Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke today on the Senate floor regarding the transmission of the articles of impeachment to the Senate and the swearing in of Senators as a court of impeachment. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
This is a serious, solemn, and historic day. The events that will take place this afternoon have happened only twice before in our grand nation’s two-hundred-and-fifty year history. The chief justice will swear in every U.S. Senator to participate as a court of impeachment in a trial of the president of the United States.
Yesterday, the Senate received notice that the House of Representatives has two articles of impeachment to present. The House managers will exhibit those two articles today at noon.
The first article charges the president with abuse of power: coercing a foreign leader into interfering in our elections, thereby using the powers of the presidency, the most powerful public office in the nation, to benefit himself rather than the public interest. The second charges the president with obstruction of Congress for an unprecedented blockade of the legislature’s ability to investigate those very matters.
Let me talk about each one. The first is so serious. Some of our Republican colleagues have said, some of the president’s own men have said: ‘yeah, he did it, but it doesn’t matter. It's not impeachable.’ Some of them even failed to say—many of my Republican colleagues amazingly fail to say—it’s wrong.
Let me ask the American people: do we want foreign leaders helping determine who is our president, our senators, our congressmen, our governors, our legislators? That’s what President Trump's argument will be. That it's okay to do that. That there is nothing wrong with it. That it is perfect.
Hardly anything is more serious than powers outside the borders of the United States determining, influencing elections inside the United States. And it's bad enough to do it, but even worse to blackmail a country of aid that was legally allocated to get them to do it. It is low. It is not what America has been all about.
The second charge as well: the president says he wants the truth, but he blocks every attempt to get the facts. All the witnesses that we're asking for, he could have allowed them to testify in the House. They wanted them. The president is blocking them.
And again, the American people—just about all of them—are asking the question: what is the president hiding? What is he afraid of? If he did nothing wrong, why didn't he let the witnesses, the documents come forward in the House of Representatives?
Put another way: the House of Representatives has accused the president of trying to shake down a foreign leader for personal gain—deliberately soliciting foreign interference in our elections, something the founding fathers greatly feared—and doing everything he could to cover it up. The gravity of these charges is self-evident to anyone who is not self-interested. If proved, they are not petty crimes or politics-as-usual but a deep, wounding injury to democracy itself; precisely the conduct most feared by the founders of our Constitution.
So we, as Senators, Democrats and Republicans, must rise to the occasion, realizing the seriousness of the charges and the solemnity of an impeachment proceeding. The beginning of the impeachment trial today will be largely ceremonial, but soon our duty will become constitutional. That constitutional duty is to conduct a fair trial and then, as our oaths this afternoon command, senators must “do impartial justice.” Senators must “do impartial justice.” The weight of that oath will fall on our shoulders. Our ability to honor it will be preserved in history.
Now, yesterday evening, I was gratified to hear the Republican Leader, at least in part of his speech, ask the Senate to rise to the occasion. I was glad to hear him say so. For somebody who has been partisan, deeply, strongly and almost unrelentingly partisan for two months, he said something that could bring us together: the Senate should rise to the occasion. But far more important than saying it is doing it. What does doing it mean?
The best way for the Senate to rise to the occasion would be to retire partisan considerations, and to have everyone agree on the parameters of a fair trial. The best way for the Senate to rise to the occasion would be for Democrats and Republicans to agree on relevant witnesses and relevant documents—not run the trial with the votes of a slim majority, not jam procedures through, not define “rising to the occasion” as “doing things my way”—which is what the majority leader has done thus far—but rather a real and honest and bipartisan agreement on a point we all know must be confronted. That we must have witnesses and documents in order to have a fair trial.
A trial without witnesses is not a trial. A trial without documents is not a trial. That is why every completed impeachment trial in our nation’s history—every single one that has gone to completion—fifteen, have all included witnesses. The majority leader claims to believe in precedent, that is the precedent—witnesses. There is no deviation. Let us hope we don't have one this time.
Over the centuries, Senators have stood where we stand today, confronted with the awesome responsibility of judging the removal of a president. They rightly concluded they were obligated to seek the truth. They were under a solemn obligation to hear the facts before rendering a final judgment.
The leader, incorrectly in my judgment, but the leader complained that the House was focused on short-termism and a rush. The leader is trying to do the exact same thing in the Senate. The very things he condemns the House Democrats for, he seems bent on doing. Short-termism. Are we going to have a full trial? Are we going to allow the time for witnesses and documents? Or is the leader going to try to rush it through? At the very same time—out of the other side of his mouth—he condemns the House, incorrectly in my judgement, for doing it.
And another thing about the importance of the witnesses and documents: the leader has still not given a good argument about why we shouldn’t have witness’s documents. He complains about processes and pens and signing ceremonies, but still does not address the charges against the president and why we shouldn't have witnesses and documents.
We’re waiting. Rise to the occasion. Remember the history. That is what the leader said he would do last night and I was glad to hear it. But he must act. Not talk about rising to the occasion and then doing the very same things he condemns the House for.
If any of my colleagues had doubts about the case for witnesses and documents in a Senate trial, the stunning revelations this week should put those to rest. We have new information about a plot by the president’s attorney and his associates to oust an American ambassador and, potentially with the “knowledge and consent” of the president, pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to announce an investigation of one of the president’s political rivals. The effort to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch by Mr. Lev Parnas and Mr. Guiliani is now the subject of an official probe by the government of Ukraine.
My friends, this information is not extraneous; it’s central to the charges against the president. We have a responsibility to call the witnesses and subpoena documents that will shed light on the truth here. God forbid we rush through this trial, and only afterward, the truth comes out.
How will my colleagues on the other side of the aisle feel if they rushed it through and then even more evidence comes out? We've seen lots come out. There's barely been a week where significant new evidence, further making the House case, hasn't come out, as strong as the House case was to begin with.
Here's what Alexander Hamilton warned of in Federalist 65. He said, “The greatest danger is that the decision [in an impeachment trial] will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties than by the real demonstration of innocence or guilt.”
Alexander Hamilton, even before political parties were as strong as they are today, wanted us to come together. The leader wants to do things on his own without any democratic input. But, fortunately, we have the right to demand votes and to work hard as we can for a fair trial, a full trial, a trial with witnesses, a trial with documents.
The Founders anticipated that impeachment trials would always be buffeted by the winds of politics, but they gave the power to the Senate anyway, because they believed that the chamber was the only place where “impartial justice” of the president could truly be sought.
In the coming days, these eventful and important coming days, each of us will face a choice about whether to begin this trial in search of the truth, or in service of the president’s desire to cover-up and rush things through.
The Senate can either rise to the occasion or demonstrate that the faith of our founders was misplaced in what they consider a grand institution. As each of us swear an oath this afternoon, let every Senator, every Senator reflect on these questions.