Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need To Thoroughly Complete Judge Kavanaugh's Hearings

September 18, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approximately 10:48 a.m.] regarding the importance of not rushing Judge Kavanaugh’s hearings. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

First, let me thank the senator from Florida for his steadfast actions in the Senate for many years, protecting Florida’s waterways which are not only a treasure to Floridians, but to all of us in America. And he deserves to be congratulated on that.

Now Madam President, last night, in the wake of extremely serious and troubling allegations about Supreme Court nominee Judge Kavanaugh, Chairman Grassley announced he would hold a hearing of the Judiciary Committee next Monday to examine the allegations. I want to salute the six Republican members who, I believe, changed Sen. Grassley’s mind and Leader McConnell’s mind. Their first instinct was of course to rush it through, have this ridiculous phone call with Republican staff with both people on the phone, both of the now-witnesses on the phone. It made no sense. But because a good number of our Republican friends said there ought to be a hearing and testimony, Chairman Grassley and Leader McConnell backed off the position of no hearings. And we have one.

It’s a good thing that we have hearings, but they have to be done right. There must be an agreement on witnesses and the FBI should be given time to re-open its background check investigation into Judge Kavanaugh, to speak to any potential witnesses or other relevant individuals, and update its analysis. That way, senators will have the necessary information and expert analysis at their disposal at a hearing, making it much less likely that it will devolve into a he-said, she-said affair. Many say, ‘Well, they’ve done background check investigations, several times on Judge Kavanaugh.’ That’s true. But none of those background investigations brought up this specific incident that Professor Ford said happened. I believe that it did. And because the FBI didn’t know of these allegations before, reopening the background investigation into these specific allegations, interviewing Judge Kavanaugh, Professor Ford, Mr. Judge, and all other relevant witnesses is necessary.

We have two diametrically opposed stories. My view: Professor Ford is telling the truth. But, if you don’t want the hearing to be just a he-said she-said affair -- an independent investigation -- a background check by the FBI is essential. This is not a criminal investigation; it has nothing to do with the statute of limitations. It is simply what the FBI does for all witnesses. And when there are new and troubling allegations that emerge, there is nothing wrong. In fact it is fundamentally right to reopen the background investigation so that the FBI can query the witnesses involved, more so now than ever because there are two diametrically opposed stories. It will make the hearing far more valuable. Because once the members see what the witnesses have said to the FBI, they’ll be able to ask much better questions. They’ll be able to get at the truth, and I think every American wants the truth. Democrat, Republican. Liberal, conservative. But instead there is still an instinct from Leader McConnell and Chairman Grassley to rush these things through.

The hearings must be done right. Not rushed. Fair to both sides. Respectful of both parties and as dignified as possible under the circumstances. Senators and witnesses need time to prepare testimony and senators who are not on the committee, need time to review and consider that testimony once given. There must not be a hearing on Monday and then a possible vote on the nominee only a day or two after. This morning, Chairman Grassley said there would be only two witnesses. That is simply inadequate, unfair, wrong, and a desire not to get at the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The minority has always been able to request a number of witnesses to provide context and expert opinion to the committee. In this case, it certainly makes sense for one witness to be Mark Judge, who was named in the Washington Post as present during the event in question. How could we want to get the truth and not have Mr. Judge come to the hearing and be asked questions? And if the majority won’t call him as a witness, as they should if they’re real interested about getting at the whole truth, the minority must be able to do so. The minority has always had a right to call witnesses.

But the bigger issue is that the committee must be able to call more than two witnesses in total. We must not repeat the mistake of the Anita Hill hearings. They were rushed, they were a debacle. Do we want to repeat that mistake?  We cannot let these hearings be even more rushed than the Anita Hill hearings.

And my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are so hypocritical. Leader McConnell delayed the nomination of Merrick Garland, the filling of late Justice Scalia’s seat. Leader McConnell delayed the filling of Justice Scalia’s seat for ten months. And now they are saying we can’t take an additional few weeks to get to the truth about a very serious allegation. What hypocrisy. What a 180-degree turn depending who is in charge and who is making the nomination. What a shame in this Senate. So, let’s not rush the hearings. Let’s not repeat the mistake that was made in the Anita Hill hearings. Let’s call all the relevant witnesses, not just two selected by Chairman Grassley, who didn’t want to call the hearings to begin with. Let’s do this fairly, and full, and right. And whatever the outcome, the American people will at least think this Senate has given a fair shot at getting at the truth.

