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Schumer Floor Remarks on President Trump’s Nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the president’s nomination of Mike Pompeo to be Secretary of State. Below are his remarks, which can also be viewed here:

 Before I begin, I want to welcome the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, who just finished his address before a Joint Session of Congress. His words were timely - particularly his admonition to reject the false idols of our time: isolationism, cynicism. He argued that if we are to advance the principles upon which both our nations were founded – and as he would say, liberté, égalité, fraternité– and secure the prosperity and security of our peoples in the future, we must seek further cooperation with our allies and engagement with the world.

I hope that everyone on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue takes President Macron’s words to heart.

Madam President, the Senate now considers the nomination of Mike Pompeo to be the next Secretary of State.

I must admit that even after his confirmation to the Directorship of the CIA, I remained concerned about Mr. Pompeo when he was in the Congress. I talked to him directly, I told him how deeply disappointed I was in how he handled the Benghazi hearings, how partisan they were. I told him some of his comments about minority groups, Muslims in particular were way over the top. Over the course of his tenure at Langley, I met with him several times after that first meeting where I had given him my views on some of these things I disagreed with and what he did. I have to say, those meetings were good meetings. Each time he was very candid with me. He is obviously very smart. He was obviously very well-informed on public policy, far more well-informed than Secretary Tillerson was when he came before to visit me before his nomination hearing. And, what particularly gave me some good feeling, was that Mr. Pompeo was particularly strong on the issue of Russia sanctions, even showing some separation from the president as we met.

I began to think Mr. Pompeo was better than my first impression, which had so been guided by his performance, his very poor performance in the Benghazi hearings

Then he was nominated for the position of Secretary of State, which is a whole different ball game. Anyone nominated for such a critical national security position deserves the most careful and thoughtful scrutiny.

With that in mind, I met Mr. Pompeo privately, where I interviewed him on foreign policy. On many issues, our views were not the same. Mr. Pompeo was much more hawkish than I’d prefer our chief diplomat to be, frankly my views were probably on this issue, a little closer to the president’s, who remembered as I do that Iraq, in Iraq, we spent over a trillion dollars, we lost close to five thousand of our bravest young men and women and Iraq doesn’t seem much better off today than it was then. So, my view was that he was too quick to recommend strong military action when diplomacy might do. But at the same time, I believe the president gets to pick his team. If President Trump wants a more hawkish Secretary of State, that is concerning, but that is his decision. And again, Mr. Pompeo answered my questions with the same candor and forthrightness as our previous meetings. So, I thought I would wait for his hearing, because speaking in public is different than speaking privately to a member of the Senate, before making any decision.

Mr. Pompeo’s hearing was when I was most disappointed. The president has shown - in word and deed and tweet - that he often directs foreign policy by impulse. The fact that we are contending with several hot spots in the world –North Korea, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Venezuela, and Russia – means we need someone at the State Department who not only prizes the value of diplomacy, but is also willing and able to check the president’s worst instincts. Unfortunately, Mr. Pompeo’s testimony and of course, public testimony is the real test, did little to convince me that he could be a tempering influence on an erratic president. He didn’t convince me that he would be the type of secretary that most of us believe Secretary Mattis is, who is able successfully to check the president when the president may go off base.

Even more disappointing was Mr. Pompeo’s tepid responses to questions about his commitment to bedrock American principles like the rule of law. As important and difficult as our foreign policy decisions are, the nation is facing a great test. The president seems to tempt rule of law in America when it comes to the investigation of whether there was collusion between his administration, his campaign, and Russia. An investigation to look into this, to look into Russian interference in our elections, and whether there was participation of the president, or members of his campaign, or administration is vital to the bedrock of America. Even worse is if a president says, I can undo this investigation one way or another. I can thwart it. He’s already trying to intimidate it and Mr. Mueller is not the type to be intimidated and neither does Mr. Rosenstein seem to be.

These questions were crucial to me. In a key position like Secretary of State, should be able to speak out on this kind of issue, because America is recognized throughout the world as the country that most prizes rule of law. So, if our secretary doesn’t speak out strongly against this, it’s not only bad for our country, but not good for his job - his ability to do his job around the world.  Unfortunately, I was deeply disappointed. Mr. Pompeo responded, when put to the question of whether he would stand up to the president, would he resign or otherwise protest the president’s actions that would undermine rule of law? His answers were weak. He did not say he would resign if the president fired Mueller or Rosenstein. To me, a cabinet officer should do that. He did not even unequivocally state that he would publicly urge the president not to fire Mr. Mueller. So, that wasn’t good enough.

But I thought I owed again, Mr. Pompeo a direct discussion because he is a talented man and the president does deserve the benefit of the doubt.

So, I called him into my office for one private meeting, for one final private meeting. And I asked him pointedly whether he would be willing to say publicly that the president shouldn’t fire Special Counsel Mueller before we voted on him. I asked him what he would do if the president did fire the Special Counsel or Mr. Rosenstein. His answers were very insufficient.

I also asked him if he’d be willing to recant what he’d said about Muslims and Indian Americans, LGBTQ Americans, and women’s rights now that he was in line to be our Secretary of State and had to deal with countries that might be affected by his remarks. Again, he demurred.

So, with a clear conscience, I will be voting against Mr. Pompeo’s nomination. I still believe the president deserves his team, and that disagreements on policy alone are not a sufficient reason to reject a nomination. But I gave Mr. Pompeo the benefit of the doubt and three chances to answer the questions that I thought were extremely important and assuage my broader concerns about his nomination, and [he] did not answer those questions in any way that was satisfying. So, with a clear conscience, I will be voting against his nomination.

Let me be clear: this is not about politics. This is not about denying the president his team just for the sake of it. This is about the role of the Congress and frankly, the cabinet to provide a check on the president, who might go off the rails and undo the respect for rule of law, the tradition of rule of law that we have had in this country for so long. It is my view that the next Secretary of State, in this unique moment in history, with a president who behaves erratically and with little regard for our nation’s history, a president who tests our constitutional order, that secretary must be willing to put our country first and stand up for our most sacred and foundational values. For the rule of law. For the idea that no person, not even the president, is above the rule of law.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pompeo in these very difficult and troubled times didn’t meet that test, as much as I wish he did. I do not doubt that President Trump could nominate someone with the right experience, the right values, and the right commitment to our core, national principles to earn my vote to be Secretary of State. But I do not believe Mr. Pompeo has those qualities.

I will be voting no on the nomination.