Schumer Floor Remarks On Leader McConnell’s Whitewashing Of The Mueller Report, Turning The Senate Into A Legislative Graveyard, and President Trump’s Unfair Treatment of Puerto RicoMay 7, 2019
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding Leader McConnell’s whitewashing of the Mueller report and his refusal to act on election security and other pressing issues, turning the Senate into a legislative graveyard, and President Trump’s unfair treatment of Puerto Rico. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Madam President, I’ve just listened to my friend the Majority Leader engage in an astounding bit of whitewashing. Not unexpected, but entirely unconvincing.
Yes, the Mueller investigation took two years, and yes, it produced a stunning document in the end. Not only a damning appraisal of our election security and just how willing a major presidential campaign was to accept and amplify the disinformation of a foreign adversary, but also a thorough examination of the behavior of a lawless president, who on at least 11 occasions according to the report, may have obstructed a federal investigation.
So while my friend the Majority Leader wants to say case closed – I don’t blame him – 375 former federal prosecutors looked at the Mueller report and said, publicly, that the conduct of the President amounts to felony obstruction of justice. And that in any other case, were he not president, those prosecutors would recommend bringing charges.
So our Leader says ‘let’s move on?’ It’s sort of like Richard Nixon saying let’s move on at the height of the investigation of his wrongdoing. Of course he wants to move on. He wants to cover up. He wants to silence one of the most serious issues we face -- whether a foreign power can manipulate our elections, the wellspring of our democracy. If the Leader is sincere, then put election security on the floor. Let’s debate it. Put sanctions on Russia on the floor. Let’s debate it. He doesn’t want to move on – he wants to run away from these awful facts that relate to wellspring of our democracy: foreign interference in our election, and a president who’s lawless. That’s what he wants to push under the rug.
Of course he would say ‘this is all done.’ It’s NOT done. If Russia interferes in 2020, it’s not done. If this president or future presidents believe that they can avoid the law and even break the law – at least according to 375 prosecutors – it is not done. This is very serious stuff.
The Leader bemoans “breathless conspiracy theorizing.” For a moment I thought he was referring to the president and to those House and Senate Republicans who, for two years, intentionally sought to undercut Mueller’s investigation by peddling far-fetched conspiracy theories about deep state “coups,” unmasking scandals, and uranium purchases to muddy the waters. I guess he meant something about Democrats…but I don’t remember the Republican Leader bemoaning those breathless conspiracies. Nor do I remember the Republican Leader or the Republican Senators having such a distaste for congressional oversight during the Obama administration – on things far less serious! They were relentless in wanting investigations! And now they say never mind? When the wellspring of our democracy is at stake? Foreign interference in our elections, a president who just disobeys the law?
And the Leader sure acted differently a few years back. What I remember is that from the very beginning, the Republican Leader has not taken the threat of Russia’s election interference as seriously as he should.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, when the Obama administration sought to warn state election officials about foreign meddling and designate election systems as “critical infrastructure,” Leader McConnell reportedly delayed for weeks, “watered down” the letter from Congressional Leaders, and pushed back against the designation. Yes, I would want to sweep this under the rug if I had done that. I wouldn’t want to keep talking about it.
Despite two years in charge of the Senate since the 2016 election, Leader McConnell has pursued additional election security only after being prodded by Democrats, and it’s been half-baked at that. Leader McConnell thwarted the Rules Committee from marking up the bipartisan legislation designed to enhance election security. At the beginning of the year, 42 Republicans including Leader McConnell essentially voted in favor of the administration’s proposal to weaken sanctions against Russia. In the last round of negotiations, Senate Republicans blocked our attempts to fund additional efforts to make our elections safe in 2020. And now, despite a preponderance of testimony from our intelligence officials – not politicians, intelligence officials who are in charge of our security and well-being – and they testified that foreign powers are ramping up to interfere in our next election. The Senate has done nothing – nothing – to grapple with the problem.
Even as minimal a request as I made to the Leader – an all-Senators, classified briefing from our defense and intelligence leaders so that the Senate understands what we need to do to protect America in 2020 and beyond. I’ve been asking for two weeks. We still haven’t gotten action.
Let’s bring the bipartisan Secure Elections Act to the floor and debate and amend.
Let’s strengthen sanctions against Putin and any other adversary who would dare to interfere with the sanctity of our elections.
Regardless of what you believe about the president’s conduct, we should all – every single Democrat, every single Republican – be working to ensure that what happened in 2016 never happens again.
