Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need To Seek The Facts In The House Impeachment Inquiry Despite Republican Theatrics, President Trump’s Reckless Decision To Lift Sanctions Against Turkey And Lack Of Plan To Defeat ISIS; And Judicial Nominees Justin Walker And Steven Menashi

October 24, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to seek the facts in the House impeachment inquiry following the explosive testimony of Ambassador Taylor and the need for the Trump administration to respond to congressional subpoenas. Senator Schumer also spoke on President Trump’s latest nonsensical and counterproductive foreign policy decision to lift sanctions against Turkey, and the nominations of Justin Walker to the United States District Court in the Western District of Kentucky and Steven Menashi to the United States Second Court of Appeals in New York. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here

Over the past few weeks, the House of Representatives has continued to hear testimony as part of its impeachment inquiry, which stems from allegations that President Trump pressured a foreign leader to investigate a domestic political rival. These allegations were deemed “credible” and an “urgent concern” by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, who is a Trump appointee. That’s how this all started, not with some Democrat stirring the pot, but with a Trump appointee, a very well respected man, saying these allegations were credible and urgent. 

The public record—the public record—shows that the White House delayed more than $391 million in crucial security assistance to Ukraine to help the country stave off Russian aggression. In a memorandum of the president’s phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky, released by the White House itself, the president requests that Ukraine undertake investigations that would benefit him politically. 

And only a few days ago, as we all know, the Chief of Staff to the president, Mick Mulvaney, admitted publicly that the Administration held up security assistance for the same, political, reasons. Mr. Mulvaney, of course, later attempted to retract his comments, but his original statements were quite clear and I’d say anyone who’s not biased believed the original.  

Now, the White House continues to claim that fighting corruption in Ukraine was its only intent, but that is belied by the fact it has proposed massive cuts to the State Department’s budget to fight corruption around the world. So on the one hand they say, “We want Ukraine to fight corruption,” and on the other hand they cut in the budget huge amounts of money that are aimed at fighting corruption. No one believes the president these days on so many things, but this issue is pretty clear. If you believe in fighting corruption, you don’t cut the fund the fight corruption and at the same time pick out one country. 

So, the facts are part of the public record. They are deeply troubling. And they come before Ambassador Taylor’s testimony this week. By all accounts, Mr. Taylor’s testimony was explosive, and undeniably credible—detailing a pattern of activity that corroborated the account provided by the whistleblower—this time from a career diplomat, a West Point graduate, who has served every administration, Democrat and Republican, since 1985. Taylor is the kind of person Americans admire. Down-the-middle, nonpolitical, served the country, West Point, served Democrat and Republican administrations ably and well, but all of a sudden, of course, he’s anathema because he spoke truth to power. President Trump doesn’t like that and our Republican friends who cower before President Trump don’t like it, but Americans know what’s going on. 

Mr. Taylor’s written statement referred to additional documentation for the events he described in his testimony – notes and memos that are in the custody of the State Department. These records are part of a broader set of documents that is under subpoena by the House of Representatives, which the State Department is refusing to turn over to Congress. Yesterday, the House issued a new request for Mr. Taylor’s documents. So which is it, Trump administration? Which is it, Republicans? On the one hand, you say you want everything to be public when it comes to the hearings but you won’t give up any documents. Secretary Pompeo won’t come testify, again. The hypocrisy, the self-serving nature of the president’s statements and his Republican allies here in the House and Senate is glaring. We don’t want any sunlight when it comes to documents, when it comes to even bring Secretary Pompeo here. But all of a sudden, because they don’t like what’s being heard in the hearings, we need everything public. Well, one way or the other, I would like to see everything public, these documents, and the House has said that they will have public testimony. But the hypocrisy of our Republican friends and of the president is glaring on these issues. 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, usually very eager to boldly state what he thinks, is ducking. He’s running. He has not explained this brazen disregard for law and defiance of congressional oversight. Where is Secretary of State Pompeo? The pattern of presidential misconduct alleged in the whistleblower complaint runs straight through his department.  It concerns the most sensitive diplomatic interests of the United States, our national security, and the potential corruption of foreign policy.  Where is Representative Pompeo?  We know that people have disagreed and had the guts to disagree with the president. General Mattis is at the top of the list. We heard from Brett McGurk yesterday, he’s there. Probably John Bolton is too, even though I don’t agree with his views on a whole lot of stuff. We all know Representative Pompeo, when he was in the House, would be incensed with this defiance of congressional prerogatives. When he drove the Benghazi hearings, many believe extremely unfairly and in a partisan and biased way, he wanted everything to come out. Now he’s ducking! Now he’s hiding! We need Representative Pompeo back here. The one who said things should be made public when it was a different administration. 

To make matters worse, not only is Secretary Pompeo ducking, but maybe he’s complicit in all of this because his name has surfaced on multiple occasions in the tale of the Administration’s very questionable dealings with Ukraine. For instance, Ambassador Taylor’s written statement indicates that on August 29, 2019, at the suggestion of National Security Advisor John Bolton, Mr. Taylor sent a “first-person” cable directly to Secretary Pompeo relaying his concerns about the delay in security aid. The State Department’s stonewalling creates the appearance that the Secretary is covering up not only for the President but for himself.  

