Schumer Floor Remarks On Sen. McConnell & Republican Hypocrisy On Supreme Court Nominations, And The FBI Investigation Into Judge KavanaughOctober 2, 2018
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx.. 10:16 a.m.] regarding the FBI investigation into the allegations regarding Judge Kavanaugh. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Thank you Madam President. Now, I like the Majority Leader. We get along quite well. He even laughs at my jokes, which sometimes aren’t very good, and we’re very proud that we’re working on the appropriations bills together in a bipartisan way, as this place ought to work. But sometimes his comments are so absurd, so filled with double standard, with innuendo, with hypocrisy, that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. He has been on the floor every day saying Democrats are causing delay. Democrats are causing delay?
First, to say Democrats are causing delay coming from the same man who delayed the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for over three hundred days without a shrug of his shoulders? Give me a break. The Leader would delay for ten months when he thought it was right to do and can’t wait for a week to get an honest report out of the FBI? What a double standard! Accusing Democrats of needlessly delaying a Supreme Court nomination is galling coming from a Leader who delayed the nomination of a Supreme Court justice for over three hundred days until his party had a chance to win the White House. So no one, no American, should accept his admonishments about delays. He’s the master of delay.
And second, he blames Democrats for these delays. Well, as the Leader well knows, Democrats are not in charge. We can’t set the calendar. These things have been delayed because people on his side of the aisle, who had sincere concerns about having a fair process, said they won’t go forward unless the process is made fairer. Even the initial hearing, where Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh testified, was because a member of the Judiciary Committee on the Republican side said he didn’t want to go forward until he heard from them. Nothing to do with Democrats. Did we agree that should happen? Of course. So did most people who are fair-minded, but it wasn’t caused by us.
And then the reopening of the FBI investigation into these new allegations, background check investigation, who caused that? Who caused this delay, I would ask Leader McConnell? Not the Democrats. We don’t have the ability to do it. It was three members on his side who sincerely were seeking the truth because they heard two arguments and they weren’t sure which was right, and they saw that without some kind of independent investigation, it would tear the American people apart in ways for which we will pay a price years down the road, no matter what the outcome of the vote on Judge Kavanaugh. So Democrats didn’t cause these delays and he knows it. It was the inability of all the Republicans to be unified, with justification, because the truth should be sought after in a more sincere way for a nomination to the highest court of the land.
Leader McConnell said we’re going to “plow right through” the recent allegations. Fortunately, some members on his side of the aisle didn’t want to plow right through. They didn’t want to delay unnecessarily. One week? Give me a break. Compared to 10 months. Leaving the Justice Scalia seat open. Who are we kidding? Who is making this a political argument? Let’s ask.
And one final point. The Leader kept accusing the people who came forward of political smear campaigns, of being in the mud. I want to ask the Leader to answer a direction question. Does he believe or not believe Dr. Ford? Yes or no? I happen to believe her. He refuses to answer that one way or the other because he knows that Dr. Ford has tremendous credibility. Instead he calls her names. He says it was Democrats, but she came forward on her own. By the way, one of the first things she did was call The Washington Post and spoke to the reporter who later wrote the story. That was long before any Democrat knew what was going on. She felt a sincere need to come forward. To call her political, which is what by ricochet the Leader is doing, is so unfair, so wrong. To call all three of these women who came forward, whether you believe them or not, as political actors is treating women in the same way that unfortunately too many women, as we’ve learned over the last few years, have been treated in the past.
That doesn’t mean allegations shouldn’t be proven. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a discrete, fair process to try and get to the bottom of it, which was the FBI investigation is. That doesn’t mean all men are guilty before proven innocent. It means there deserves to be a fair hearing, even if it takes one week. One week compared to the ten months of delay.
And finally, Madam President, the investigation itself -- it should only take one week, that’s for sure. No Democrats has called for it taking more than a week. We are not moving the goalpost back. But it should be thorough. It should not be limited by the Senate Judiciary staff, who was initially calling the shots, and they have been biased to begin with. When the Democratic staff asked to be on the phone with White House Counsel Mr. McGahn, the Republican staff refused. That’s not bipartisan, that’s not fair, that’s not even-handed.
But fortunately, yesterday the president said the FBI should go forward. They can interview many people in a week when there is a crime situation that calls for it, a terrorism situation that calls for it. From what I understand, they have interviewed hundreds in a week. So a list of twenty people to be interviewed in a week when the FBI has thousands of agents, many of them well-trained in the art of figuring out how to interview somebody, is not unreasonable. It’s only fair. And we hope there are still no limitations on the FBI investigation. We hope there are no limitations because that will jaundice the whole process, and that is not what those who called for it on either side of the aisle has asked for. They had asked for it to be full and fair and open, and then everyone will make his or her judgement. That’s all people are asking for.
