Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor calling on Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Graham and DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz to investigate potential improper political interference regarding the reduced sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
In voting to acquit President Trump of an abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, Senate Republicans sought to justify their vote by claiming that the president had learned his “lesson.” The implication was that the ordeal of impeachment and its permanent stain on his reputation that can never be erased would chasten President Trump’s future behavior, a toddler scolded into compliance.
The explanation, frankly, looked like an excuse. It was unconvincing the moment it was uttered. No serious person believes President Trump has learned any lesson. He doesn’t learn any lessons. He does just what he wants, what suits his ego at the moment. Observers of the president would question whether he is even capable of learning a lesson. And unsurprisingly, the flimsy rationalization by some Senate Republicans—desperate to have an excuse because they were so afraid of doing the right thing—was disproven within a matter of days.
President Trump was acquitted by Senate Republicans last Wednesday. On Friday, he began dismissing members of his administration who testified in the impeachment inquiry, including the patriot Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a clear and obvious act of retaliation—very simply, that’s all it was—against witnesses who told the truth under oath. President Trump hates the truth, time and time again, because he knows he lies. And when other people tell the truth, he hates it. So, he fired them.
The president even fired the brother of Lieutenant Colonel Vindman for the crime of being related to someone the president wanted out. How vindictive, how petty, how nasty. And there are rumors now that the president may dismiss the inspector general of the intelligence community, the official who received the whistleblower report. These are patriots, all. President Trump can’t stand patriots because they stand for country, not what he wants.
Yesterday, once again and typically, the White House reportedly decided to withdraw the nomination of Elaine McCusker, who was in line to serve as the Pentagon comptroller and chief financial officer.
Why did he dismiss her, a long-time serving, very capable woman? Because over the summer, Ms. McCusker advised—merely advised—members of the administration about the legal ramifications of denying assistance to Ukraine. Her crime, in the eyes of President Trump and his so many acolytes, henchmen in the administration, was attempting to follow the law. How dare she try to follow the law? How dare she even voice ‘this is what the law is’ in this kind of administration?
And of course, yesterday, after career prosecutors recommended that Roger Stone be sentenced to seven to nine years in federal prison for witness tampering and lying, abjectly, to Congress, the president tweeted that his former confidant was being treated extremely unfairly. It appears the Attorney General of the United States and other political appointees at the Justice Department intervened to countermand the sentencing recommendation. As a result, the four career prosecutors working on the Roger Stone case withdrew from the case or resigned from the Justice Department.
Asked about the clear impropriety of intervening in a federal case, the president said he has an “absolute right” to order the Justice Department to do whatever he wants. This morning, the president congratulated the Attorney General, amazingly enough, for “taking charge” of the case.
The president ran against the “swamp” in Washington—a place where the game is rigged by the powerful to benefit them personally. I ask my fellow Americans: what is more swampy, what is more fetid, what is more stinking, than the most powerful person in our country literally changing the rules to benefit a crony guilty of breaking the law?
As a result, I have formally requested that the inspector general of the Justice Department investigate this matter immediately. And this morning, I call on Judiciary Committee Chairman Graham to convene an emergency hearing of the Judiciary Committee to do the same—to conduct oversight and hold hearings. That’s the job of the Judiciary Committee, no matter who is president, whether the president is from your party or not. Something egregious like this demands that the inspector general investigate and demands that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee hold a hearing, now.
The president is claiming that rigging the rules is perfectly legitimate—he claims an “absolute right” to order the Justice Department to do anything he wants! And the president has as his Attorney General an enabler—and that’s a kind word—who actually supports this view.
Does anyone think it’s out of the question that President Trump might order the FBI to investigate Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, or anyone else, without any evidence to support such an arbitrary violation of individual rights? Some far-right conspiratorial writer, who has no credibility and just makes things up, writes it, Fox News puts it on, Sean Hannity or someone talks about it...and then the president says, “Investigate!”
That is third-world behavior, not American behavior. That kind of behavior defiles that great flag that is standing above us. This is not ordinary stuff. I’ve never seen it before with any president—Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative.
Does any serious person believe the president’s abuse would be limited to the Justice Department? Is it out of the question that he might order the IRS to audit the taxes of any citizen? Or instruct State and Commerce to help his family members obtain trademarks from foreign governments? Does any serious person think that Trump might not order the Justice Department to treat his friends, associates, and family members differently than it treats ordinary citizens? And that Attorney General Barr would just carry out these orders?
Of course, none of that is out of the question! The president asserted his “absolute right” to do what he wants yesterday.
We are witnessing is a crisis in the rule of law in America—unlike one we have ever seen before. It is a crisis of President Trump’s making. But it was enabled and emboldened by every Senate Republican who was too afraid to stand up to him and say the simple word “no,” when the vast majority of them knew that that was the right thing to do.
Republicans thought the president would learn his lesson. It turned out that the lesson he learned was not that he went too far—not that he needed to rein it in. The lesson the president learned was that the Republican Party will not hold him accountable no matter how egregious his behavior. Not now, not ever.
Senate Republicans voted to excuse President Trump’s abuses of power. They voted to abdicate the constitutional authority of Congress to check an overreaching executive. Senate Republicans now own this crisis, and they are responsible for every new abuse of power President Trump commits.
John Adams famously described our grand republic that he helped create as “a government of laws, not of men.” The foremost concern of our Founding Fathers, of course, was to escape the tyranny of a “government of men”—more specifically, a King. That’s why the Founders created a republic in America. That’s why the patriots died for the freedom we are now blessed with.
And yet, after almost two-and-one-half centuries of experience in self-government as a republic, we are once again faced with the very serious and looming question: Do we want a government of laws or of men? Do we want to be governed by the laws of the United States, or by the whims of one man?
I don’t think my Republican colleagues fully appreciated what they were unleashing when they voted in the impeachment trial to excuse the president’s conduct. Although, maybe they did. They were just afraid, fearful, shaking in their boots, because President Trump might take his vengeance out on them as he did on Senators Flake and Corker. They voted to acquit the president after he used his immense power to pressure a foreign leader to announce an investigation to smear a rival.
What we have seen in the hours and days since that fateful acquittal vote last Wednesday is so disturbing. In a parade of horribles, this is the one of the most horrible things President Trump has done. In a parade of horribles, this is one of the most feeble, servile actions of Republicans—just no one saying a peep about it. We are seeing the behavior of a man who has contempt for the rule of law beginning to try out the new, unrestrained power conferred on him by 52 Republican Senators—one brave one.
Left to his own devices, President Trump would turn America into a banana republic, where the dictator can do whatever he wants and the Justice Department is the president’s law firm—not a defender of the rule of law.
It is a sad day in America, a sad day. The Founders created something brand new, a republic, because they were afraid of monarchy. Senate Republicans, aiding and abetting President Trump to get much closer to that monarchy than we have been in a long time. Senate Republicans have created something very close to a monarchy. If they can keep it.