Schumer Floor Remarks On The Presidential Address And Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s Intention To Leave The Justice Department

January 9, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s address to the nation, the worsening impact of the Trump shutdown, and reports that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein intends to leave the Justice Department soon. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:


Mr. President, last night, President Trump tried to convince the Congress and the American people that there is a crisis at our southern border. It was a little more than a rehash of spurious arguments and misleading statistics that the president has been using for weeks.


  • President Trump once again tried to claim there was a crisis at the border. The fact is, migrant border crossings have been declining for nearly two decades.


  • The president inveighed against drugs pouring over the border. But the vast majority of heroin enters the US through legal ports of entry in trucks and on airplanes.


  • The president and his allies have been claiming that nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists have been stopped from entering the US. They say that’s a reason for a border wall. But nearly every single one of those apprehensions occurred at an airport, not on our southern border.


  • In a recent report, the State Department concluded, this is Donald Trump’s State Department, there is “no credible evidence” that terrorist groups were trying to enter the US through the southern border.


  • In a report on the President's Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel, sent to Congress by President Trump on December 21st – the day the shutdown began – the National Security Council appointed by President Trump did not even mention a wall or a barrier to stop terrorists from entering the country. So the president continues fearmongering and he makes up the facts. This is a presidency that’s in crisis. It has so many problems and it’s the old trick – fearmongering, distortion, try to scare people. And maybe, they won’t pay attention to the real problems in this administration.


In no way did the president’s speech last night make a persuasive or even a new case for an exorbitantly expensive border wall. A wall that the president guaranteed would be paid by Mexico. He says I ran on this – yeah, he ran on it saying Mexico would pay for it. At his rallies he chanted, “Who will pay for the wall?” and people screamed back “Mexico.”


The president’s speech did nothing to convince us here in Congress, and I believe it did nothing to convince a skeptical public, that this government shutdown is anything but a manufactured crisis of the president’s own making.


The president’s speech, if anything, moved the American people even further away from his view that he should keep the government shut down until he gets his way. Reports say the president didn’t want to give this speech. He was right, I don’t think it helped his cause and it probably hurt it some.


It’s time for the president and our Republican colleagues to stop this fearmongering, to stop this diversion away from the problems the president really has, and end the shutdown. The shutdown is hurting millions of Americans. It’s going to get worse all because of President Trump’s temper tantrum. We should not treat hundreds of thousands of Americans, millions of Americans, as leverage to try and get something by pounding the table – that’s not how our government works. What’s happening? Hundreds of thousands of federal workers, innocent federal workers who do their jobs, who work hard, sometimes they get up Monday morning with a hundred fever but they go to work because they know their job is important but they’ve been furloughed because of what President Trump has done.


400,000 continue to work without pay: TSA agents, food safety inspectors, border agents. Those hard-working, dedicated public servants are about to miss a paycheck.


Last night many of my colleagues, including Senators Warner, Kaine, King, Cardin, Casey, Van Hollen and others, held the floor last night to give voice to these federal employees who live and work in their states, many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck. 


President Trump’s government shutdown – his choosing, he’s the only one who did it – is forcing a personal crisis on those public servants on their families. How unfair. How mean spirited. How wrong. These families are owed a paycheck, but they are left to wonder how they are going to pay the mortgage or rent and all of their other bills. They are wondering what will happen to the good credit they have worked so hard to maintain over the years. They are innocent victims of the Trump shutdown. A shutdown he said he will cause 25 times, a shutdown he said he would be “proud” to own. President Trump are you proud to own a shutdown that’s hurting so many innocent people? Did you realize that when you caused this?


As government agencies remain shut down, American farmers and small businesses can’t get loans they desperately need. Tourism suffers as our National Parks go neglected. Some families can’t get a mortgage to buy a new home. The American people are suffering needlessly because President Trump selfishly refuses to retreat from an intransigent, indefensible and increasingly unpopular position.


The Democratic House has passed legislation, that received support from many of my Republican colleagues, to re-open the government. In no way does that legislation preclude us from having a debate – and hashing out compromise solutions – on border security. We have done that before.


We can continue that debate, because, indeed, Democrats, Republicans and the president all want stronger border security. We just sharply disagree about the best way of achieving it.


Why not open the government while we continue to hash out our differences? I’ve asked that of President Trump. I said, give me one good reason why the shutdown should continue as we debate our differences on border security, which we all want. He could not give a single reason. We know the reason, he’s mercilessly leveraging millions of Americans who are caught in his irresponsible action and who are hurt by it. So let us open the government and continue to hash out our differences. That would be the responsible thing to do – and I believe Republican Senators, many of them, know that.


I would urge my friend Leader McConnell to act now: convince the president to accept legislation to re-open the government and let’s pass it here on the floor of the Senate. The vast majority of the Republican caucus has already supported it. What are we waiting for?


Now, on another matter. This morning it was reported that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein intends to step down from his post at the Justice Department if the nominee for Attorney General, William Barr, is confirmed.


It’s a timely reminder of the swirling conflicts of interests and bias that surround nearly every Trump nominee to lead the Justice Department.


Acting Attorney General Whitaker publicly and forcefully advocated for defunding and imposing severe limits on the Special Counsel’s investigation, calling it a “mere witch hunt.” He has troubling conflicts of interest, including with a grand jury witness in the investigation. Not to mention the fact that he appears to have been involved in fraudulent business dealings before joining the Justice Department.


The nominee to take his place, William Barr, is just as fatally conflicted a nominee when it comes to the Special Counsel. Last month we learned that Mr. Barr sent the Justice Department an unsolicited memo criticizing the Special Counsel’s investigation.


Mr. Rosenstein’s potential departure only heightens the stakes for Mr. Barr’s nomination. From all accounts, Mr. Rosenstein has been an impartial actor at the head of the Special Counsel’s investigation. Now, President Trump is trying to replace folks like Mr. Rosenstein with conflicted loyalists like Matthew Whitaker and William Barr. The Senate, starting with the Judiciary Committee, should subject Mr. Barr’s views to the strictest of scrutiny next week – and I still believe, after the revelations about Mr. Barr’s unsolicited memo, President Trump ought to withdraw this nomination.