Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump Moving Our Nation Closer To A Banana Republic And The Immediate Need For Sanctions On Russia For 2020 Election Interference

February 24, 2020

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the President Trump’s recent actions that undermine the rule of law and our intelligence community. He also urged the administration to implement new sanctions on Russia for their continued efforts to interfere in the 2020 elections. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

And on another front, again the frustration of how this administration has conducted itself, unprecedented. I know some of my colleagues like to say, “It’s just like Obama.” It isn’t even close. And here are some more examples, unfortunately, of President Trump trampling on the rule of law in this country.

Emboldened by the refusal of Senate Republicans to hold him accountable in his impeachment trial, President Trump has been interfering with the Justice Department and retaliating against officials in his administration who dared to testify truthfully before Congress.

In the short week that we have spent in recess, the president has managed to plunge our country even deeper into chaos and certainly—certainly—has shown the need for having a trial during impeachment with witnesses and documents, of getting the truth and not rubberstamping President Trump’s behavior.  The president continued to purge his administration, firing officials who refuse to pledge allegiance to the president over their allegiance to the Constitution. The president classified Mr. Bolton’s book in another blatant attempt to cover up the facts. This is what dictatorships do. Dictatorships. They say something is classified, they hide the truth. It’s a disgrace. The president continued to abuse the pardon power, in one instance commuting the sentence of a notoriously corrupt former official—without rhyme or reason.

Maybe most egregious of all: the president, angered that the Director of National Intelligence had the gall—the gall—to conduct a bipartisan briefing for the House Intelligence Committee on foreign interference in our elections, and he replaced him with a political lackey—a yes-man—as the head of DNI, where truth must be spoken probably more than in any other place in the government. He has no experience in the intelligence community and is simply known as an acolyte to President Trump.

With each of these actions—I hate to say it but it is true—any objective person will know President Trump brings our nation closer and closer and closer to a banana republic. A government not of laws, but of one man. A government where officials are asked to swear loyalty not to our country or the Constitution but to the president himself. A country where the truth is obscured or covered-up or deemed “fake” simply because it’s not flattering to the president, it’s not what he wants to hear.

President Trump’s decision to dismiss the Director of National Intelligence is particularly pernicious. Our intelligence community is an institution that is supposed to report on threats to our country with accuracy and without regard for politics; to speak truth to power in order to protect us. For the president to install a yes-man at the top of the intelligence community, to politicize a part of our government designed to be apolitical, to debase the morale of the brave men and women in the CIA and the NSA, many of whom risk their lives for our safety—it’s a disgrace.

There are media reports that our intelligence community has found that Putin continues to engage in activities to influence the outcome of our election. That’s reportedly what former DNI McGuire’s team was briefing Congress about.

So today, along with my Democratic colleagues on the Banking and Foreign Relations Committees, I am sending a letter to Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin urging them to impose new sanctions on Putin and his cronies using existing sanctions authority. They have it, they can do it.

Let me repeat that: the Trump administration has broad authority to impose sanctions for meddling in our elections. It does not need new legislative tools or approval. Our message is clear: Secretary Mnuchin – impose sanctions now.

No one on the Intelligence Committee, Democrat or Republican, has disputed that Russia is intending to interfere in our elections. Most say that Russia has already started to do so. So this should be an easy, bipartisan effort.  We are being attacked today, in real-time, by a foreign adversary. This is not about party politics. It’s not about what President Trump doesn’t want to hear, that the Russians wanted him to win in 2016 and in all likelihood want him to in 2020. It’s about the oath we swear to defend our republic. Because if Americans—I don’t care what their party, what their ideology—if they start believing our elections are not on the level, this democracy is in big trouble. I hope my Republican colleagues will join us. The administration could impose sanctions tomorrow. And it should.

A repeat performance of 2016—another campaign of foreign influence in our elections—is perhaps the greatest threat to our democracy. The Founding Fathers thought so – James Madison, you read what he said. We demand that Secretary of State Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin identify and target for sanctions all those determined to be responsible for ongoing election interference. Anything less would be an abdication of their responsibility, their sacred, their solemn responsibility, to protect and defend the United States from this serious threat to our national security and the integrity of our electoral process.

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