Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor urging that if he wants to present evidence contrary to what the public has already heard from the House impeachment inquiry, President Trump should testify rather than hiding behind Twitter. Senator Schumer also urged Leader McConnell to end his legislative graveyard. In addition, Senator Schumer demanded that the Trump Administration stand up special interests to support the American people by bucking the NRA to pass universal background checks; supporting a ban on flavored e-cigarettes meant to appeal to children; and reversing his decision to risk our nation’s cybersecurity by extending temporary licenses to Huawei. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here.
Our Republican friends have spent the past several weeks accusing Democrats of being unable to work on serious issues to help the American people because the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is such a distraction.
The Republicans Leader has repeated this absurd claim on the Senate floor, and the president’s re-election campaign is now running ads saying Democrats refuse to work on infrastructure, or health care, or drug prices because of impeachment. These ads turn truth inside out. Simply put, these ads are a lie.
Senate Democrats put together a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan that would create 15 million jobs. Three years ago, we did that. Instead of working with us on that goal, President Trump walked out of the meeting with Speaker Pelosi and me on infrastructure. We haven’t heard a peep out of the administration since then, long before impeachment began.
We haven’t heard from the Republicans on what they want to do on health care. We haven’t heard from the president any proposal that he sent us on drug prices. So who’s holding things up? This has been a legislative graveyard, this Senate, for months and months and months and it just amazes me, the gall, the temerity that the president and our Republican friends have to say Democrats, because of impeachment, are not moving forward.
We have 218 bills that the House sent us. We haven’t had one discussion here on impeachment. It’s taken up no time. Leader McConnell, you want to get things done? Put one of those bills on the floor. Let us have debate. Republican Senators, go to Leader McConnell, tell them you want to do some stuff on the floor, you want to legislate. No, no, no, we hear silence—abject, shaky-knee silence—because our Republican friends, and I imagine the leader, are just afraid of President Trump and when he makes up these lies they just go right along. Many Republicans, even, have complained that Leader McConnell has turned the Senate into a legislative graveyard.
So the idea that the impeachment inquiry is preventing Congress from debating legislation on infrastructure or prescription drugs or health care or any other matter is completely absurd. Democrats are happy and eager to work on those issues. Senate Democrats are awaiting, with baited breath, for the Republican leader to put any of these bills on the floor, for any Republican to speak out and demand they go on the floor. The silence of our Republican colleagues indicates that they’re going along with this strategy as well.
So, we meet this week in the Senate, and the Majority Leader has once again scheduled no legislative business on the floor. None. We’re not debating impeachment. We’re not discussing impeachment. And for three weeks in a row not one legislative bill. That’s all the evidence one needs to know which party is blocking progress in the chamber, and the American people know it. When they’re asked what they think of the Republicans in the Senate and the Republicans in Congress, the remarks are very low and I imagine that’s because they’re getting nothing done.
Now, concerning the impeachment inquiry itself, the public hearings last week have brought up many troubling allegations, including the startling revelation that Ambassador Gordon Sondland told another State Department official that the President had made clear that he cares more about Ukraine investigating the Bidens than about helping Ukraine itself.
The revelation added to an already-substantial body of evidence that the president may, may, have abused powers of his public office for personal, political gain. I say “may” because we haven’t had the trial yet here in the Senate should the House vote on articles of impeachment.
But the president is now saying that all this stuff is false, that all these witnesses are not telling the truth. If the president believes that these witnesses are false, that the facts that are coming out of the Senate impeachment hearings are false, he should testify under oath in the House.
If he wishes to present evidence to the contrary, he should do it. Not by tweet, but by testimony under oath. I wholeheartedly agree with Speaker Pelosi’s invitation to President Trump yesterday to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. Not by tweeting or not by sending a note, but by coming forward, in person, under oath, and let’s see what the president rejects.
