TRANSCRIPT: Schumer Remarks At Press Conference On The Senate Impeachment TrialJanuary 16, 2020
Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke at a press conference regarding the Senate impeachment trial. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
As everyone knows, we’ve all been sworn in by the Chief Justice of the United States to serve as judges and jurors in the impeachment trial of President Trump. When the Chief Justice walked in, you could feel the weight of the moment. I saw members on both sides of the aisle visibly gulp. The weight of history sits on shoulders and produces sometimes results, you never know what will happen.
For some of us here, this is the first time we’ve done this. For others like myself, it’s the second time. But I assure you, there is no difference. Even though I’ve gone through this before, for all of us, the solemnity and gravity of the moment in our history hits you square on the back when you take that oath; a separate oath designed by the Senate, only for Senators who will serve on a court of impeachment. The feeling in the Senate chamber was solemn, serious, profound. The weight of history, the eyes of history, you feel it, are upon you. I know every one of my colleagues felt it.
I hope that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle felt. You all heard the reading of the Articles of Impeachment by Representative Schiff at noon. It was a solemn recitation of charges that, if proved, are crimes against democracy itself. To actually hear the charges read, even though we’ve heard them many times before, impresses the seriousness of the charges. This is not something trivial, this is not something everybody does, this is not something that can be dismissed.
President Donald Trump is accused of coercing a foreign leader into interfering in our elections, and then doing everything in his power to cover it up. These are exactly the kinds of offenses the Founders most feared when they forged the impeachment clause in the Constitution. Do we want foreign powers to determine our elections? Do the American people want someone from overseas, determining who’s their president? Who’s their governor, who’s their Senator? Who’s their congressman?
This is what the nation has feared for centuries. And we fear it today more than ever, with this president. This is very, very, serious stuff. This is not trivial, because it’s hard to imagine a greater subversion of our democracy than for powers outside of our borders to determine the elections within our borders. And for a country to attempt such a thing on its own, as Russia has done, is bad enough.
For an American president to deliberately solicit such a thing, to blackmail a foreign country with military assistance, to help them win an election, is unimaginably worse. I am actually filled with anger, when you read the attempt to subvert our democracy. So these charges are serious – very. And it’s on those charges on which the Senate has to render its verdict. Remarkably, crucial pieces of information related to the charges against the president are still coming out.
Last night, Mr. Lev Parnas, an associate of the president’s personal attorney, Mr. Rudy Guiliani, gave an astonishing interview on national television that further implicated the president in a plot to remove the U.S. Ambassador and pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky into announcing investigations into one of the president’s leading political rivals. And just today, through the good work of Chris Van Hollen, who you’ll hear from shortly, the GAO found that it was illegal—illegal—for President Trump to withhold military assistance from Ukraine to pressure them to interfere in the 2020 elections.
Both the revelations about Mr. Parnas and the GAO opinion strengthen our push for witnesses and documents in the trial. The GAO opinion, especially, makes clear that the documents we requested in our letter to Leader McConnell are even more needed now than when we requested it last month. Because President Trump, simply put, broke the law. Every Senator will get a chance to vote to obtain these documents next week.
Now returning to how I began, the oath we all just took, will weigh heavily on Senators to really consider this question about how fair a trial we have. We have asked for four fact-witnesses and three specific sets of relevant documents. The witnesses are not Democrats; they are the president’s men—his top advisers, who he appointed.
The documents are not Democratic documents; they are just documents, period. Every Senate impeachment trial in our history—all fifteen that were brought to completion—featured witnesses. Every. Single. One. Leader McConnell is fond of citing precedent. We’ve all heard him about 1999. The precedent in impeachment trials in the Senate is to have witnesses. To have no witnesses would be a dramatic break with precedent—it would mean the first impeachment trial of a president in history with no witnesses. The first impeachment trial of anybody, that went to completion, in the Senate’s 200 some odd year, without witnesses.
So in the coming days, each of us, every one of us, Democrat and Republican, will face a choice about whether to begin this trial in the search of the truth, or in service of the president’s desire to cover it up. Now that every Senator has sworn a solemn oath before God and the American people to do impartial justice, let every Senator reflect on that choice. And let history weigh on each of our shoulders.