Schumer Floor Remarks On Sen. McConnell & Republican Hypocrisy On Supreme Court Nominations, Trump’s Attack On Dr. Ford, And The Need For Clarity In The Kavanaugh FBI Investigation

October 3, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx.. 10:30 a.m.] regarding Senator McConnell and Republican’s hypocrisy on Supreme Court nominations, Trump’s attack on Dr. Ford, and the need for clarity in the Kavanaugh FBI investigation . Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Now, Mr. President, I’m glad the Majority Leader and I get along. I’m glad that we’re able to do certain things together like the opioid bill and the appropriations bill. But that cannot hold me back from responding to the blatant falsehoods he tells day after day after day on this floor.

First, from the man who singlehandedly delayed the filling of Justice Scalia’s seat for ten months to complain about a one week delay to get the truth -- give me a break. It is classic diversionary, blame-the-other-person tactics when he himself is the master of delay. It is galling, appalling, to hear day after day the Majority Leader get on his high horse about delay, when he almost invented the word when it comes to judicial nominations.

Second, he blames Democrats for the delay, which is about the most blatant falsehood I’ve heard uttered on this floor in a long time. The Majority Leader knows darn well that he has the sole power to determine when to put the Kavanaugh nomination on the floor. He could have done it two weeks ago. He could have done it last week. He’s now insisting he’ll do it this week. Democrats have no say. He talked about an agreement that caused a week delay. Who was the agreement with? Three Republican senators. The Majority Leader knows, knows, that it was Republicans who caused him to delay. Both, for the FBI investigation, and for Judge Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford to testify. He didn’t have to do that. He had the power. He’s to blame for the delay, but he couldn’t do anything otherwise because his own Republicans insisted on it. Again, it is a blatant falsehood. I’m so tempted to use the L-word but he’s my friend, to say that Democrats caused the delay. Mr. Leader, assert your power to determine what’s put on the floor, and be a man. Man up and say it’s your decision, not ours. We have nothing to do with it.

And third, he says one of the most qualified nominees we’ve ever seen, we know what’s going on here. Everyone, everyone, everyone, including the Majority Leader himself, knows Judge Kavanaugh is a deeply flawed candidate for a whole lot of reasons. Knowing that, the Majority Leader and the Republican majority have to divert attention from Judge Kavanaugh, so they’re focusing on people who did nothing wrong. Like Senator Feinstein, like the minority on the Judiciary Committee, like the Democratic Party. It’s outrageous, but they know that Judge Kavanaugh is not very good and they know his testimony hurt him across America.

I was talking to a CEO, a Republican of a major company, and he said his board was happening to watch the debate and every one of them changed their mind after seeing Judge Kavanaugh testify. They said, ‘This guy doesn’t belong on the bench. We can do better.’ That’s the overwhelming reaction of Americans. Judge Kavanaugh hurt himself dramatically, permanently, by his screed, his nasty, partisan, screed. That’s something of a new, unschooled, two-bit politician, not someone who wants to be on the Supreme Court of the United States. And he hurt himself. Leader McConnell knows that. The Republican leadership knows it. President Trump knows it. But they have to get the focus off Kavanaugh. And so they come up with these straw men and woman. They come up with these false innuendos, distortions and dishonesty. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to work.

Now let me turn to the president, and let me condemn in the strongest possible terms the comments by President Trump last night about Dr. Ford. President Trump’s outright mockery of a sexual assault survivor – riddled as it was with falsehoods – was reprehensible, beneath the office of the presidency, and beneath common decency from one person to another. President Trump owes Dr. Ford an immediate apology.

For too long, far too long, survivors of sexual assault have been afraid to come forward because they thought that powerful men would shout them down and destroy their character. The President of the United States, the most powerful man there is, confirmed those fears for millions of women in the most despicable way possible. President Trump should send a message to the women of America, right now, that he’s sorry for saying what he said about Dr. Blasey Ford – that survivors of sexual assault should not only be heard, but treated with dignity and respect and compassion.

You don’t have to believe everything Dr. Ford said -- and I do -- to refrain from the nasty, vicious, attacks, riddled with lies, in sort of a mobocracy type way. And yet President Trump shows no restraint, no regulator. He is the prime example of why the norms in America, regardless of politics, regardless of party, are declining, and we don’t hear a peep from my colleagues on the other side, with a few notable and noble exceptions. He’s ruining the norms of America. He’s so degrading the way people are treating each other. It’s pathetic, and it does permanent damage to this republic, unless his own party members or others close to him speak up.

