Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today spoke at a press conference addressing Leader McConnell’s legislative graveyard and his failure to address the gun violence epidemic. He also outlined his proposed structure for a fair and honest bipartisan impeachment trial in the Senate. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
Good afternoon everyone. Now the main purpose today is to follow-up on the letter I’ve sent to Leader McConnell about the potential Senate impeachment trial and rules for them.
But let’s not forget that there are many other things the Senate should be working on right now.
This month we recognized the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. In the seven years since that unthinkable tragedy, America has experienced countless incidents of gun violence ranging from horrific mass shootings to the thousands of shootings that devastate communities every day. The Senate has not even debated background check legislation. The Senate hasn’t debated legislation to reduce the cost of health care, college education, or prescription drugs. Republican Leadership has even refused to work with Democrats on bipartisan solutions to secure our elections and deter foreign adversaries from interfering in our elections.
All the productive activity, in the Congress, is coming out of the House. The Senate remains a legislative graveyard for so many different issues.
Now, on impeachment. As you know, the House is expected to vote on the articles of impeachment this week. Assuming the articles are adopted by the House, the Senate will serve as a court of impeachment.
Conducting an impeachment trial in the Senate is an enormously weighty and solemn responsibility. It’s one of the most important things that the founding fathers arrogated to the Senate.
Senate Democrats believe strongly that the trial must be fair, and it’s very important that the American people judge it to be fair. A fair trial is one in which the Senators get all of the facts and one that allows them adjudicate the case impartially.
Two weeks ago now, I told Leader McConnell I was ready to discuss trial rules. Instead of talking to me, he spoke publicly about what a trial may look like and said he was taking his cues from the White House. It was very partisan, very slanted, very unfair.
So to get things back on track, I sent a letter to Leader McConnell last night outlining a very reasonable structure that would result in a fair trial. This morning, I sent the letter to every United States Senator—Democrat and Republican. I hope that all of my colleagues will look at this proposed structure and make up their own minds.
The four witnesses we propose have direct knowledge of why the aid to Ukraine was delayed. We don’t know what kind of evidence they will present; they might present exculpatory evidence that helps President Trump; it may incriminating against the president. But they should be heard. But, by virtue of the senior Administration positions they occupy, each of them will have information to share about the charges made by the House—information that no one has heard at this point. In fact, in the case of Mr. Bolton, his attorney has stated publicly that he has additional relevant information to share—information that has not yet become public.
How, on such a weighty matter, could we avoid hearing this? Could we go forward without hearing it? And that is why I sent the letter, in part, to Leader McConnell.
We also propose that subpoenas for documents that are directly related to the charges brought by the House come forward. There is always a lot of attention on the question of witnesses, but these documents are also of great importance when it comes to making sure Senators have what they need to make a fully-informed decision.
Right now, I think the House has amassed a great deal of evidence—much of it in the form of testimony from the president’s own appointees – that the president committed impeachable offenses. But, a good number of my Republican colleagues have said they believe the charges are serious, but there isn’t enough evidence yet for them to make a decision. We believe these witnesses and documents would provide the evidence they’re looking for without being dilatory or letting the trial drag on for too long. I haven’t seen a single good argument about why these witnesses shouldn’t testify or these documents be produced, unless the president has something to hide and his supporters want that information hidden.
The trial structure I outlined in my letter to Leader McConnell will ensure that all the relevant facts come out without dilatory action. You know, there is a grand American tradition of a “speedy and fair trial”: that’s just what we’ve proposed here. And I expect Republicans would be sympathetic to our proposal for that reason. The president and House Republicans have resisted letting all the evidence and facts come out. The president hasn’t offered a single exculpatory bit of evidence that refutes what’s in the House impeachment charges. They’ve not refuted them!
Our document could be summed up by Joe Friday on Dragnet: “just the facts, ma’am.” That’s what we’re interested in. Not diversions. Not conspiracy theories that are irrelevant to the case: just the facts, ma’am.
As I said, the president has offered nothing exculpatory to disprove the evidence that has been put forward. Instead, he’s orchestrated a cover-up. It’s left many in the Senate and millions across the country asking: what is the president hiding? Why doesn’t he want the facts to come out?
In their investigation, the House compiled and presented an enormous amount of evidence in support of the articles of impeachment. But, as I said, some of my Republican colleagues are saying there isn’t enough evidence. The trial structure I outlined in my letter to Leader McConnell will ensure all the facts come out.
So, in the coming weeks, Senators—particularly Republicans Senators—will have a choice: Do they want a fair, honest trial that examines all the facts? Or do they want a trial that doesn’t let the facts come out?
Trials have witnesses! That’s what trials are all about, and documents. It’s not just the prosecutors. In this case the House attorneys make their side [of the case]; the president’s lawyers make their side [of the case]. We know that already! We’ve heard that! We need to know the facts, from those who are in a position to know and from documents that accurately reflect them.
So, to engage a trial without the facts coming out, is to engage in a cover-up.
To conduct a trial without the facts is saying: “we’re afraid. We have something to hide.”
To conduct a trial without relevant witnesses who haven’t been heard from—to just rehash the evidence presented in the House—just doesn’t make any sense.
If Leader McConnell doesn’t hold a full and fair trial, the American people will rightly ask: what are you, Leader McConnell and what is President Trump hiding?