Schumer Floor Remarks On Midterm Elections And The Need For Acting Attorney General Whitaker To Recuse Himself From The Russia Investigation
November 13, 2018
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck
Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approximately 3:18 PM] regarding the midterms and the need
for acting Attorney General Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia
investigation. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Mr. President, first, let me say that all
of our hearts go out to everyone affected by the terrible wildfires in
California and once again express how grateful we are to the first responders
and firefighters -- those brave people -- on the scene. We continue to monitor
the situation, and the Senate will do everything it can to help.
Now, let me welcome everybody back after
the midterm elections. Last week, Americans voted in record numbers to deliver
an unambiguous message: they wanted change.
People across the country were disappointed
in what two years of one-party Republican rule had delivered. Rising health
care costs and declining quality. A massive giveaway of public resources to
multinational corporations and the wealthiest few. A Congress that failed to provide
a check and balance on the president. So the American people voted for a
change. They voted for a check on President Trump and a Congress that would
stop trying to take away their health care. After two long years, that’s what
they’ll get. Republican plans to rip health care away from Americans have been
Democrats won the House of Representatives
decisively. Democrats flipped several governorships and state legislatures. And
here in the Senate, Democratic candidates did extraordinarily well with a very
difficult map. Overall, last Tuesday night was a very good night for
But more importantly, it was a very good
night for America, and for beginning to restore some normalcy to our nation’s
This afternoon, let me welcome the new
Republican senators and the two new Democratic senators, Jacky Rosen of Nevada,
and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – the women of the West – whom I met with this
morning. Both are highly accomplished. Both are tough and incredibly bright –
principled but also pragmatic. And I assure you, Mr. President, they will both
make excellent, effective senators. I could not be more pleased to welcome them
to this chamber.
But now that the hard-fought midterm
campaign is over, we must turn the page and see what Democrats and Republicans
can accomplish together for the American people. In the lame duck session,
we’ll consider legislation dealing with the Coast Guard and wrap up the
appropriations process. And then in January, the House and Senate will come
back with a new legislators and new priorities.
One item cannot wait though until January,
Mr. President. Last week, President Trump asked for the resignation of his once
best friend, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and announced that Matthew
Whitaker, the Chief of Staff to the Attorney General, would become the acting
Even though Deputy Attorney General Rod
Rosenstein, already confirmed by the Senate, was next in line for the title of
acting attorney general under the Justice Department’s succession statute,
President Trump took the highly unusual step of naming another person to the
job – Mr. Whitaker – who has not been confirmed by the Senate for any job in
the Justice Department.
First and foremost, there are serious
questions about whether or not Mr. Whitaker’s appointment is even
constitutional, considering the requirement for Senate confirmation in Article
II of the Constitution. But in addition to very serious questions about the
appointment itself, Americans should be concerned about the appointee – Mr.
Whitaker -- and what he might mean for Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation.
amazing, Mr. Whitaker claimed that Russia didn’t interfere with our elections,
contrary to the conclusions of 17 intelligence agencies. When someone ignores
the facts and just says these things, you know they’re an ideologue. They’re
not trying to dispense justice or anything else down the middle, they’re an
ideologue. 17 intelligence agencies said Russia interfered in our election.
This isn’t about collusion, just whether they interfered. And Mr. Whitaker says
“no.” He’s called for, quote, “pulling the reins back” on the Russia
investigation that is hardly a neutral arbiter for who is going to call the
shots as they should be called – down the middle. He referred to Special
Counsel Mueller and his staff as a “lynch mob.” You know, Mr. President,
when I saw General Flynn on the 2016 campaign, a three-star general screaming
“lock her up,” I thought, something is wrong. A general shouldn’t do that, no
matter what their political views. Well, when the acting attorney general
refers to Special Counsel Mueller and his staff as a “lynch mob,” that is way
over the top in a similar way. And Mr. Whitaker has openly mused about how to
grind the investigation to a halt.
There is simply no question that Mr.
Whitaker enters his role as acting attorney general with a clear bias against
the Russia investigation. Essentially, Mr. Whitaker has prejudged the outcome
of an investigation he now oversees.
In light of this, two things must happen:
First, we are demanding that Mr. Whitaker
recuse himself from the Russia investigation. On Sunday, I sent a letter along
with Leader Pelosi, and top Democrats from both houses and the relevant
committees, to the Department of Justice’s Chief Ethics Officer explaining why
Mr. Whitaker should be recused and requesting the Chief Ethics Officer notify
Congress as to what guidance Whitaker has given.
We’ve heard that Mr. Whitaker is meeting
with Ethics officials this week, and we expect, we expect, that Congress will
be notified about the results of those discussions.
Second, if Mr. Whitaker does not recuse
himself, we Democrats are going to attempt to add legislation to the must-pass
spending bill in the lame duck session that will prevent acting Attorney
General Whitaker from interfering with the Mueller investigation in any way.
Judiciary Committee Democrats have also
requested that Chairman Grassley schedule a hearing with Mr. Whitaker and
former Attorney General Sessions. I support that request wholeheartedly.
Now, even if you don’t believe Mr. Whitaker
poses a threat to the Mueller investigation, there are serious questions about
whether his appointment is lawful, and beyond that, whether Mr. Whitaker has
the experience, the temperament, and the independence, the fidelity to rule of
law, required for such a vitally important position. Given that the Senate
never confirmed him for his current role in the Justice Department, now is the
time for the Senate to consider whether Mr. Whitaker is qualified for his new
role as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer.
Let’s remember one thing: Democrats,
Republicans alike have said that if President Trump interferes with the Russia
investigation, we’d be on the brink of a constitutional crisis, the likes of
which we haven’t seen in decades. Altering the chain of command in the Justice
Department to put a partisan loyalist in charge of the investigation certainly
feels like we may be heading down that road.
Why not head the whole thing off at the
pass? Mr. Whitaker can and should recuse himself, and regardless, the Senate
should pass legislation to protect the integrity of the Russia investigation.
In conclusion, it is far better thing to be
safe than sorry when it comes to something as paramount as the rule of law and
fidelity to the great Constitution of the United States of America.