Schumer Blasts Republican Leader McConnell For Blocking Election Security Legislation In Wake Of Trump Comments Supporting Foreign Interference In Elections, Says Senate Democrats Today Will Attempt To Pass A Bill To Make It A Campaign’s Legal Duty To Report To The FBI When A Foreign Power Offers AssistanceJune 13, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today blasted Republican Leader Mitch McConnell for continuing to block Senate action on critical legislation to protect our elections from foreign interference after President Trump said on ABC News that he would “listen” to information about a political opponent from a foreign source in the next election. Senator Schumer also said that Senate Democrats will today attempt to pass Senator Mark Warner’s (D-VA) Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act (FIRE Act), which would make it a campaign’s legal duty to report to the FBI when a foreign power offers assistance. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.
Madam President, last night, President Donald Trump, in an interview with ABC News, said that if he were offered information about an opponent from a foreign country, a foreign source in the next election, he would take a look at it and might not go to the FBI.
“I think you might want to listen,” he said, “there isn’t anything wrong with listening. If someone called from a country [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’—oh I think I’d want to hear that.”
That is shocking. Shocking, and yet sadly par for the course for this president. My predecessor, Senator Moynihan said “We’re defining deviancy down.” No president has defined deviancy down more than President Trump, and his remarks last night defined deviancy down to a new low. To say that it’s okay for foreign countries to interfere in our elections, with motives that are not what’s in the interest of the American people—disgraceful. Shocking. It’s as if the president has learned absolutely nothing from the past two years of investigations into Russia’s interference with the 2016 elections. This is precisely how the whole thing started: a foreign power reached out to establish connections with a presidential campaign by dangling the promise of information about an opponent. And President Trump said he’d welcome it. He asked Russia to interfere. When he wonders why people think there might be collusion—well, that’s why! This is a president who says ‘Russia, come help.’ That doesn’t prove collusion, but it sure proves that he doesn’t mind foreign powers interfering with an election.
The president’s comments, again, are undemocratic, un-American…disgraceful. The president’s comments suggest that he believes winning an election is more important than the integrity of the election. That idea is flat-out wrong. The president’s idea that winning the election is everything, and the integrity of the election is nothing, is one small step away from dictators and autocrats who manipulate the results an election because they care more about staying in power than they care about democratic principles. President Trump seems to fall into that category. Winning is everything, integrity is nothing.
It’s simple. When a foreign power tries to give a campaign information on an opponent—that is foreign interference in our elections. It’s exactly what the Framers worried about at the very founding of our Republic. And it is up to us, in Congress, to protect that legacy, the wellspring of democracy—free and fair elections. It is up to all of us in Congress, Democrats and Republicans. When a foreign power interferes in our election, Democrats shouldn’t say ‘If it helps our side, we’re okay with it.’ Republicans shouldn’t say if it helps their side, they’re okay with it. Where are Republicans going to be with this latest step over the line by President Trump? Are they going to sit and cower and do nothing?
We have multiple, bipartisan election security bills that are just languishing here in the Senate. We even have a bill introduced by the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee that would make it a campaign’s legal duty to report to the FBI when a foreign power offers its assistance. Very simple—a foreign power comes to your campaign and offers assistance, you tell the FBI. This would say you’re required to by law. That has been Senator Warner’s bill. Are our Republican colleagues going to be with us on that?
Well, we’ll find out shortly, because later this afternoon my friend Senator Warner will ask our colleagues for unanimous consent to pass his bill that says if Russia, Iran, North Korea, anyone else offers a campaign help, you report it to the FBI, ASAP. My Republican friends should take a few hours and decide if they really want to block that bill. Because if they do, it would be a disgrace. Another step in defining deviancy down in this grand democracy, that is becoming more and more at risk.
This Republican blockade of election security thus far—led by Leader McConnell—has got to come to an end. Bipartisan election security bills are languishing because Leader McConnell will not bring them to the floor. One of his own colleagues, the Chairman of the Rules Committee, said that they’re not bringing them to the floor because Leader McConnell doesn’t want to. He stands in the way, with his graveyard, on an issue vital to American integrity, American democracy. Leader McConnell needs to bring these bills to the floor.
And again, I would ask our Republicans to think hard as Senator Warner asks for his unanimous consent request later this morning or this afternoon. Are you going to say it’s okay when a foreign power comes to you or any other candidate, or a sitting president, and says “We’ll help you win the election. Psst, we’ll help you?”—to be quiet about it, not to tell law enforcement? I hope not.
The embrace of our Republican colleagues of everything President Trump does—including things they know are wrong—has become stunning and appalling. Let’s see, in this instance, if it gets even worse.