Anyone who watched Dr. Blasey Ford saw a credible, courageous woman who elected to relive the worst night of her life because she felt a civic duty to come forward. That action took immense courage. She’s not the first. This is not unusual anymore. We know thousands of women who were hurt, and then afraid to come forward. Mainly because they thought he would be ridiculed, disbelieved, just as President Trump, appallingly and despicably, lowly, did last night. Dr. Ford’s actions took courage. From a woman who admitted, she’s far more honest than President Trump, who admitted she was “terrified” to speak in public about her very private pain and trauma.

I have been disappointed by President Trump’s comments before, but this is a new low. President Trump should apologize, immediately. I repeat that. And now, what do my colleagues on the other side of the aisle do? Ignore President Trump’s comments, sidestep President, Trump’s comments, spending time blaming Democrats even though we had no say in the delay; that was three Republicans? We know what they’ll do. It’s shameful. The president is, day by day, tearing down the norms that have built this country up. We’ve had the greatest norms, the greatest character, the greatest behavior of any nation ever. But it’s declining, now, because people of good will allow President Trump to do it without criticizing him. And it’s about time they did. It’s about time they did.

Now, shifting focus back to events here in Congress. We have to get back to reality, and truth, and focus on treating the Supreme Court confirmation debate the right way.  When all is said and done, this is about the nominee’s credibility and temperament. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, there are many who say what happened when someone was fifteen and eighteen doesn’t indicate their personality and what kind of person they are when they are fifty-three. While I believe Dr. Ford, and I believe what she said is very relevant, there are many who don’t want to consider that. But there’s an issue that should matter even to them. And that is the credibility and temperament of Judge Kavanaugh. This is what he is at fifty-three. If he cannot tell the truth about previous encounters, engagements, behavior, and activity, which we have found over and over and over again with Judge Kavanaugh. He doesn’t deserve to be on the bench.

That’s why we need an FBI investigation. That’s why Republicans stymied Leader McConnell in his headlong rush to have a vote, and demanded an FBI investigation. It wasn’t Democrats. We know that. Because they wanted to get to the truth. Because credibility of a justice on the Supreme Court is a very, very important characteristic, and so is temperament and lack of partisanship. And unfortunately, at least from initial indications, Judge Kavanaugh is not high on any of those three lists. That’s why we need the investigation and that’s why we need it to be thorough.

But we still don’t know how thorough of an investigation the FBI is conducting. As of last night, Dr. Blasey Ford and her list of corroborating witnesses have not been interviewed. While Ms. Deborah Ramirez has reportedly been interviewed, her attorney says her list of corroborating witnesses have not. NBC News is reporting that more than forty people with potential information for the investigation have not been contacted for interviews by the FBI. I’ve heard this story over and over again. People call the tip line -- that’s what they’re supposed to do -- and they don’t get a call back. This may be vital information. We want to know the truth, it can all be done in a week, the week that Senator Flake and Senator Collins and Senator Murkowski asked for, not the Democrats asked for, although we certainly agree with it. But that’s not what caused Leader McConnell to delay. And every Republican senator knows it. So that’s why we need this to be a thorough investigation. 

Without a clear sense of what the White House has told the FBI to look at in this investigation, we have no idea if the FBI is doing a real investigation or simply preparing a fig leaf – at the direction of the White House - for Republicans to vote yes. I understand the difficulty of the FBI. I have a great deal of respect for Director Wray. He’s been pushed around and they’ve been ridiculed by the president -- the brave men and women who risk their lives for us, a part of law enforcement. But the FBI has a duty. And Director Wray has a duty to the reputation and if he’s being constrained by the White House, he has an obligation to let us know. And certainly White House Counsel McGahn has an obligation to let us know what constraints he has placed upon the FBI. 

So here’s what needs to happen: First, the White House must publicly release in writing what the White House counsel has instructed the FBI to pursue. If the FBI is not interviewing these witness that Ms. Ramirez’s attorney presented to them because Counsel McGahn or President Donald Trump has said ‘don’t do it,’ we ought to know that. And certainly not just we ought to know that, the senators who requested the FBI investigation ought to know that. Second, Leader McConnell should arrange an all senators briefing from the agent in the charge of the investigation before the vote. We should know what he did and what he didn’t do and why. And third, the findings of the FBI investigation upon completion should be released publicly, with any personal information redacted. This is not the usual practice, but it has be done in the past when it’s needed, and it’s sure needed now. The FBI should do it.

