Schumer Floor Remarks On Klobuchar-Blunt Legislation, The Need To Hold A Bipartisan Gang Of Eight Briefing With DOJ And FBI, And Taking Action On Rising Gas Prices

May 23, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Klobuchar-Blunt proposal to overhaul how Congress handles workplace harassment, the need to hold a Gang of Eight briefing with the Department of Justice and the FBI on information regarding the Russia investigation, and a desire for the president to take action on rising gas prices in America. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

First, Mr. President, some good news. As the Majority Leader noted, Senators Klobuchar and Blunt agreed on legislation to overhaul the way Congress handles workplace claims to protect staff and others from harassment. It certainly needed an overhaul. Shamefully, the current system – soon, hopefully, the old system – didn’t do enough to protect victims and hold perpetrators of workplace harassment accountable.

Among other crucial reforms, the Blunt-Klobuchar legislation would do away with mandatory “waiting periods” that too often discouraged complaints or let them languish. It would also make important changes to ensure members of the House and Senate are held personally accountable and liable if they have committed harassment.

So I want to commend Senators Klobuchar and Blunt, who worked with many members including Senators Gillibrand, Murray, McCaskill, Feinstein, Harris, and Cortez-Masto, for putting this together. I also want to thank my colleague, the Majority Leader. He and I were involved and both co-sponsors of this legislation. An example, again, of one of the growing sprouts of bipartisanship coming forward in this body. I hope we can pass it quickly, with overwhelming if not unanimous support.


On another matter, this morning, Mr. President, this morning with increasing desperation, President Trump tweeted several inaccuracies about the special counsel’s investigation. No one should take the bait. I doubt very few who are looking at this in a nonpartisan way will. The recent demands from President Trump and his allies are just another part of a shameful campaign of harassment, intimidation, and obstruction of the Russia probe.


It is all too clear that President Trump and his allies want to change the subject, away from the duly-constituted investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and towards another fabricated scandal.


It began with conspiracies cooked up by Representative Nunes, from “deep state” leaks, to unmasking requests, claims of phone taps at Trump Tower, Uranium One, Nunes’ midnight run to the White House, and the infamous Nunes memo. Now, House conservatives, with the aid of the White House, seem to have successfully badgered DOJ officials into giving them a briefing on sources and methods of an FBI investigation - that’s unprecedented, and so very wrong.


Everyone knows what they’re doing: they’re hunting desperately for any scrap of information or innuendo that might help them sully the investigation or to provide them a sneak peek at any evidence that the FBI may have against the Trump campaign. If they have to distort and spread falsehoods about what is revealed in any meeting, they will.


And for the President of the United States to pressure the Justice Department to reveal details and documents pertaining to an active investigation of the president’s campaign, for the purpose of denigrating it, is a gross and unprecedented abuse of power, unlike any we’ve seen in a very long time. It’s why so many people don’t trust this president.


The only thing more outrageous than this meeting occurring at all is the fact that it’s partisan. It is crystal clear that Representative Nunes intends to interfere with the investigation. He’s not a down-the-middle investigator looking for truth, Everyone’s seen that. Representative Nunes gave up any pretense of objectivity long ago, in that ridiculous late-night charade to the White House. And shamefully – shamefully someone I respect, someone I like – Speaker Ryan is allowing this to happen, and it will forever be a blot on his record. He can’t be so afraid of the hard right and the president that he would allow this kind of banana republic behavior to go forward, and that’s what Representative Nunes is doing.


Regrettably, a few of my Senate colleagues seem to be allowing it to happen as well. Yesterday, I saw that a few of my friends on the other side sent a letter requesting to attend the meeting, supporting it, but making no mention of the fact that not a single Democrat was invited. My Republican friends know we have a process for dealing with highly sensitive information of this type – it’s called the Gang of 8, it’s bipartisan, it has worked well. Any meeting between the Justice Department and Capitol Hill about such information should only be attended by the members of the Gang of 8.


And so this morning, Leader Pelosi and I are sending a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and FBI Director Wray later today to request they reconsider holding the meeting at all, and if they do move forward, to do so in a bipartisan fashion, with the Gang of 8.


If the meeting goes forward as planned right now – only partisan, only the worst actors on the House side in the room – no one should trust anything they say coming out of that meeting. It will be a sham. It will be a sham. In our letter, we remind Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Director Wray that they have a higher responsibility. I know they’re being pushed around by the White House and by the White House’s puppets, like Congressman Nunes, but they must resist for the grand tradition of impartial justice above the law that has been in the veins of this country, in the bones of this country, since 1789. To let this happen is disgraceful – disgraceful – and the blame really falls on the president and his puppets, like, unfortunately, Chairman Nunes and some of the others that seem to be going along with him.


