Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today appeared on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes and rebuked Senate Republicans for blocking a resolution that would condemn President Trump’s unconstitutional attack on peaceful protestors. Below is a transcript of the interview:
Chris Hayes: Here with me now, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democratic Leader in the Senate, who has been critical of the use of force against peaceful protesters. What do you make of what happened last night and the reporting we had in the last 24 hours indicating that it was William Barr who ordered it? New reporting tonight from the Daily Beast indicating the president himself, not the Department of Defense, is responsible for those military vehicles that are driving through the streets of our nation's capital right now.
Sen. Schumer: You know, it seems like it would be the president. You know, he's a fundamentally very weak man, who tries to show he's strong in ways that prove just how weak he is. There's a report that he didn't like being taken down to the basement of the White House, so he had to show how strong he was. Well, to show you're strong by ordering rubber bullets and tear gas on families, including children, who are peacefully assembling their right to protest, who want to change America and make it for the better. Thank God they do. And then to do what he did and then have helicopters overhead, to have the head of the Joint Chiefs strutting around in military fatigues – that seems just like a dictatorship.
And you pointed it out, Chris. What is even just as appalling is how our Republican friends enable him. We had a simple resolution on the floor of the Senate tonight that we thought everyone would go along with.
It only had three points. One, we applaud the right for a peaceful protest as a means to changing America. Two, we abhor violence. And three, we condemn the president for what he did. In my opinion, it is certainly unconstitutional, violating rights of free speech. It's probably illegal. And Mitch McConnell came to the floor and blocked it. Why, why, why?
Even in this most extreme instance, where just about anyone regardless of their ideological blinders, can see what an awful act this is. How this is so unlike our democracy. How that the president, in a time when America is crying for unity and bringing together, seems to take delight in ripping us apart further. And our Republican friends can't make a peep about it?
We addressed this motion very simply. We didn't put any rhetoric in. We just stated the facts, just the facts – and they opposed it. You know, when Richard Nixon broke the law, Republicans spoke out. Donald Trump certainly did something unconstitutional. It may well have been illegal, as well. And we don't hear a peep out of them. They are just not doing their job in a democracy and they are enabling Trump to make things worse and worse and worse.
We all know he has dictatorial, authoritarian instincts. The best check upon him would frankly be the whole Republican Senate caucus saying, don't do it, you did the wrong thing. They're afraid. They’re afraid of Donald Trump and that leads to Donald Trump getting worse and worse and worse. It's appalling.
Chris Hayes: James M. Miller, who was on the Defense Science board—one of various advisory boards that advise the Pentagon. There are many of these. He was appointed to that position. He used to serve as undersecretary. He resigned tonight. I want to read you a little bit of his resignation, which was addressed to the Chief of the Pentagon, Mark Esper, who someone had infamously described “the desire to dominate the battlespace in the American cities.”
“President Trump's actions Monday night violated his oath to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’” as well as the First Amendment “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” You may not have been able to stop president trump from directing this appalling use of force, but you could have chosen to oppose it. Instead, you visibly supported it. Anyone who takes the oath of office must decide where he or she will draw the line: What are the things that they will refuse to do? Secretary Esper, you have served honorably for many years, in active and reserve military duty…You must have thought long and hard about where that line should be drawn. I must ask now: If last night's blatant violations do not cross the line for you, what will?”
That question seems to hang over the whole government.
Sen. Schumer: Yeah. Our military, I mean, when you talk to them privately—many of them—they know that this man has autocratic instincts. They know what he's doing. They should tell him, No, we're not doing it. And let me tell you something. To have the head of the Joint Chiefs, to have what happened, hurts the military itself in the eyes of America. Because they've always tried in the past to stay assiduously nonpolitical, non-Democrat, non-Republican, not to be used by a president for a photo opportunity, clear the ground so he can do a photo-op, hold the bible upside down, not go into the church, doesn't even say if it's his bible. It's appalling.
On the one hand, it's childish. But on the other hand, it's destructive of our democracy. Here and the way the rest of the world looks at us. Donald Trump just does more damage to this country every single day. Every single day. And the question you asked at the beginning of the show, When, oh when, are the people around him going to say “No, enough?”
Chris Hayes: I don't think that's forthcoming, Senator. Do you?
Sen. Schumer: Well, no, that's why we have to fight. And we have to do a lot of things here. We need strong action to deal with police reform and racial justice. I've put Kamala Harris and Cory Booker in charge of coming up with a strong plan. And today, another thing we did, we asked Mitch McConnell: promise that in June, you'll put this strong piece of legislation on the floor so we get action. So we get real action.
I think the House will do something. We're working in concert, as is Cory and Kamala, with the Black Caucus, and we're going to keep pushing and pushing. And I hope your listeners will. I hope your listeners will call every Republican Senator and say, especially if they live in states that have Republican Senators, how can you tolerate this? You're not doing your job. You deserve to be kicked out.
Chris Hayes: Senator Chuck Schumer of the State of New York, and a resident of my current home borough Brooklyn. Thank you very much, Senator. I appreciate it.
Sen. Schumer: Thanks.