Finally, Madam President, on that issue, I call on President Trump and the White House once again to release in writing what White House Counsel Don McGahn has instructed the FBI to pursue. Until then, we have to take President Trump’s off-the-cuff comments with perhaps grains of salt. We have to be shown that what he said is actually being implemented.
Now let me read you a few quotes.
“The Supreme Court must never, never be viewed as a partisan institution.” That’s Judge Kavanaugh from his 2006 confirmation hearings. Here’s one more, from a speech Judge Kavanaugh gave in 2015: “First and most obviously…a judge cannot be a political partisan.”
I think most Americans would agree with that, I certainly do. A lodestar in our consideration of judicial confirmations should be whether a nominee is independent and within the ideological mainstream. The Judge Kavanaugh we saw last Thursday did not meet the standard laid out in his past statements. His prepared statement to the committee, prepared (if you will, malice of forethought) accused sitting U.S. Senators of a phony smear campaign, lambasted “left-wing opposition groups” and portrayed the recent allegations -- the allegations, of Dr. Ford, Ms. Ramirez, Ms. Swetnick -- he portrayed those as “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” Frankly, Judge Kavanaugh’s testimony was better suited for Fox News than a confirmation hearing for the august, United States Supreme Court
But that’s in character with Judge Kavanaugh’s long history of working for the most partisan legal causes. Ken Starr. Bush v. Gore. All the myriad controversies of the Bush era. It would be one thing if Judge Kavanaugh discarded his partisan feelings once he donned the black robes of a jurist, unfortunately he’s been on the bench for many years and Thursday’s hearing revealed those bitter partisan resentments still lurk right below the surface.
It should give us all great pause to consider what it means to elevate such a partisan worldview to the Supreme Court, whether it be a Democratic or Republican partisan view, where rulings must be made on the legal merits, not on which side of the aisle most benefits.
And then the greatest issue against Judge Kavanaugh, the one that most bothers most people, his credibility. Is he telling the truth? That issue supersedes all the others. There may be some that say, ‘Well, what happened in high school shouldn’t count. Its many years later. People grow, people change.’ Now I think what happened to Dr. Ford, she seems credible to me, is something you can’t forget. It is not what men do. But some may say that, but we are looking at what Judge Kavanaugh says at age fifty-three, not what he did at age eighteen. We are looking at his credibility now as a grown adult. And if you believe Dr. Ford, then Judge Kavanaugh is not telling the truth. And if this were the only instance, it would be one thing, bad enough, but there are many more. Over and over again, it is hard to believe what Judge Kavanaugh swore under oath at the committee hearing to say.
Just yesterday, NBC News reported that either Judge Kavanaugh or people close to the Judge were in communication with his Yale classmates to get them to rebut allegations by Ms. Deborah Ramirez, later published in the New Yorker. Beyond the unseemliness of a federal judge pressuring former classmates to support his nomination, it seems that Judge Kavanaugh was at least misleading to the Judiciary Committee about Ms. Ramirez’ story.
When asked by Senator Hatch when he first heard of Ms. Ramirez’s allegations, he answered, “in the New Yorker story,” first heard. Based on the NBC reports, if they’re correct, that wasn’t truthful.
And it would be one thing if that were an isolated incident, but again, there are far too many misstatements, far too many inaccuracies, far too many mischaracterizations. He pled ignorance to many Bush-era controversies, only for emails to be released showing he was aware of them all and played a role in many. He offered explanations for high school yearbook quotes, and it’s not the quotes themselves or what they indicated. It’s his explanations sort of defy belief. And, of course, based on accounts by his high school and college classmates, has grossly mischaracterized his relationship with alcohol. The common thread, Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly tiptoes around the truth, doesn’t tell the truth in many instances it seems, to paint his nomination in a favorable light.
We want a Supreme Court nominee, whatever their politics, whatever their party origins, to be a shiny example for someone who tells the truth, without doubt, without equivocation. If you say, ‘Well, maybe he’s telling the truth and maybe he’s not,’ he doesn’t belong on the Supreme Court. And I think most Americans are saying that. Again, even if you want to discount, as some people do, what happened when he was fifteen, in high school and eighteen in college, you cannot discount what he is saying and professing at age fifty-three, when it flies in the face of being truthful. That’s the key question here. There is demeanor. He sure didn’t show the demeanor of a judge at the hearing. There’s partisanship. He brought out the most raw form of partisanship so unbecoming of someone on the Appeals Court, let alone the Supreme Court. And he did not show any semblance to always being one-hundred percent honest and truthful, which is what we need in a Supreme Court justice.
So, again – even if you feel that what happened when he was fifteen and eighteen shouldn’t matter, what happens when he’s fifty-three does matter, and his credibility is in real doubt. Doubt enough, I think, for most Americans to say ‘this man does not belong on the Supreme Court.’ There ought to be somebody, many people who would be a whole lot better.