Schumer Floor Remarks Calling For A Fair & Honest Bipartisan Impeachment Trial In Senate If Articles Are Approved By The House

December 17, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today on the Senate floor called on Leader McConnell to accept the structure he put forward for a fair and honest bipartisan impeachment trial in the Senate, should articles of impeachment pass the House, after Leader McConnell spoke on the floor regarding the Democratic proposal. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

I just listened to Leader McConnell’s lengthy response to my letter proposing the outlines of a fair impeachment trial in the Senate. Leader McConnell was apparently upset that I sent him the letter on Sunday, saying the first step was for the two leaders to meet, and then discuss a resolution.

Well, if we were allowed to show a video here on the Senate floor of the Republican leader’s appearance on Sean Hannity’s program last week, it would expose the fallacy of his argument. Leader McConnell, unfortunately, skipped his “first step” when he began publicly talking about the rules of a Senate trial, telling Hannity that he’d be taking cues from the White House and his idea for how to conduct a trial, long before any conversation—which he still hasn’t had—with me.

My letter was intended as a good faith proposal to kick-start the discussions that Leader McConnell has so far delayed in scheduling. I still expect that we’ll sit down and discuss trial parameters, despite his public appearances on Fox News.

But let me say this: I listened to the leader’s speech. I did not hear a single sentence—a single argument—as to why the witnesses I suggested should not give testimony. Impeachment trials, like most trials, have witnesses. To have none would be an aberration.

Why is the Republican leader, why is the president, so afraid of having these witnesses come testify? What are they afraid the witnesses would say? I’d like to hear Leader McConnell come to the floor and give specific reasons why the four witnesses we’ve asked for shouldn’t testify. I don’t know what they’ll say. They’re President Trump appointees; they might have something exculpatory to say about President Trump, or they might not. But they certainly are the four key people who saw exactly what was going on.

What is Leader McConnell afraid of? What is President Trump afraid of? The truth?

The American people want the truth, and that’s why we have asked for witnesses and documents, to get at the whole truth and nothing but.

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on articles of impeachment against the President of the United States. If these articles pass the House, the Constitution dictates that the Senate serve as a court of impeachment. Conducting an impeachment trial, M. President, is a tremendously weighty and solemn responsibility entrusted to us by our founders.

If such a trial is to happen, Democrats strongly believe that it must be fair and the American people must regard it as fair. A fair trial is one that allows Senators to get all the relevant facts and adjudicate the case impartially.

In the letter I sent to Leader McConnell, I proposed a very reasonable structure for a fair trial. I’ve sent that same letter to every one of my colleagues, Democrat and Republican.

There is a grand tradition in America: “speedy and fair trials.” We want both. The leader seems obsessed with “speedy” and wants to throw “fair” out the window. To simply repeat the arguments that were made in the House and Senate, when there are witnesses and documents that could shed light on what actually happened—why not have them? Let’s hear a single word of answer to that. We’ve heard none.

And, in fact, the American people want it as well. A poll today from Washington Post/ABC: 71% of American want to hear these witnesses, 64% of Republicans do. The American people are fair! They don’t want a cover up. They don’t want concealment. This is weighty stuff.

The House has put together a very, very strong case that the president abused his power and wanted to let a foreign power interfere in our elections. That goes to the heart of what our democracy is and what the founding fathers warned against. And now? To not allow witnesses to come forward who would be able to discuss what actually happened? If we don’t have them, the trial won’t be fair.

The four witnesses we propose have direct knowledge of why the aid to Ukraine was delayed, and of the administration’s requests for Ukraine to conduct two investigations for political reasons. They have direct knowledge of those facts. We don’t know, as I said, what kind of evidence they’ll present; it may be incriminating, it may be exculpatory; it may influence how senators vote, it may not. But they certainly ought to be heard.

By virtue of their senior positions in the White House, each witness we named was directly involved in the events that led to the charges made by the House.

We’ve also proposed subpoenaing certain records, including e-mails by certain key officials, that are directly related to the charges brought by the House. I believe these documents are also of great importance to making sure Senators have the information necessary to make a fully informed decision, this terribly weighty decision.

The House has built a very strong case against the president. Maybe that’s why Leader McConnell doesn’t seem to want witnesses, at least not agree to them now. Maybe that’s why the president is afraid, because the House case is so strong that they don’t want witnesses that might corroborate it.

The evidence the House put together includes public testimony given under oath by numerous senior officials appointed by President Trump. These are Trump appointees we’re calling, not some partisan Democrat. But some Republican Senators have said that while the charges are serious, they have not seen enough evidence to make a decision. That’s one of the reasons I’ve proposed subpoenas for these witnesses and documents—all directly relevant—from officials who have yet to testify under oath during any stage of the House process.

Senators who oppose this plan will have to explain why less evidence is better than more evidence. Again, let me say that to every Senator in this room, Democrat and Republican, Senators who oppose this plan will have to explain why less evidence is better than more evidence.

And they’re going to have to explain that position to a public that is understandably skeptical when they see an administration suppressing evidence and blocking senior officials from telling the truth about what they know.

Let me repeat this Washington/ABC Poll, I read about it in the paper this morning: 71% of Americans believe the president should allow his top aides to testify in a potential Senate trial; 72% of independents—and 64% of Republicans, 64% of Republican—think that President Trump should let his top aides testify in a potential Senate trial. Seven out of ten Americans.

The American people have a wisdom that seems to be lacking with some of my colleagues that a trial without witnesses is not a trial. It’s a rush to judgement. It’s a sham trial. The American people understand that a trial without relevant documents is not a fair trial. Again, a desire, not for sunlight, but for darkness to conceal facts that may well be very relevant. The American people understand if you are trying to conceal evidence and block testimony, it’s probably not because that evidence is going to help your case, it’s because you’re trying to cover something up.

President Trump, are you worried about what these witnesses would say? If you’re not worried, let them come forward and if you are worried, we ought to hear from them. The leader went on for fifteen, twenty minutes, the Republican leader, without giving single good argument for why these witnesses shouldn’t testify or these documents shouldn’t be produced—unless the president has something to hide.

In the coming weeks, every 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 all the facts come out? We will have votes during this proceeding, should the House send it to us after voting for it—when they send it to us, we will have votes on whether these people should testify and whether these documents should be made public and part of the trial. And the American people will be watching. They will be watching. Who is for an open and fair trial? Who is for hiding facts, relevant facts, immediate facts? Who is for covering up?

I expect to discuss this proposal for a fair trial with Leader McConnell, but each individual Senator will have both the power and the responsibility to help shape what an impeachment trial looks like.

In Federalist 65, Alexander Hamilton wondered: “where else than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified or sufficiently independent [to serve as a court of impeachment]. What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough to preserve, unawed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality?” My colleagues, Leader McConnell, are you, in Alexander Hamilton’s words, “unawed and uninfluenced” to produce the “necessary impartiality,” or will you participate in a cover up?

Can we live up to Hamilton’s fine words—with dignity, independence, confidence—to preserve the necessary impartiality to conduct a fair trial? That question should weigh heavily upon every single Senator.