Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor following the Senate’s verdict in the trial of former President Donald Trump. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks:
The case of Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial was open and shut. President Trump told a lie – a big lie – that the election was stolen, and that he was the rightful winner. He laid the groundwork for this big lie in the months before the election, he told the big lie on election night, and he repeated the big lie more than 100 times in the weeks afterwards. He summoned his supporters to Washington, assembled them on the Ellipse, whipped them into a frenzy, and directed them at the Capitol.
And then he watched, as the violence unfolded, and the Capitol was breached, and his own Vice President fled for his life—and President Trump did nothing.
None of the facts were up for debate. We saw it. We heard it. We lived it. This was the first presidential impeachment trial in history in which all Senators were not only judges and jurors, but witnesses to the constitutional crime that was committed.
The former president inspired, directed, and propelled a mob to violently prevent the peaceful transfer of power, subvert the will of the people, and illegally keep that president in power.
There is nothing—nothing—more un-American than that.
There is nothing—nothing—more antithetical to our democracy.
There is nothing—nothing—more insulting to the generations of American patriots who gave their lives to defend our form of government.
This was the most egregious violation of the presidential oath of office and a textbook example—a classic example—of an impeachable offense, worthy of the Constitution’s most severe remedy.
In response to the incontrovertible fact of Donald Trump’s guilt, the Senate was subject to a feeble – and sometimes incomprehensible – defense of the former president. Unable to dispute the case on the merits, the former president’s counsel treated us to partisan vitriol, false equivalence, and outright falsehoods.
We heard the roundly debunked jurisdictional argument that the Senate cannot try a former official, a position that would mean that any president could simply resign to avoid accountability for an impeachable offense. A position, which, in effect, would render the Senate powerless to ever enforce the disqualification clause in the Constitution. Essentially, the president’s counsel told the Senate that the Constitution was unconstitutional. Thankfully, the Senate took a firm stance and set a firm precedent, with a bipartisan vote, in favor of our power to try former officials for acts they committed while in office
We heard the preposterous claim that the former president’s incitement to violence was protected by the First Amendment. The First Amendment right to free speech protects Americans from jail, not presidents from impeachment. If a president had said, during WWII, that “Germany should attack the United States on Long Island, we’ve left it undefended” – I suspect Congress would have considered that an impeachable offense!
Finally, the defense counsel said that President Trump was not directly responsible for the violence at the Capitol. “His words were merely metaphor, his directions were merely suggestions, and that the violent mob was just a spontaneous demonstration.” But wind the clock back and ask yourself: if at any point, Donald Trump did not do the things that he did, would the attack on the Capitol have happened? There is only one answer to that question. Of course not.
If President Trump hadn’t told his supporters to march towards the Capitol; if he hadn’t implored them to come to Washington on January 6 in the first place; if he hadn’t repeatedly lied to them that the election was stolen and that their country was being taken from them; the attack would not have happened, could not have happened. January 6th would not have happened but for the actions of Donald Trump.
Here’s what the Republican leader of the Senate said: the mob that perpetrated the “failed insurrection” was on January 6th “was provoked by President Trump.”
You want another word for “provoke?” How about: “incite.”
Still—still!—the vast majority of the Senate Republican caucus, including the Republican leader, voted to acquit former President Trump, signing their names in the columns of History alongside his name—forever.
January 6th will live as a day of infamy in the history of the United States of America. The failure to convict Donald Trump will live as a vote of infamy in the history of the United States Senate.
Five years ago, Republican Senators lamented what might become of their party if Donald Trump became their presidential nominee and standard-bearer. Just look at what has happened. Look at what Republicans have been forced to defend. Look at what Republicans have chosen to forgive. The former president tried to overturn the results of a legitimate election—and provoked an assault on our own government—and well over half of the Senate Republican conference decided to condone it!
The most despicable act that any president has ever committed and the majority of Republicans cannot summon the courage or the morality to condemn it.
This trial wasn’t even about choosing country over party, even not that. This was about choosing country over Donald Trump. And 43 Republican members chose Trump. They chose Trump. It should be a weight on their conscience today. And it shall be a weight upon their conscience in the future.
As sad as that fact is, as condemnable as the decision was, it is still true that the final vote on Donald Trump’s conviction was the largest and most bipartisan vote of any presidential impeachment trial in American history. I salute those Republican patriots who did the right thing. It wasn’t easy. We know that. Let their votes be a message to the American people.
Because, my fellow Americans: if this nation is going to long endure, we, as a people, cannot sanction the former president’s conduct.
Because if lying about the results of an election is acceptable, if instigating a mob against the government is considered permissible, if encouraging political violence becomes the norm, it will be open season, open season, on our democracy; and everything will be up for grabs by whoever has the biggest clubs, the sharpest spears, the most powerful guns.
By not recognizing the heinous crime that Donald Trump committed against the Constitution; Republican Senators have not only risked but potentially invited the same danger that was just visited upon us.
So let me say this: despite the results of the vote on Donald Trump’s conviction in the court of impeachment, he deserves to be convicted—and I believe he will be convicted—in the court of public opinion.
He deserves to be permanently discredited—and I believe he has been discredited—in the eyes of the American people and in the judgment of History.
Even though Republican Senators prevented the Senate from disqualifying Donald Trump from any office of honor, trust, or profit under these United States, there is no question that Donald Trump has disqualified himself.
I hope, I pray, and I believe that the American people will make sure of that.
And if Donald Trump ever stands for public office again, and after everything we have seen this week: I hope, I pray, and I believe that he will meet the unambiguous rejection by the American people.
Six hours after the attack on January 6th, after the carnage and mayhem was shown on every television screen in America, President Trump told his supporters to “remember this day forever.” I ask the American people to heed his words: remember that day forever. But not for the reasons the former president intended.
Remember the panic in the voices over the radio dispatch; the rhythmic pounding of fists and flags at the chamber doors.
Remember the crack of the solitary gunshot.
Remember the hateful and racist Confederate Flag flying through the halls of our Union.
Remember the screams of the bloodied officer crushed between the onrushing mob and a doorway to the Capitol, his body trapped in the breach.
Remember the three Capitol Police Officers who lost their lives.
Remember that those rioters actually succeeded in delaying Congress from certifying the election.
Remember how close our democracy came to ruin.
My fellow Americans: remember that day, January 6th, forever—the final, terrible legacy of the 45th President of the United States and undoubtedly our worst.
Let it live on in infamy, a stain on Donald John Trump that can never, never be washed away.
On Monday, we’ll recognize Presidents’ Day. Part of the commemoration in the Senate will be the annual reading of Washington’s Farewell Address. Aside from winning the Revolutionary War, I consider it his greatest contribution to American civic life. And it had nothing to do with the words he spoke but the example it set. Washington’s Farewell Address established for all time that no one had the right to the office of the presidency, that it belonged to the people.
What an amazing legacy. What an amazing gift to the future generations: the knowledge that this country will always be greater than any one person, even our most renowned. That’s why members of both parties take turns reading Washington’s address, once a year, in full, into the record—to pledge common attachment to the selflessness at the core of our democratic system.
This trial was about the final acts of a president who represents the very antithesis of our first president, and sought to place one man before the entire country—himself.
Let the record show, let the record show, before God, History, and the solemn oath we swear to the Constitution, that there was only one correct verdict in this trial: guilty. And I pray that while justice was not done in this trial, it will be carried forward by the American people, who above any of us in this chamber, determine the destiny of our great nation.