Schumer Floor Remarks Urging President Trump To Not Back Down On China Ahead Of G-20 Meeting With President Xi, The Need For CIA Director Haspel To Brief Congress On Saudi Arabia, Support For Lee-Sanders Yemen War Powers Resolution, And The Nomination Of Thomas Farr To North Carolina’s Eastern District

November 28, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor (at approx. 10:03 AM) regarding President Trump’s upcoming meeting with President Xi of China, the need for a full Congressional briefing on Saudi Arabia from CIA Director Haspel, the need to end the conflict in Yemen and judicial nominee Thomas Farr’s disturbing legal record, particularly as it relates to voting rights. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, this weekend, President Trump will head to Argentina for the G20 summit where he’s expected to meet with President Xi of China to discuss our trading relationship.

Now, I’ve opposed the president on most things, that’s hardly a secret. But we actually agree on the issue of China. In fact, I agree more with President Trump’s views on China than I did with either President Bush or Obama. And I have been supportive of the administration’s aggressive course of action on China. China must be made to understand we are dead serious about changing its behavior on trade: to allow foreign companies to compete in its markets, to end illegal dumping of cheap goods into our markets, and most importantly, to end the abusive practice of technology transfers and trade espionage that threatens our intellectual property and know-how.


These things don’t just threaten our intellectual property in abstract concept. They threaten good-paying jobs, millions of them, and wealth, billions and trillions of dollars that China has stolen, literally and figuratively, through its unfair practices. When we have a good product, you can’t sell it in China unless you transfer the technology. But they sell tons of things here. My late father-in-law, a New York City cab driver, sometimes said, ‘we’re not Uncle Sam, we’re Uncle Sap.’ Well in the case of China, that’s been the case for too long. And President Trump, to his credit, is beginning to reverse that.


And yet, despite an initial wave of tariffs, China has not offered meaningful concessions on any of the items I’ve mentioned. United States Trade Representative Lighthizer recently put out a report concluding that China is still rapaciously stealing American intellectual property. In fact, the number of Chinese state-sponsored cyber-attacks have been rising. So we need to stay the course until China feels the heat.


That’s why I was deeply disturbed to read this morning in the New York Times that President Trump and his advisors, at least some of them, are already considering backing down on further action against China in order to reach an agreement at the G20.


Let me be very clear to the president: backing off on China for some quick handshake agreement, without substantive, real, deep commitments will be seen as a victory by no one.


It will be seen as capitulation. It will be seen as weak, to cave on tariffs this early, before China starts to feel real pressure to come to a real, deep, and long-lasting agreement that’s worth having. So President Trump, don’t back down on China. American jobs, American wealth is at stake. You’ve headed out on a correct course but you have to follow through. All too often, this administration starts out doing something but backs off. It cannot happen. I am deeply worried, because I love America, and I want us to be number one economically, as well as in every other way.


I fear that President Trump’s eagerness to make a deal – any deal – just like he did with North Korea in Singapore, will be devastating to the long-term interests of the United States. Now that we finally are putting the screws to China, we cannot relent for the sake of a photo-op at the G20. Yes, our actions will cause some pain. But in the long-term, there is much more gain than pain. And if we ever needed to do something, it’s now. I don’t agree with treating Canada or Europe the same as China, that’s for sure. But China is a different breed of economic cat, and they are robbing us, stealing us, doing everything they can to become number one economically at our expense. Not in a fair, competitive way, but in a way that’s one-sided.


Today, I’ll be sending a letter to President Trump, with some colleagues, laying out this position, saying to the president, ‘please don’t back off on China.’ American jobs, American wealth depends on it.


On Yemen, later this morning the Senate will receive a classified all-senators briefing from Secretaries Pompeo and Mattis on the conflict in Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s role in that conflict, and the recent murder of US resident and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi. This is an important and timely briefing. But there’s a gaping hole.


