Schumer Floor Remarks on the Special Counsel Investigation Indictments and the GOP Tax Plan

October 31, 2017

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, as well as the need for bipartisanship on tax reform. Below are his remarks:

Yesterday morning, we learned that two members of the Trump Campaign – Mr. Manafort, onetime campaign chairman, and Mr. Gates, a close associate of his – were indicted on a dozen charges as a part of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation, including money laundering, a conspiracy to commit fraud, and a conspiracy against the United States.

The fact that the activity in question took place at least partially before the Trump Campaign offered Mr. Manafort the role of chairman in no way diminishes the gravity of the situation. If anything, it suggests that the Trump Campaign was negligent in hiring as its chairman a man who was an unregistered foreign agent working for a pro-Russian proxy party in Ukraine. That man is now alleged to have been laundering large sums of money and concealing his identity as a foreign agent to the FBI and the Department of Justice, including during his time on the Trump campaign. Imagine having such poor vetting and poor judgment to hire such a person as your campaign manager.

We also learned that a Trump campaign adviser met with a Kremlin contact to discuss “dirt” they possessed on Secretary Clinton and had several email exchanges with other Trump officials about his outreach to the Russians. This disclosure should put an end to the idea that there’s been no communication or possible connection between the Trump campaign and Russia. It is not fake news, Mr. President. It is not fake news.

There was a connection between the Trump campaign and Russia. Who was involved, and how much, and what happened, is yet to be determined, but there was a connection even though the President has denied that connection for months. The President can assert whatever he wants on Twitter, but the facts are the facts. There were official members of the Trump campaign who were receptive to working with a hostile foreign power to attain damaging information about their political opponent.

These revelations should concern every member of this body – Democrat, Republican, Independent, liberal, moderate, conservative. I understand the strength of the centrifugal forces in our politics that warp everything into a partisan battle between two sides. There are two sides to every argument, but no one is above the law no matter what side of the argument you are on.  Rule of law and American democracy are indisputable. We cannot abandon it for political expediency.

Special Counsel Mueller, who served both Republican and Democratic Administrations, a lifetime public servant, a man of unimpeachable integrity, was appointed by President Trump’s Deputy Attorney General. Mr. Mueller was a career prosecutor and is as straight a shooter as they come. He must be allowed to finish the work he started without interference.

President Trump, if he had nothing to fear like he claims, would encourage Special Counsel Mueller to follow every lead and pledge his full cooperation. Instead, President Trump is again trying to divert our attention by making spurious allegations and trying to knock down anyone or anything in his way – playing right into the partisan, ‘two-sides’ instinct of Washington.

But this goes beyond partisanship. It goes right to the rule of law. The President has this tendency to call anyone who disagrees with him, anyone who has facts that he doesn’t like, a liar, dishonest, this that or the other thing. That has demeaned and degraded our presidency and even our country. It should stop at rule of law. And I say that not to President Trump, who may never listen, but I say that to my Republican colleagues here in this chamber.

The Founders of the Republic put at the center of our civic life no religion, dogma, or sovereign but rather the rule of law. It’s what separated the American experiment from the hereditary monarchies of the era and outdated ideas like the divine right of kings. The rule of law holds in check our people as well as our presidents. No one is below its protection or above its reproach. It safeguards our democracy from the usurpations of demagogues and would-be dictators. Donald Trump is President, not king. He cannot decree things to go away, that facts are not facts. He is as subject as anyone else to the rule of law – that’s what makes our democracy so grand. It’s why this noble experiment, the American experiment continues. And President Trump is shaking the foundation of that when he tries to get out from Special Counsel Mueller’s due process.

What Special Counsel Mueller represents is the rule of law at work in 21st Century American democracy. Intentionally and spuriously impugning his integrity or smearing his efforts as partisan is not only inaccurate, is not only false, is not only fake, but damaging to a core ideal in our country – the independent, impartial rule of law; that no man, even the President of the United States, think what he may, is above the rule of law.

Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation must be allowed to proceed unimpeded, and my friends on the other side of the aisle must help dispel the notion that his investigation is in any way partisan. To their great credit, many of my colleagues have done just that in the last 24 hours, and I salute them.

The American people must have faith that when the very foundations of our democracy are shaken by a hostile foreign power, our independent judicial system – built on the rule of law -- will not be degraded by partisan politics. We must loudly reject the forces and actors who will try to make it so, on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. And our leaders, our Republican leaders in the House and Senate have an obligation to tell President Trump to lay off the Mueller investigation and let it proceed where it goes. That’s what our democracy is all about and that’s what leadership is all about.

Now, on taxes.

According to their timeline, House Republicans are set to release the details of their tax plan tomorrow. We’ll see if they can do it, and if so, just how detailed it will be.

What everyone in America should focus on is the question of who exactly the Republican plan will benefit. Will it be the poor, the working class, the middle class, or will it be big corporations and the richest 1%?

We live in a time of immense inequality, so much so that it strains the bonds of affection that bind us together in this country.

The wealthy have amassed astonishing wealth – and god bless them, we don’t begrudge them their success – while working Americans and the middle class have slipped further and further behind. The President is surely aware of this – he rode into the White House by channeling the legitimate anger and anxiety of working-class Americans who have seen their wages diminished and their jobs shipped overseas.

Will President Trump and his Republican party, once in power, turn around and rewrite the tax code to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the middle class? Will he do a 180-degree turn from what he campaigned on and what he talks about, and pass a plan approved by the hard right, those wealthy people who give so much money to the Republican party and think-tanks? Will he bow to them, against everything that he campaigned on and what he says?

It sure seems so.

On Wednesday, Republicans will likely propose to eliminate or substantially reduce the state and local tax deductibility, a bedrock middle-class deduction claimed by over a third of taxpayers, not just the wealthy, most of whom are in the middle class or upper-middle class.

The proposal caused such angst in the House that it almost brought down the budget resolution. So Republicans have crafted a so-called “compromise” that would allow taxpayers to claim state and local on property taxes, but not sales and income tax. That “compromise” would still cost taxpayers $900 billion.

Taxpayers in high sales-tax states like Tennessee, Florida, and Nevada would get whacked, as would taxpayers in high income-tax states like New York, New Jersey, California, Minnesota, Virginia, and Colorado.

Go figure that high property-tax states, like Texas, Chairman Brady’s state, would be better off under the proposal.

Picking winners and losers like this doesn’t solve the problem. The new state and local compromise is still a nearly trillion dollar tax hike on middle-class America to pay for tax giveaways to big corporations and the very wealthy. And I say to my Republican colleagues, particularly those from suburban and fairly affluent districts in the House, middle-class and upper-middle-class districts, they vote for this compromise at the same peril as they voted for the bill that would totally eliminate state and local deductibility. The damage still remains, and don’t think a small compromise, a small haircut, can let you escape from the political whirlwind you will reap if you vote for this bill.  

The Republicans are also likely to unveil tomorrow what they plan to do on 401(k)s. We’ve heard reports that Republicans want to tax 401(k)s to get more revenue to pay for tax giveaways to the rich. It’s another clear example that this plan is not going to be for the middle class.

401(k)s are one of the best tools we have to encourage Americans to start saving early for retirement. We know Americans aren’t doing that enough right now, and at the same time, defined benefits plans are enjoyed by fewer Americans than in the past as companies reduce or eliminate pensions. Why make it even harder for Americans to prepare for retirement on their own by saving through 401(k)s? Why tax them? So you can give tax cuts to the very rich.

We Democrats have a better deal to offer the American people on 401(k)s. Rather than having Uncle Sam dip his hands into American retirement plans, we Democrats believe Americans deserve a helping hand when it comes to their retirement. In just a short time, we will release our plan on 401(k).