Schumer Floor Remarks Calling For A Fair & Honest Impeachment Trial Including Key Witnesses & DocumentsJanuary 7, 2020
Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling for a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial with key witnesses and documents. He also stressed that Senate Democrats will force votes on the appearance of witnesses. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
This morning I return to the most pressing question facing my colleagues at this moment: will the Senate conduct a fair impeachment trial of the President of the United States of America?
The framers suspected that any impeachment would ignite the passions of the public, and naturally would create partisans who were either sympathetic or inimical to the president’s interests. But that’s why the framers gave the Senate the responsibility to try impeachment cases. When it came to a matter as serious as the potential removal of a president, they believed the Senate was the only body of government with enough independence to rise above partisan considerations and act with the necessary impartiality.
Will we live up to that vision?
Right now, the Republican leader and I have very different ideas about what it means to conduct a fair trial. Democrats believe a fair trial considers all the relevant facts and allows for witnesses and documents. We don’t know what that evidence will say. It may exculpate the president; it may further incriminate him. We only want a trial that examines all the facts and lets the chips fall where they may.
The Republican Leader, in contrast, apparently believes that a trial should feature no witnesses, no relevant documents, and proceed according to the desires of the White House, the defendant. The Republican leader seems more concerned with being able to claim he went through the constitutional motions than actually carrying out our constitutional duty.
Because the Republican leader has been completely unwilling to help get the facts for a Senate trial, the question will have to be decided by a majority of Senators in this chamber. That means four Republican Senators, at any point, can compel the Senate to call the fact witnesses and subpoena the relevant documents that we know will shed additional light on the truth.
Now, I’ve heard several arguments from the other side about why we shouldn’t vote on witnesses and documents at the outset of the trial. The Republican leader and several Republican Senators have suggested that each side complete their arguments, and then we decide on witnesses.
This idea is as backward as it sounds. Trials should be informed by witnesses and documents; they are not an afterthought. Senator McConnell’s reasoning has an Alice-in-Wonderland logic to it. Let’s have each side make their case, he says, and then vote on whether the prosecutors and defense should have all of the available evidence to make those cases.
We know what’s going on here. Our Republican colleagues, even Leader McConnell, know that the American people want witnesses and documents. Over 60% of Republicans do. So they’re afraid to say no, but they don’t want to vote on them because that might offend the defendant in this trial—President Trump—so they’re trying to kick the can down the road.
It is a strange position for my Republican colleagues to take. They’re willing to kick the can down the road, as I said, on the question of witnesses and documents, but they’re not willing to say when or if they will ever support them. Just yesterday, one of the four witnesses we’ve requested, National Security Advisor Bolton, said he is ready to testify and has new information to share related to the case at hand. Republicans were dodging and twisting themselves into pretzels trying to explain why someone with direct knowledge of what the president did shouldn’t testify under oath immediately.
I believe that illustrates the fundamental weakness of the Republican position. None of our Republican colleagues can advance an argument about why this evidence shouldn’t be part of a trial from the beginning. To put it another way, none of our Republican colleagues have advanced an argument about why it would make sense for the Senate to wait until the end of the trial to obtain all the evidence.
Make no mistake: on the question of witnesses and documents, Republicans may run, but they can’t hide. There will be votes at the beginning on whether to call the four witnesses we’ve proposed and subpoena the documents we’ve identified. America, and the eyes of history, will be watching what my Republican colleagues do.
Another argument I’ve heard from the other side is that it is not the Senate’s job to go outside of the record established by the House impeachment probe. I’d reply: it very much is the Senate’s job. The Constitution gives the Senate the sole power to try impeachment cases. Not review impeachment cases. Not go over impeachment cases—the sole power to try them.
It is not the Senate’s job to put the House impeachment proceedings on a weekslong re-run on C-SPAN. Our job is to try the case, to hold a real and fair and honest trial. That means examining the arguments. That means letting the prosecutors request witnesses and documents to make their case.
And this is not just my view. It has been the view of every Senate facing an impeachment trial in our history. Every single impeachment trial of a president has featured witnesses. Andrew Johnson’s impeachment trial had forty-one witnesses. Several of my Republican colleagues here today voted for witnesses in the Clinton trial. Except for one solitary case, every impeachment trial of any official, in the history of the Senate, and there have been a bunch, had witnesses.
A trial isn’t a trial without evidence. A trial without all the facts is a farce. If the president is ultimately acquitted at the end of a sham trial, his acquittal will be meaningless.
That’s why the president himself should demand a full and fair trial. President Trump, if you have nothing to hide, if you think the case is flimsy as you say, call your Chief of Staff, tell him to release the documents. Call Leader McConnell and tell him what you already told the country, that you would love for your aides to testify in a Senate trial. President Trump, if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to be afraid of from witnesses and documents. And, contrarily, if you’re afraid of witnesses and documents, most Americans will believe you’ve got something to hide, that you fear you have done something very very wrong
If my Republican colleagues believe the president has done nothing wrong, they should have nothing to fear from these witnesses and documents. In fact, they should welcome them. What better way to prove to the American people that we are treating this matter with the gravity it requires? What better way to prove to their constituents that they are not just doing the president’s bidding, and not just making this a sham trial because of obeisance to the President of the United States?
Because if every Senate Republican votes to prevent witnesses and documents from coming before the Senate, if every Republican Senator votes for a rigged trial that hides the truth, the American people will see that the Republican Senate is part of a large and awful cover-up.