Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke today on the Senate floor, demanding a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial that includes key documents and testimony from witnesses. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
The House of Representatives has impeached the president for a very serious offense: coercing a foreign leader into interfering in our elections, using the powers of the presidency, the most powerful public office in the nation, to benefit himself, to actually influence the election, which should be decided by American citizens – not by a foreign power.
When debating the impeachment clause of the Constitution, the founders worried about foreign capitals having undue influence over our country; Hamilton, writing in the Federalist Papers, described impeachable offenses as abuses or violations of some public trust.
In the impeachment of President Trump, the question the Senate will be asked to answer is whether the president did in fact abuse his public trust, and by doing so, invite the very foreign influence the founders feared would be a corruption of our democracy.
To answer that question, to decide whether the president merits acquittal or removal from office, the Senate must conduct a fair trial. A fair trial has witnesses. A fair trial has relevant documents, as a part of the record. A fair trial seeks the truth. No more, no less.
That’s why Democrats have called, have asked to call four fact-witnesses and subpoena three specific sets of relevant documents related to the president’s misconduct with Ukraine. At the moment, my Republican colleagues are opposing these witnesses and documents, but they can’t seem to find a real reason why. Most are unwilling to argue that witnesses shouldn’t come before the Senate, they can only support delaying the decision until most of the trial is over, like a magic eight-ball that keeps saying “ask again later.”
The most the Republican leader can do is smear our request as some partisan fishing expedition intended to damage the president. But the Leader himself has warned that the witnesses we’ve requested might not help the House managers’ case against the president. He’s right about that. These are the president’s top advisers – they’re appointed by him, vetted by him, they work with him. We don’t know what the witnesses will say or what the documents will reveal. They could hurt the president’s case, or they could help the president’s case—we don’t know. But we know one thing, we want the truth, on something as weighty and profound as an impeachment trial. Does Leader McConnell want the truth? Do Senate Republicans want the truth?
I’d remind the Leader: our request for witnesses and documents is very much in line with the Senate’s history. The Republican Leader keeps citing precedent, well here’s precedent Mr. Leader: there have been two presidential impeachment trials in history. Both—both—had witnesses. The trial of President Andrew Johnson had forty-one witnesses. There have been sixteen completed impeachment trials in the Senate’s history. In every one, except one, the trial in 1799 of Senator William Blount, which was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, every Senate impeachment trial in history has included witnesses. You want precedents? Precedent says witnesses. Overwhelmingly.
The long arc of history casts a shadow on the proceedings we’re about to undertake. It suggests something obvious: that the Senate has always believed trials were about evidence and getting the truth. Of the 16 impeachment trials, 15 had witnesses and one was dismissed early. Do Senate Republicans want to break that lengthy historical precedent by conducting the first impeachment trial of a president in history with no witnesses?
Let me ask that questions again. This is weighty, this is vital, this is about the Republic. Do Senate Republicans want to break the lengthy, historical precedent that said witnesses should be at impeachment trial, by conducting the first impeachment trial of a president in history—in history—since 1789 with no witnesses?
I ask that question because that seems to be where the Republican Leader wants us to be headed.
The Republican Leader has designed a schedule for a Senate trial that might—might—have us vote on witnesses and documents after the presentations from both sides have been concluded, the judicial equivalent of putting the cart before the horse.
Of course, Leader McConnell has made no guarantee that he will support voting on witnesses and documents at that time, only that supposedly he’ll be open to the idea.
I want my Republican colleagues to bear in mind that if we consider witnesses at a later date, it could extend the trial by several days, maybe several weeks, as witnesses did during the Clinton trial.
Leader McConnell has said that “after the arguments are made, we should vote and move on.”
Do my Republican colleagues really believe that Leader McConnell will have an open mind about witnesses at a later date…when they might extend the trial much longer than he wants?
I’m not in the prediction business, but I can bet that when the time comes, Leader McConnell will say we’ve heard enough. The trial shouldn’t drag on any longer. That the Senate doesn’t need witnesses or documents, and that we should just, as he once said, vote and move on.
Before Senate Republicans are so quick to reject the Democratic proposal for a limited list of relevant witnesses and documents, I want them to consider that our proposal would save the Senate time. We want to confront the issue now, and not be forced to extend the trial later. We want both the House managers and the White House defense counsel to have time to incorporate the testimony of witnesses into their presentations. That is the proper way to proceed, that’s what happens at trials—to collect all of the evidence at the beginning, not at the end.
All we are asking for is for the president’s own men, his appointees, to come forward and tell their side of the story. The American people want a fair trial in the Senate. The American people know that a trial without witnesses and documents is not a real trial, it’s a sham trial. And the American people will be able to tell the difference between a fair hearing of the facts and a cover-up.