You can debate how much of an effect it had, but we sure don’t want it be worse – whatever it was – in 2020 than it was in 2016. The Leader sits on his hands, does nothing, creates a legislative graveyard for these and every other issue, and then says let’s move on. No way. No way. We can do both. We can make our elections more secure, we can examine what happened so we can make them more secure, and do other issues. So far, Leader McConnell is doing neither.
What we have here, Mr. President, is very simple. What we have here is a concerted effort to circle the wagons. To protect the president from accountability. To whitewash his reprehensible conduct by simply declaring it irrelevant. In that effort, the Leader and Senate Republicans are falling down drastically on their constitutional duty to provide oversight and, I fear, to defend the national interest as well.
So let me now talk about something related. The legislative graveyard.
Leader McConnell says let’s move on and work together. There hasn’t been a single bill put on the floor on issues where we can debate. Whether it’s protecting pre-existing conditions, whether it’s making our education system better, whether it’s dealing with the problem of the high cost of drugs, whether it’s doing infrastructure. Nothing. Just appointments have been put on the floor.
And nothing has been done on election security. At the very minimum - I know the Leader is afraid to debate what happened and explore what happened, given the tawdry history of President Trump and of Senate Republicans in responding to this serious issue, but at least he could move forward and we could put some bills on the floor and debate them to strengthen our election security which everyone admits is weak.
So if Leader McConnell, as he says, is ready to move on to serious things, then how about he brings forward legislation to protect our elections?
Because for the four months, the Senate has been little more than a legislative graveyard, and election security is Exhibit A.
The House passed important reforms to improve and safeguard our elections. No action here in the Senate. We have a bipartisan election security bill waiting in committee. No movement from the Leader.
So long as this place remains a legislative graveyard, we’re rolling out the welcome mat for foreign adversaries, not just Russia – Iran, Turkey, North Korea, China – to interfere with our elections. We are essentially encouraging a sequel to 2016, because the Leader is sitting on his hands. Because the Leader is presiding over a legislative graveyard on election security and just about everything else.
What about bipartisan background checks? What about paycheck fairness? What about election reform? What about even the Violence Against Women Act, which passed the House with 33 Republicans? None of those are being put on the floor so that we can act and debate. Later this morning, my friend Senator Udall will come here to the floor to press our Republican friends to take up this bill and shed light on the fact that it includes long-overdue reforms to protect Native American women.
The House is moving on legislation this week to protect our healthcare law and protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions from the administration’s efforts to destroy those protections.
There is no reason for Leader McConnell, who says he wants to move on, to let these bills collect dust in the Senate. Even if he doesn’t love every particular in these bills, why not bring them to the floor to debate and amend? Surely we could find a way to agree on issues where 90 – 95% of Americans agree on every one of these. But the Republican Party and Leader McConnell is so in the grasp of powerful special interests and lobbyists from the hard right that they’re afraid to move any of this.
Now on disaster.
Finally, Madam President, last week, the city of Davenport in Iowa became the site of the latest natural disaster to wreak havoc on our homeland. It has been eight weeks since the Midwest began battling major flooding. Six months since the last major wildfire in California. Twelve months since a volcano erupted in Hawaii. And over a year and a half since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico.
But because the president has stubbornly and inexplicably opposed aid to Puerto Rico, a comprehensive disaster package has failed to get the necessary support of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, of a majority in the House, and has languished in the Congress. And unfortunately, the president continues to belittle Puerto Rico and tell flat-out mistruths about the level of support they’re receiving.
Just yesterday, the president said that the people of Puerto Rico, quote “should be very happy” with what he’s done to them so far. Well, don’t ask me, ask the Governor of Puerto Rico, hardly a left-wing, partisan Democrat. Ask the Mayor of San Juan. Ask the people of Puerto Rico if they’re happy. Don’t put words in their mouths. Ask them if they’re happy with the support they’ve received from this administration. Ask them if they’re happy with HUD missing its own deadline to advance the release of $8 billion in disaster mitigation funding last week. Ask them, Mr. President, and you’ll get a much different answer.
No one in the Puerto Rican community is happy with the way this president has treated the island, with its 3 million American citizens. He’s treated them with contempt. It needs to stop. So, President Trump, if you want to help the farmers in the Midwest, be fair to everyone. You can’t pick up and choose.
Some of them say, “Oh, Puerto Rico isn’t spending its aid well.” I heard that when we wanted Sandy money for New York. You can say that about any region. In an emergency no government program will be perfect. But that’s not a reason to hold back the money, instead send the money and have some oversight. But help the people, they need it. You can’t pick and choose which Americans to help.
I say this to President Trump, as our president, you must represent all Americans, not just the ones who voted for you.