Without question, the State Department documents described by Mr. Taylor must be provided to Congress. The stonewalling of Congress must end. Secretary Pompeo must explain himself. He has too many questions to answer about events that concern his department, his subordinates, and his actions. If he has any, any, regard for his own reputation, he would do these things. 

Ideally, all members of the House and Senate would agree on the need for Congress to see the full records here. But yesterday, as we all know, a rump group of House Republicans quote-unquote “stormed” the secure facility in the Capitol (many with their cell phones in hand even though that’s against the rules) in an attempt to highlight the purported secrecy of the process. Some representatives reportedly asked—let me repeat…asked—to be arrested.  

It’s an obvious and outrageous breach of House rules and of the security measures that exist to protect sensitive information from our adversaries—even more so because it was so transparently a stunt, a puerile, childish stunt, not the kind of thing that the House of Representatives, any member of the House of Representatives, should stand for. According to reports, the hypocrisy of these who stormed the chamber is glaring. More than one-third of the House Republicans who stormed the secure facility are members who were already allowed in the closed hearings. They are allowed to ask questions of the witnesses, participate in fact-finding. They know, as well as I do, that there will be public hearings in the future once evidence is gathered. So this is not about process. That is a diversion. This is because House Republicans do not like the facts and want to suppress them. That is the reason they are storming, trying to create this childish, infantile fuss. They don’t want to open the process up; they want to shut it down.  

If the White House and its congressional allies truly wanted an open and transparent process, the White House would provide the documents Congress requested, it wouldn’t defy subpoenas, it wouldn’t forbid executive branch employees from testifying.  

You can’t just flip a switch: one day suppress evidence, and the next argue for a transparent and open process. The hypocrisy, the self-dealing, self-interested dealing, is self-evident. 

Rather than stomp their feet in a fit of staged political theater, House Republicans—all Republicans—should join in getting all the facts. That’s what we are ask for in this chamber. We’re not pre-judging the facts. We may be like a jury. But we want the facts to come out. Not some, but all. That is our responsibility, to get the facts out, all of us. Matters as grave as the ones that form the basis of the House impeachment inquiry require us to put country over party. That’s what Democrats will do. That’s what Republicans must do as well. 

All the facts must come out. And those who are attempting to obstruct this fact-finding inquiry may regret the day when they said ‘all they want to do is open up the process.’ Our Republican friends may get what they wished for. All the facts coming out and they will regret it because, at least from reports, the facts are very, very troubling. 

Now on Syria. Yesterday, in an address from the White House, President Trump announced he was canceling proposed sanctions against Erdogan, this time after Assad, Erdogan, and Putin got more than they could ever hope for out of President Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria. It was another nonsensical, counterproductive, foreign policy decision by President Trump. The notion that the United States should trust Erdogan or Assad or Putin to secure ISIS fighters and sympathizers is not only delusional, it’s downright dangerous. President Trump’s weakness in the face of strongmen, his reckless decision-making is putting the lives of our partners and allies, and Americans at risk. 

As Assad, Erdogan, Putin exert more influence on the region, as the Syrian Kurds are driven from the region and killed, as ISIS-connected detainees escape and regroup, many of them planning to hurt us, here in our homeland, again…President Trump articulates no plan to fix what he has broken. His top officials, Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary Esper, have canceled two briefings with the Senate during which they were supposed to update the Senate on the administration’s plan. I think they keep cancelling and ducking because they don’t have a plan, and wouldn’t know what to say. That’s very, very disturbing. 

My Republican colleagues, please, stand up and speak out about the obvious dangers to national security that President Trump has invited. Some, to their credit, have done so. But others have gone so far as to excuse the president’s decision, even if it results in “ethnic cleansing” of the Kurds, our brave former partners in the fight against ISIS. That is not right. Democrats and Republicans must continue to press the president to correct course in northern Syria and quickly develop a plan of action to secure the enduring defeat of ISIS. 

And finally, on one last issue, judges. Today the Senate will consider the nomination of Justin Walker of Kentucky to serve a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. Mr. Walker is less than ten years out of law school, has never tried a case, has never served as co-counsel, and it’s not clear how much of his ten years has even been spent practicing law. Unsurprisingly, Mr. Walker earned a rare “Not Qualified” rating by the American Bar association. Very few are called “Not Qualified” but he’s one of them. It seems the only reason Mr. Walker has been nominated for an austere judgeship is his membership in the Federalist Society and his far-right wing views on health care, civil rights, and executive power.  

Unfortunately, Walker is part of a well-established pattern of Republicans stacking the federal bench with manifestly unqualified judges. Another brazen example is Steven Menashi, who was slated to be considered in committee today before, thank God, it was delayed.

Mr. Menashi’s record of extreme views is well-documented: he pushed Betsy DeVos’ anti-student agenda to the Department of Education, worked closely with Stephen Miller at the White House on policies that harm immigrants. His past writings show scorn for LGBTQ Americans and women. Menashi’s conduct before the Judiciary Committee was insulting, his contempt for the Senate reprehensible, his refusal to be forthcoming about his record should be outright disqualifying, and Senators Graham and Kennedy in the committee noted that his refusal to answer questions was troubling.

Folks like Mr. Walker and Mr. Menashi have not earned the privilege of a lifetime appointment to the bench. I am glad that one of my Republican colleagues has said they will oppose Mr. Menashi’s nomination, other Republicans should follow suit—on his nomination and on Mr. Walker’s vote today. I yield the floor.