an image of several of his political opponents, including Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, behind bars. Can you believe that? The deputy attorney general behind bars. And this is the man, the president, our Republican colleagues refuse to call him out. Just yesterday, President Trump said this about a potential pardon for Paul Manafort, now accused of lying to prosecutors and violating his plea agreement, he said: “I wouldn’t take it off the table…why would I take it off the table?.


Let’s not forget, President Trump has already fired the attorney general and replaced him with an lackey, without Senate approval, a nominees whose only qualification seems to be that he has a history of criticizing the special counsel.


So this idea that we don’t need to pass legislation to protect the special counsel because there’s no way President Trump will interfere with the investigation is flat-out absurd.


I once again call on my friend the majority leader to schedule a vote on the bipartisan bill to protect the special counsel. If he continues to refuse, we will push for the bill in the year-end spending agreement.