TRANSCRIPT: Schumer Remarks Ahead Of Senator Questions In Senate Impeachment TrialJanuary 29, 2020
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke today at a press conference ahead of Senators’ questions in the Senate impeachment trial. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Yesterday, as you know, the president's counsel ended their defense of the president.
Up until the very end, Mr. Sekulow kept making the argument that the case against the president lacked eyewitnesses, knowing full well that his client, the president, was blocking the very eyewitnesses he said the trial lacked. He knew full well that one of the eyewitnesses, John Bolton, wrote that the president told him he wanted to continue the delay in military assistance to Ukraine until it announced the political investigations that he was seeking—precisely the conduct charged in the first article of impeachment.
Mr. Sekulow had the temerity to stand on the floor of the Senate and say you must acquit the president because there are no eyewitnesses to the conduct alleged by the House, and also that Senators must not call eyewitnesses who could confirm it.
Of course, Ambassador Sondland was an eyewitness. Mr. Mulvaney admitted the president held up the aid at a press conference. Nonetheless, the president's counsel said you must have additional eyewitnesses…but you're not allowed to have them. Mr. Sekulow's view of a trial is downright Kafkaesque. Kafkaesque. Remember the book "The Trial"?
Frankly, the hypocrisy of Mr. Sekulow’s argument was not lost on Senators. I’m sure even Republicans sort of added this up, the hypocrisy. If anything, Mr. Sekulow’s argument made the case for witnesses and documents even stronger. So, inadvertently, he helped us.
I remain hopeful that four Republican Senators will join us in supporting witnesses and documents in this trial. It's an uphill fight, as I’ve always said, but the public is on our side and truth, above all, is on our side. And that's why we're still in the fight, that's why we're still in the ballpark.
Now, I want to talk about three lines of push-back that they're using with tremendous pressure, that President Trump and Leader McConnell are using on Republican Senators, to try and get them to avoid the crucial Friday vote on witnesses and documents.
The first is, well, it will take too long. We've heard that one, and that's what they're using number one in their own caucus. This debate over witnesses and documents began a week ago with Republicans saying we're not against new evidence, we just want to consider it later. Now that the ‘later’ is about to arrive, the argument has become if we vote for witnesses, the trial will drag on too long.
I predicted this. We said—you may remember this, a week and a half ago—they're going to say let's wait, and then when we wait, they're going to say it took too long, we shouldn't have waited. Again, just double talk to avoid the truth. That's what they're doing, they're tying themselves in all kinds of pretzel knots to avoid the truth, but the American people know the truth. So, weeks ago, I said Democrats want an agreement on witnesses and documents up front because if Republicans punted the decision till the end of the trial, they'd claim it would take too long and Democrats were trying to drag it out. Lo and behold, that's just what's happening.
But the Republican argument is wrong. It won't take too long. If my Republican colleagues vote with us to subpoena relevant witnesses and documents, there's no reason for a protracted trial. The four sets of documents we've requested have already been collected. They’re sitting in boxes at the White House, the State Department, OMB, and the Pentagon. They're ours for the asking. Mr. Bolton has already said he'd testify. There's no reason for delays if the Senate summons Bolton, Mulvaney, Blair and Duffey.
In the Clinton trial, the three witnesses were each deposed in one day. If the U.S. Senate issues a bipartisan subpoena, signed by the Chief Justice, any lawyer would advise their client to comply. If someone like Mr. Mulvaney still refused, we'd make a motion asking the Chief Justice to order Mulvaney to comply. We could settle any and all potential claims of executive privilege right on the Senate floor.
So, we are not talking about a lengthy delay here. We’re not going to be dilatory in any way. We have only asked for relevant evidence. It could be reviewed expeditiously. Four witnesses, four sets of documents, the men who were in the room where it happened. No more, no less. That’s reasonable, that’s why the American people are so strongly in favor of witnesses and documents. Every day the number gets higher. There’s another number that I saw on TV today – 75 percent are with us.
My Republican colleagues only have to answer this question: is President Trump so insistent on immediate acquittal that the Senate trial cannot take one second longer to have a fair trial?
Now, the second line that’s coming from Senate Republicans is there’s no reason to hear from witnesses because even if they prove that the president did what he was accused of, it would not be impeachable because it’s not a criminal offense. The Dershowitz argument. But the truth is, the argument made by Mr. Dershowitz is completely phony. Just about every legal expert disagrees with him completely. It’s been widely discredited, even by the Republican witness in the House trial, Mr. Turley. The criminal code was not written to be the only check on presidential misconduct. No citizen can order the FBI to investigate their neighbor or ask a foreign power to interfere in our elections. Only the president can exercise these powers. If the people can’t hold the president accountable for abuses only he can commit, then the impeachment power is meaningless.
Bear in mind that folks like Attorney General Barr argue that the president can’t be indicted even if the president committed a criminal offense. By this line of thinking, if the president can’t be indicted for criminal conduct and can’t be impeached for non-criminal conduct, that would surely put the president above the law. And we’d cease being a democracy.
The Founding Fathers were aware that there were terrible things a president could do that don’t violate the criminal law, and wanted to give the Congress a power to stop it. There are so many examples you could think of then, and so many examples now. That’s the clear facts, that’s the clear evidence. Mr. Dershowitz is an outlier, a total outlier.
Finally, the third argument we hear from Republicans against witnesses and documents goes like this: the president will be acquitted no matter what, we know the result, nothing could change our minds, why even bother with a fair trial? Talk about being political. Talk about being cynical. I understand the pressure my Republican colleagues are under to wrap this up as fast as possible because President Trump demands it. But we, the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, have an obligation to seek the truth. A fair trial matters, whatever the outcome.