One additional point, Madam President. Much of the focus these past few days has been on the nature of the allegations themselves. But there is another focus that is equally important, and that is Judge Kavanaugh’s credibility. Dr. Ford has made an exceptionally specific allegation, one she made years ago, I think six year ago to a family therapist long before Judge Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court. She volunteered to take a lie detector test, which she passed. Judge Kavanaugh, meanwhile, has ‘categorically and unequivocally’ denied the entire story.

There is no wiggle room in that denial. He didn’t say he didn’t remember. It is whole and complete denial. Someone is not telling the truth. Now here is what President Trump said, quoted in Bob Woodward’s book, about sexual assault allegations, President Trump said, quote,  – “You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women. If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead…You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be aggressive. You’ve got to push back hard. You’ve got to deny anything that’s said about you. Never admit.” So the question looms, is Judge Kavanaugh taking a page from President Trump’s playbook?

And if the facts of Dr. Ford’s allegations prove to be true, as bad as they are, they bring up a second point that is equally damning – that the nominee is not credible. Even for those, I can’t understand why, but there are some who say, ‘well, it happened forty years ago, we should just ignore it.’ These are not typical things that happened to people forty years ago. This is very serious stuff – the allegations. But even if people want to dismiss it, and I hope they won’t, there’s the issue of credibility.

It wouldn’t be the first time questions were raised about the judge’s credibility. Facing a confirmation vote for the DC Circuit in 2004, Brett Kavanaugh told Sen. Feinstein that the White House didn’t know about any potential judicial nominees’ views on abortion in the vast majority of cases. Recently released emails show that wasn’t entirely accurate. Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly denied knowledge of the Bush administration’s policy on detention and interrogation, but recently released emails show that wasn’t accurate. Judge Kavanaugh denied working on the controversial nomination of Judge William Pryor, but recently released emails show that wasn’t accurate either.

In the case of Dr. Ford’s allegations, the Senate and the American people must ask themselves, once again: is Judge Kavanaugh’s complete denial is credible? Both can’t be true. What Dr. Ford is saying and what Judge Kavanaugh is saying cannot both be true. That’s why we need hearings. And that’s why we need a bunch of witnesses. And that’s why we need the FBI to continue its investigation – because there is an issue of credibility here. When you are nominating someone to the highest court in the land, their credibility should be unimpeachable.

Now on another matter. Last night, President Trump ordered the declassification of documents related to an ongoing investigation into his own campaign and administration, which seemed to be a transparent attempt to give his legal team a sneak peek at the government’s investigative materials against his campaign. Just on its face alone, the action by President Trump is an abuse of power and a direct slap in the face of the rule of law.

Even more troubling, because President Trump regularly abuses power, law enforcement officials have informed Congress that some of the disclosures will put at risk the most sensitive sources and methods of our nation’s law enforcement and intelligence professionals. There are thousands of Americans risking their lives as informants in our intelligence services. If they can be exposed on the whim of a president for political purposes, what does that say to them? What does that say to future recruits? To the CIA, the NSA, and so many of these other agencies that are so important to our national security? It is a disgrace that the president did it. And I have to say, it is an equal disgrace that our Republican leadership in the House lets a small band of House renegades led by Chairman Nunes of the Intelligence Committee undermine our intelligence agencies, and the brave men and women who risk their lives for us there, for his political purpose.

This is just like the infamous memo prepared by Rep. Nunes and the fake wiretapping scandal. President Trump and his handful of water carriers in the House are willing to go to any length to cherry-pick, distort, and invent materials to discredit the Mueller investigation, even when our national security, the safety of millions of Americans protected by the men and women in our intelligence agencies, is on the line.

This latest disclosure by President Trump is a blatant abuse of power. It’s the action of a dictator in a banana republic. It’s not politics as usual. It’s not just Democrats and Republicans bandying things about. It’s never really happened before. It will make America less safe.