These three steps would go a long way to ensure the public’s faith that the investigation has been conducted fairly, fully, and properly.

This debate, this nomination, Mr. President is about whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh has the character, the credibility, the impartiality to serve on the nation’s highest court. In order to be an effective judge at any level, you need to be impartial, you need to be dispassionate. We don’t ask our judges to be perfectly neutral, but we can’t tolerate judges who are nakedly partisan either. Judge Kavanaugh himself has said that “most obviously, a judge cannot be a political partisan.” Those are his words, but that is just what he’s shown us he is. In his long history and now in his recent rant.

The testimony Judge Kavanaugh prepared for the Judiciary Committee last Thursday, prepared testimony, this just wasn’t on the spur, this showed who he was and it was steeped in partisan resentment and acrimony. He tried to implicate sitting Senators in a “calculated and orchestrated political hit job,” that’s what he said to the senators he was being interviewed by. He denounced “left-wing opposition groups,” who don’t have close to the power the hard right has had on pushing our Republican collogues around to rush this nomination through, but we don’t hear about them. And then, topping it off, he portrayed the recent allegations against him as “revenge on behalf of the Clintons.” I dare say Dr. Ford didn’t have the Clintons on her mind once when she wrestled and struggled whether to come forward. It’s an absurd charge, absurd. He even told Democratic Senators “what goes around comes around” – which, to many ears, sounds just like a threat. A judge telling people what goes around comes around? A judge? A Supreme Court Justice says that when he’s nominated. We can certainly do better. Even if someone is of the same ideology of Kavanaugh is chosen, someone who doesn’t do things like that should be before us, and I hope that person won’t be chosen, of course, if he has Judge Kavanaugh’s ideology, which is why one of the main reasons I was against him to begin with. We should never forget, it’s likely Judge Kavanaugh will impede or eliminate a woman’s right to choose, it’s likely, it’s very likely he will get rid of healthcare, including pre-existing conditions. It’s likely he’ll allow presidential overreach, those three substantive bases motivated most of us to come out against Judge Kavanaugh, even before his awful testimony.

I understand Judge Kavanaugh felt his character was under assault. I understand how he is feeling angry and upset. I understand responding to questions in the heat of the moment with words you might later regret. But these were prepared remarks. It takes a partisan to see a partisan conspiracy against him.

As a conservative fellow at the Brookings Institute and former Kavanaugh defender Benjamin Wittes wrote in a column entitled “I know Brett Kavanaugh, but I wouldn’t confirm him”: “Judge Kavanaugh’s opening statement was an unprecedentedly partisan outburst of emotion from a would-be justice. I do not begrudge him the emotion, even the anger…But I cannot condone the partisanship—which was raw, undisguised, naked, and conspiratorial—from someone who asks for public faith as a dispassionate and impartial judicial actor. His performance was wholly inconsistent with the conduct we should expect from a member of the judiciary.”

That’s from somebody who is a conservative and a Kavanaugh supporter. The courage that a good number of both Kavanaugh’s friends and observers like Wittes are showing and realizing this guy is too much. I wish we saw a little more of that from the Republican side, because they know deep in their hearts this guy shouldn’t be on the bench. We know, they know.

Now, the Judge’s partisanship at the hearing raises questions, as I’ve mentioned. But the biggest issue against Judge Kavanaugh, in my judgement is credibility; number one issue.

Does Judge Kavanaugh always tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Whatever you think of what he did as a seventeen or eighteen year old, what Judge Kavanaugh has said as a fifty three year-old matters. Whether you think the seventeen or eighteen behavior should be part of the decision, which I do, or whether you don’t

The harsh fact of the matter is that Judge Kavanaugh has repeatedly, repeatedly danced around the truth on issues large and small, in 2004, his first confirmation hearings; 2006, his second, and again in 2018. On things like what happened when he was in high school and college and law school to things like grand jury proceedings and White House controversies. Again he has danced around the truth and never been direct, often trying to mislead. We cannot have a Supreme Court nominee whose credibility is in doubt.

So I ask my colleagues – whatever you think about what Judge Kavanaugh did at seventeen or eighteen, think about what he’s said at fifty three. Think about the credibility of the man now, as a grown adult and a judge. This about if we want to want to put someone who was been so partisan, with questionable credibility, on the Court…or whether there is someone better.