Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Weak Attempt To Walk Back Denial Of Russian Meddling And Actions Congress Must Take Following Trump-Putin Summit

July 17, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor [at approx. 3:47 p.m. EST] regarding President Trump’s attempt to walk back his denial of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and actions Congress must take following the Trump-Putin summit. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Thank you, Mr. President. Now, I join my colleagues this afternoon to talk about the president’s deeply embarrassing and disgraceful meeting with President Putin yesterday. 

First, allow me to comment on what we just heard from the president. Just a few minutes ago, President Trump seemed to say he accepts the findings of the intelligence community that Russia meddled in our election.

Welcome to the club, President Trump.

We’ve known since the middle of the 2016 that they meddled. For the president to admit it now is cold comfort to a disturbed public who watched him bend over backwards to avoid criticizing Putin directly. President Trump may be trying to squirm away from what he said yesterday, but it is 24 hours too late and in the wrong place for the president to take a real stance on Putin’s election meddling.

Amazingly, President Trump, after reading his statement that he accepted the intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin meddled in our election, added, in his own words, “Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.” This is just like Charlottesville. He made a horrible statement, tried to back off, but couldn’t even bring himself to back off. It shows, Mr. President, the weakness of this president. It shows the weakness of President Trump that he is afraid to confront Mr. Putin directly and like a coward tries to squeal away from it when he’s several thousand miles away. What is President Putin going to take out of the president’s actions today? That the man is weak, that he’s afraid, that he’s cowardly, and that Putin will feel that he can take even further advantage of President Trump.

The president is now asking the American people not to believe their own eyes and ears about what he told the world in Helsinki yesterday. Even in his completely implausible effort to “correct” his words, he departed from his text again to claim that the hacking could have been done by someone other than Russia.

If the president can’t say directly to President Putin that ‘Mr. Putin you are wrong and we are right, and our intelligence agencies are right’, it’s ineffective and worse, it shows so much weakness.  It tells President Putin ‘continue to take advantage of the United States’ because President Trump doesn’t have the courage, the strength, maybe not even the conviction to say to Putin’s face what he tried to say a few minutes ago.

The president’s comments a moment ago change very little.

The question remains: what will the Senate do in response? I’ve seen a few of my Republican colleagues shrug their shoulders claiming they’ve done all they can. That’s bunk. As senators, we have a responsibility and an ability, an incredible power given to us by the Founding Fathers to check and balance this President.

As I said this morning, here’s a few things the Senate can do immediately in response to the president’s disastrous summit:

We can ratchet up sanctions on Russia, not water them down. The sanctions we passed 98-2 have not even been fully implemented by the Trump administration and now someone has inserted a loophole to water them down in the House defense legislation.

Second, our Republican colleagues need to immediately join us in demanding public testimony from the president’s national security team that was in Helsinki. Secretary Pompeo, DNI Director Coats, Ambassador Huntsman, and anybody else who was part of that team ought to be testifying openly, publically, and directly to the Congress. We need to know this because as frightening and damaging as the president’s comments were to the public in Helsinki, what he said behind closed doors is in all likelihood even worse. Why the president wanted to close the doors – there are lots of explanations, none of them good.

Does anyone believe that President Trump was tougher on Putin in secret? Why else did he not want anyone in the room?

Next, where are the notes from that meeting? What did President [Trump] agree to? Can we have the translator come in and testify? Was Secretary of State Pompeo briefed afterward on what happened? Did he take notes? Were any other members of the president’s team?

The notes need to be turned over to Congress immediately.

So, I’m calling on Leader McConnell and his leadership team to immediately request a hearing with Pompeo, Coats, Huntsman, and the rest of the president’s national security team from Helsinki, and from the translator, so we can learn the full extent of what happened behind closed doors because our national security is at risk. It’s an unusual request for unusual times.

Next, our Republican friends must end attacks on the Department of Justice, the FBI, and particularly the special counsel, and let the investigation proceed unimpeded. The best way to do this, pass the legislation authored by the bipartisan group led by Senators Booker and Coons on our side and Senators Tillis and Graham on the Republican side that passed out of the Judiciary Committee. Leader McConnell, if you’re serious about checks and balances, if you’re serious about making sure that President Trump obeys the law and protects our security, put that bill on the floor now. It’ll pass. 

Fourth, the president must release his tax returns and insist that the 12 Russians indicted for election interference are handed over. The president has refused to release his tax returns but these bizarre actions that he has taken which seem so to indicate that President Putin has something over President Trump, something personal, and it might be financial. We need to see the tax returns.

Finally, we must move the election security legislation immediately. Senator Klobuchar has legislation, bipartisan. Senator Van Hollen has legislation, bipartisan. Senator Harris has legislation. We need to move it. Leader McConnell talked about it a little bit. Let’s move it quickly, but remember the president still has control because the DNI, the Director of National Intelligence, has the ability to put out this report and he is, after all, a presidential appointee. I have some faith in the integrity of Mr. Coats, but he may not even be there after November, particularly given the way President Trump treats his appointees. And so that legislation is good, necessary, but hardly sufficient. I hope our Senate will move. I hope our Republican colleagues will not just talk the talk but walk the walk. Tisk-tisk is not enough when national security is at stake. Action, bipartisan action is required.