I am concerned and disappointed that President Trump has reportedly forbidden CIA Director Haspel from attending today’s briefing. Without her presence at the briefing, there will be no one from our intelligence community. Director Haspel has heard the Turkish audio tape of the murder, and her agency has also reportedly made conclusions about the role of various Saudi leaders.


Members of this body have a right to hear from Director Haspel. No offense to Secretary Mattis and Secretary Pompeo, but it was the CIA that had jurisdiction to find out what exactly happened and according to press reports, they did. And now, Congress is not going to get a briefing from her. What is the White House trying to hide? Well, we all know that President Trump seems to favor the crown prince to an extent that he’ll look the other way at the greatest of transgressions. But it’s even a further step down the road of darkness, lack of sunlight, to prevent the CIA from giving us their conclusions. Members of this body have a right to hear from Director Haspel, and her absence today speaks volumes about the White House’s intention for congressional oversight and Saudi Arabia.


President Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid criticizing the crown prince and the Saudis for the Khashoggi murder, drawing grotesque moral equivalencies and controverting well-known facts to avoid placing blame. It seems so similar to what he has been doing to Putin and Russia. Looking the other way for reasons that don’t serve America’s interest or security. It’s been a shameful abdication of moral leadership from the President. It must give comfort to autocrats and despots everywhere. Go ahead, behave despicably and the United States, at minimum will look the other way and may even pat you on the back.


You know, we have strength for a lot of reasons, Mr. President; we have a strong military, we have a great economy, we have wonderful people. One of the reasons we have strength is we have been a “shining city on a hill.” We have been the country that has guided doing the right thing in morality and try to spread that around the world. President Donald Trump is taking a giant step backwards and that’s not just an abstract concept or something that would be a nice thing to do, it hurts us: economically, militarily, security-wise when we aren’t that shining city on the hill. 


Leader McConnell has rightly called the Saudi murder operation “abhorrent” and I hope he agrees with me that Director Haspel should be made available to Congress on this issue. I would ask him to join with me in asking her to come, in the same kind of closed skiff, intelligence protecting session.


Relatedly, possibly as early as this afternoon, we expect to have a vote in relation to the Lee-Sanders Yemen war powers resolution. Even though they’re not here at the moment, I want to applaud its sponsors for their steadfast commitment to this important issue, I will support their resolution once again.


The conflict in Yemen, exacerbated by Saudi Arabia’s intervention and its reckless tactics, must be brought to an end.  The Yemeni people have endured unending suffering. The United States should once again be the moral leader and lead the diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. 


Finally, Mr. President, late this afternoon, the Senate will likely vote on whether to consider the nomination of Thomas Farr for the Eastern District of North Carolina. I’ve spoken repeatedly, last week, this week, on the floor about what an absolute disgrace it is to have his nomination before us. What a further disgrace it would be if our Republican colleagues march in lockstep to approve this awful nomination. Mr. Farr has been chief cook and bottle washer with North Carolina’s invidious and despicable efforts to prevent people, particularly minorities, from voting.   


Generations of Americans have agitated, protested, marched, even died trying to expand the right to vote, regardless of race or gender. Our soldiers, when they’re fighting overseas, some of them making the ultimate sacrifice, are defending democracy and the right to vote, among other things.


For the Senate, in 2018, to elevate a man to the federal bench who has worked to limit the franchise and game the electoral system, would be a black mark on this body. A black mark on this body. And adding insult to injury, this is a judicial district that is twenty-seven percent African American. Two African Americans, both women, were not nominated in the past. The Republican senators from North Carolina blocked them with the blue slip, a practice that the Leader has abolished with Chairman Grassley, which is a shame in itself.


But to now elevate this man to the bench is an insult to African Americans and all Americans. All Americans. It’s amazing to me, utterly amazing, and you see a lot of things around here that you don’t believe these days, that the Republican majority is moving forward with this nomination.


I hope my colleagues on the Republican side, even at this late hour, take time to study his career. I believe they’ll find he’s unworthy of the federal bench. And I hope at least a brave few will join with Democrats this afternoon to reject this awful, awful nomination