Schumer Floor Remarks In Advance Of Senate Republicans Blocking A Resolution That Calls For An End To The Laundering Of Russian Disinformation Through The Congress

September 16, 2020

Washington, D.C.— Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today took to the Senate floor, along with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), to introduce a resolution that calls for an end to the laundering of Russian disinformation through the Congress as Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) today moved forward with an admittedly partisan probe targeting the family of Vice President Joe Biden. Senator Johnson blocked the motion. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Well, this morning, the Republican majority on the Homeland Security Committee authorized another smattering of subpoenas, in what seems to be part of an ongoing effort to disparage the former Vice President and his family.

While the rest of the country was busy fighting COVID, this is what the Republican majority on the Homeland Security Committee has been up to—using the powers of the Senate to, in effect, conduct opposition research for President Trump’s campaign.

The Republican chairman has said he plans to release the report about it next week—next week—merely a month away from Election Day.

There is a dark similarity here to the Republican effort in the House in the previous election to discredit the Democratic presidential candidate with the Select Committee on Benghazi.

You may remember the now-Minority Leader of the House Republican Caucus bragging that Republicans created the committee to bring down Secretary Clinton’s poll numbers.

You know what they say about a political gaffe: it’s when politicians tell the truth.

Well, it seems like the Republican Homeland Security Committee has made the same gaffe that Minority Leader McCarthy made in 2016. In a little noticed interview with a Wisconsin radio station last month, Senator Johnson said that his probe would “help Donald Trump win re-election.”

And yet somehow, the current activities of the Republican majority on the Homeland Security Committee are even worse than what House Republicans did in 2016…because in the rush to find scraps of information for these investigations, Senate Republicans may have collected and propagated disinformation that came from Putin’s intelligence agents.

Some of the allegations that the Homeland Security Chairman is now pursuing are the same ones pushed by Andriy Derkach, a known Russian agent who was sanctioned by President Trump’s own Treasury Department for interfering in our elections.

Powerful Senate Republicans are echoing the same claims that the Russians are pushing; the same nonsense that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections—not just Putin.

We’ve all become so inured to scandal during this scandalous administration. But the fact that a powerful Senate Committee may have fallen victim to misinformation from Moscow is appalling.

So this afternoon, my colleagues and I have drafted a simple resolution. It calls for the cessation of any Senate investigation or activity that allows Congress—the United States Congress—to act as a conduit for Russian disinformation.

I cannot fathom how any member of this chamber could justify blocking such a resolution. There must not be a single aspect of this chamber that—wittingly or unwittingly—furthers the propaganda machine of Vladimir Putin.

Now, I know what my friend from Wisconsin might say. He’ll deny receiving information from the particular Russian agent I’ve mentioned, Mr. Derkach. But Chairman Johnson has never provided a full accounting of the all the Russian and Ukrainian-linked individuals he’s sought information from.

One of the Chairman’s subpoenas, for example, targeted a Ukrainian national who is an associate of Mr. Derkach. So, anticipating his objection to this resolution, I’d simply ask the Chairman to provide a full accounting of who he’s sought information from, so we can know who they are, what their motives are, and therefore the Senate can see if they are trying to interfere with our elections.

The Chairman should have no issue furnishing a complete accounting of his contacts with Russian and Ukrainian sources.

And The American people ought to know whether or not the United States Senate has been sullied by potentially receiving information from discredited Russian agents.

And the American people should expect that the Senate passes this resolution today.

What were our Founding Fathers most worried about? One of the top things was foreign interference in our elections. Back then, their concerns were about bribery or treason or a foreign actor who infiltrated our government. Today—in our information age—the methods of foreign interference are different but the risks are the same. Our chief adversaries—Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea—have found that disinformation and misinformation are a weak point in open societies like ours.

That makes it incumbent on us—all of us here in the Congress—to be careful about the information we receive and repeat. But in the zeal for partisan advantage, we hope the Republican majority on the Homeland Security Committee has not become a sympathetic audience, and a potential entrance point, to foreign influence campaigns, wittingly or unwittingly.

What a disastrous and disgraceful state of affairs. The Senate should pass this resolution today. I yield the floor to my colleague from Oregon.