Now, one other thing on this subject that I think should give Americans some solace. I do not believe for a one second that Special Counsel Mueller will be deterred. All the sideshow, all this attempt to discredit him and his investigation with all kinds of frivolous, silly, and often times’ false statements and activities have not deterred Mueller. The American people have the utmost of confidence in him. He’s a strong man, he’s a quiet man, he happens to be a Republican appointed by the president’s own appointees, hardly some nefarious representative who came out of nowhere from the “deep state.” Mueller is going to go right ahead and see this investigation through to its natural conclusion, he will follow the facts wherever they lead. Americans will have confidence that if he finds something it’s real, and if he doesn’t he isn’t whitewashing a thing. That’s how he’s gone about the investigation so far, it’s resulted in dozens of indictments several guilty pleas of top Trump campaign officials, and when the president denigrates Mueller and the investigation he doesn’t speak of any facts are knowledge, and it’s just all derogations of somebody thrashing about, maybe because he realizes there might be something there, who knows?


Special Counsel Mueller is a serious, quiet, diligent man; a lifelong Republican, a decorated Marine, universally respected. The American people can be assured that his investigation will not be blown off course by this hurricane of right-wing lies and intimidation coming from the president and his minions.


And one final point on this topic. With several of his recent claims, it seems that President Trump lacks self-awareness.


President Trump continues to peddle the myth that a “deep state” bias against his presidency is driving the Russian probe, despite the fact that an active FBI investigation into his campaign was kept secret during the election, while his opponent’s was made public. If there was a deep state trying to hurt someone, they did a lot more to hurt Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump during the campaign, everyone knows that. If the deep state were truly out to get President Trump, they’d have made the active FBI investigation into his campaign’s shady dealings with Russia as matter for the public record while he was running.


The same lack of awareness, maybe hypocrisy, is apparent when the president reportedly uses an unsecured cell phone for some of his communications. Can you believe that after all the hay Donald Trump and his allies made about Secretary Clinton’s handling of sensitive government information that the president, once in office, uses an unsecured cell phone despite the fact that so many around of him have told him it might be dangerous? It’s bad for our national security, and his double standard is nothing short of outrageous.


Finally, Mr. President, gas prices. Few things matter more to the average consumer than the price of a gallon of gasoline. When gas prices go through the roof, it eats away at a family’s income, leaving less to cover the cost of anything else: groceries, medicine, tuition, a nice summer vacation, which families cherish.


Recent data suggests that gas prices are about to climb even higher this summer and experts suggest that actions (and inactions) on the part of the Trump administration are a major piece of that story.


According to energy analysts and experts, President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran deal led to higher oil prices, and OPEC has decided to cut oil production, also raising prices. Even though President Trump tweeted that OPEC’s decision “will not be accepted,” the American people are still awaiting action from the president that will help America’s motorists. He’s good pals with the crown prince, who’s running Saudi Arabia, with the heads of the United Arab Emirates, seems to have a good relationship with Putin. Why doesn’t he draw upon them to at least stop restricting production so that prices could come down? He isn’t. He’ll talk to them about other things, but not about something so vital to the middle class.


As a result, gas prices are headed towards $3 a gallon, and the US Energy Information Administration estimates that the average American family can expect to pay $200 more this driving season than last driving season, and $250 more than the 2016 driving season. Prices are up more than sixty cents on average from the last day Obama was in office to today, where is President Trump?


The rising gas prices will, as one economist at Goldman Sachs put it, “roughly cancel out the 2018 consumption boost from tax cuts.” They’re touting the tax cuts, but when gasoline prices take it all away where is our president? Whatever benefit working families might have seen from the Trump tax scam for the rich, if they got any benefit at all, is being wiped out by gas prices. And what about our big oil executives? They got huge tax breaks – huge tax breaks. Why isn’t the consumer seeing any of that at the pump? At the same time, our oil companies get huge tax breaks, and they raise prices on everybody? How is that helping the middle class? Why isn’t President Trump jawboning them, like he does on other issues? Where is he?


It is time for this president to stand up to OPEC, to stand up to big oil, and do what is necessary to lower gas prices. Remember, once again the hypocrisy of this president, this is the same president who tweeted multiple times that President Obama was to blame for rising gas prices. So I’d remind the president that the final price of gas under President Obama was an average of $2.36 a gallon. The current price under President Trump is $2.92 and going up.


I hope, for the sake of the middle class and those struggling to get there, the folks for whom gas prices really make a difference, that President Trump takes immediate action to bring the cost of gas down. He has the power, he can force OPEC to do things by jawboning them. He can force the big oil companies to consider lowering their prices, given all the big profits they got from his tax bill. Where is he?