If President Trump doesn’t agree with what he’s heard in public hearings and he has evidence he’d like to present – he can come to the committee and testify and answer questions under oath. He should allow his advisors who are fact witnesses in these matters to testify under oath as well. The president shouldn’t spread falsehoods about the witnesses on Twitter; he should come to Congress and make his case. He should free up Secretary Pompeo and Chief of Staff Mulvaney and all the others who might have real knowledge, and let them testify.
The President and his allies in Congress criticized the testimony for being second-hand in nature, while at the same time blocking those individuals with first-hand knowledge from testifying. Let’s end that particular hypocrisy.
President Trump: come testify. Allow your advisors to testify. If you refuse to come before the committee after Speaker Pelosi’s invitation, and if you don’t let the people around you come before the committee: one question looms before the American people: what is President Trump hiding and why is he personally afraid to confront the facts?
Now before I yield the floor, I want to address a tragic pattern that has emerged in this Trump presidency, different than the previous one, but very troubling. Too often—It seems almost weekly—President Trump announces that he’s considering or even supporting a policy where there is some bipartisan agreement, and then backs off that position a few days, a few weeks, a few months later. When there’s an immediate issue, President Trump seems almost afraid not to go along with what the public wants. But because his integrity is so minimal, he must not really mean it, because he just reverses himself.
After the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton this summer, President Trump said he was considering very “strong background checks” as a response to the violence. Leader McConnell echoed him. He said a debate on gun violence would be “front and center” in the Senate in September. Now, three months later—after another high school shooting in Santa Clarita, California, another mass shooting at a neighborhood party in Fresno, another shooting at a Walmart in Oklahoma as recently as this morning—it has become painfully clear that President Trump and Leader McConnell have caved to the corrupt leadership of the NRA once again and will not move legislation to address gun violence. President Trump would rather protect his political interests than protect American lives.
Gun violence is not the only issue where President Trump has promised bold action only to back off, and we’ve heard a new one this morning. Recent reports suggest the President is now wavering on his promise to ban flavored e-cigarettes, which are marketed towards our children. Once again, the reporting says the president backed off after hearing from industry lobbyists that the ban might hurt the president politically. Again, the same pattern. The President promises to do something about a serious issue – in some cases, an issue that threatens the life of our children – then backs off and reverses himself once the special interests weigh in.
President Trump, it’s not too late. Do what you said you were going to do. It’s not that hard. Ban these flavored e-cigarettes. When e-cigarettes are marketed as gummy bear or Captain Crunch, they’re not aimed at adults, they’re aimed at getting kids in high school, junior high school, maybe even younger to start vaping, which will ultimately harm them.
Another example occurred yesterday, and again today. The Trump Administration announced that it would extend the temporary license granted to Huawei, a Chinese telecom giant that our intelligence and defense agencies have deemed a national security threat. Once again, President Trump failed to match his tough talk with appropriate action. If President Trump and his Commerce Department agree that Huawei is a national security threat, they ought to start acting like it. Every time President Trump goes easy on Huawei, the Chinese Communist Party takes that as a signal that they can hurt American jobs and threaten our security without repercussion.
I would urge the President to read an editorial, by, I believe, the Secretary of the Air Force, in today’s Wall Street Journal—I read it this afternoon—that says what a security threat allowing Huawei into this country would be to our armed forces, to our military, and to our country as a whole.
Now, I’ve publicly praised the president and his administration when it’s done the right thing. I praised the Trump Administration when it announced it was going to ban flavored e-cigarettes, I praised the Trump Administration when it announced it was going to be tough on Huawei. But announcements don’t make the grade. When you back off, when you waver, when you stammer, all these announcements mean nothing. And the American people do remember it, there is an accounting.
Like on the issue of background checks and gun safety, you just can’t believe the president and his administration when they say they’re going to do something. So many times when the President says he’s considering some strong, bipartisan action, he backs off—usually at the behest of lobbyists or some special interest.
On these issues and several others, the president has shown a profound lack of political courage. It’s one of the many reasons why the president and this Republican Senate, which shivers in obedience to him, have accomplished so little for the American people.