Schumer Floor Remarks On North Korea, DOJ and FBI Briefings, Ebola Funding, and Memorial DayMay 24, 2018
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor regarding the US withdrawal from a summit with North Korea, today’s DOJ and FBI briefings, the proposed recession of Ebola funding, and Memorial Day. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:
Thank you, Madame President. So, this morning I’d like to address four issues, at varying lengths: the recent news on the North Korea summit, the Russia probe, the proposed rescission of Ebola funding, and a word about the upcoming Memorial Day holiday.
First, on the very recent news that President Trump has canceled the planned summit with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea.
The fear many of us had was that the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un would be a great show that produced nothing enduring. If a summit is to be reconstituted, the United States must show strength and achieve a concrete, verifiable, enduring elimination of Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear capabilities.
Second, on the Russia probe. Today on Capitol Hill, Department of Justice, FBI, and Intelligence Community officials are scheduled to brief members of Congress on a few issues related to Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into Putin’s meddling in the 2016 election.
There will be two briefings: one for a House Republican partisan who has relentlessly harassed the Justice Department to reveal sources and methods to him, for the sole purpose of interfering with and denigrating the special counsel’s investigation. And, after several requests, the Department of Justice will also brief the bipartisan Gang of Eight on the same information, separately, later in the day.
While we believe no briefing should occur, it’s a good thing that the Gang of Eight will be briefed. The overwhelming fact remains that a separate meeting with a known partisan - whose only intent is to undermine the Mueller investigation - makes no sense and should be called off. What is the point of a separate briefing if not to cause partisan trouble and create a “he said; she said” scenario? So damaging to the way our officials in the Justice Department have always worked.
Representative Nunes, the architect of this sham briefing, no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt. He lost all claims to objectivity long ago with his ridiculous late-night charade at the White House and his conduct on the House Intelligence Committee, culminating in a document of innuendo and whitewashing that’s come to be called the Nunes memo.
The reason Leader Pelosi and I requested a Gang of Eight briefing was because that’s the process for Congress to view sensitive and potentially classified information. It’s been the process for decades. Reason being – the Gang of Eight is already read into sensitive national security information, and because the Gang of Eight is bipartisan. When one party, Representative Nunes, who so clearly wants to distort national security information for partisan purposes, asks for a solitary briefing – there shouldn’t be a briefing at all. Our preference would still be for the Justice Department to cancel the briefing today. But if it goes forward, there should be one briefing, and one briefing only: bipartisan, Gang of Eight.
It is also wholly inappropriate that General Kelly is at all involved in these briefings. The White House should never be allowed to interfere in an ongoing DOJ investigation, but it’s absolutely beyond the pale that they are interfering in an investigation involving the president and his campaign. The person and people being investigated are being briefed on their investigation before it concludes. That doesn’t happen in our justice system, no matter who you are. Americans will rightly wonder why General Kelly was present. To erase their doubts, he should skip this meeting.
Alongside all the action on Capitol Hill today, President Trump continues to fabricate a false narrative about “deep state” bias against his presidency. You know, this is what a child does. You look at them like they’re doing something wrong, and they blame something else. They try to avert your attention, that’s how the president is acting. Yesterday he tweeted “Look how things have turned around on the Criminal Deep State.” Well, Mr. President, I’d direct you to your own secretary of state – you just appointed him, promoted him – here’s what he said yesterday: “I don’t believe there’s a deep state at the State Department” and “the employees…at the CIA nearly uniformly were aimed at achieving…America’s objectives.” That’s the president’s own secretary of state, own former CIA director, dispensing with this fantastical notion of a deep state.
Now, the president said there were spies in his campaign. It’s all in the same vein as all of the other conspiracy theories. Remember, President Trump said that President Obama tapped his phones -- that was false. He has said before that Russia did not interfere in our elections – that was false. Why should we think the claim that there were spies in his campaign is any different? He makes it up as he goes along to divert attention from the real issue, that Russia tried to influence our elections, did influence our elections, and there may, may, may – we don’t know for sure, about to find out – there’s been collusion with President Trump’s campaign, and maybe even President Trump, in that regard. That’s serious stuff. We’ve already had thirteen indictments, it’s beyond any doubt that Russia did try to influence our elections. We need to find out who participated, that’s imperative for the future of this country.
The president – acting like he’s got something to hide – keeps trying to subvert the investigation, simply inventing enemies out of shadows and sowing division in our country. If it were anyone else, we’d call it paranoia. Meanwhile, the president continues to risk our national security by using an unsecured cell phone for some of his communications.
When the Washington Post asked a national security expert the odds of a foreign adversary having gained access to the president’s unsecured cell phone, the expert responded, “100 percent, the question is how many foreign powers.” So while President Trump points the finger of blame in every direction, and was relentless that Hillary Clinton broke security protocols, he is guilty of creating a real national security threat every time he picks up his cell phone to call Sean Hannity or Rudy Giuliani. It’s amazing. It is utterly amazing the times we are living in, and it amazes me so that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle still remain silent. Still remain silent. Who would’ve thought?
On Ebola. In early May, President Trump proposed rescinding $252 million meant to combat the Ebola virus and other infectious diseases. Not only are these rescissions a slap in the face of the bipartisan budget process, but they are dangerous to our national health and security. Just last week, a new case of the Ebola virus was confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and at least two dozen people have already died from this most recent outbreak.
Let us not forget how vociferously my friends on the other side of the aisle criticized President Obama for how he handled the Ebola outbreak in 2014. Once again, Donald Trump totally contradicts what he said in the past with what he’s doing now. Here’s what Donald Trump tweeted in 2014: “Ebola has been confirmed in NYC with officials frantically trying to find all of the people and things he had contact with. Obama’s fault.” Well, does he now say that it’s “Trump’s fault”?
What mind-bending hypocrisy. Now that he’s president, Donald Trump proposes rescinding the same funding Congress passed to help handle the Ebola crisis in 2014 and that continues to keep America safe. God forbid this funding is rescinded, and Ebola outbreaks re-emerged -- it would actually be President Trump’s fault. The president should withdraw his rescission request for this funding, as Senator Leahy and his colleagues on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee have asked in a letter this week. That funding should be free for USAID to use it as Congress intended, and Donald Trump ought to learn from his past statement. If he can blame President Obama for not fully going after the Ebola outbreak in 2014, why is he cutting money for Ebola now?
Finally, Madame President, on a solemn note. Before the Memorial Day weekend, I want to express my deep and abiding gratitude for the men and women in the armed services who gave their last full measure of devotion in defense of our nation and our freedom.
This morning I’m thinking of one veteran, Larry Reilly Sr. of Syracuse, New York. He was known to us by his Naval rank, Chief Reilly. Chief Reilly served on the U.S.S. Frank E. Evans, along with his son, who carried his name – Larry Reilly Jr. The Frank E. Evans sunk, tragically, in a training accident just outside the combat zone during the Vietnam War, killing 74. Chief Reilly survived the accident; Larry Reilly Jr. did not.
Because the Department of Defense did not consider the Frank E. Evans disaster a wartime casualty - it was a short distance outside the combat zone - you’ll not find Larry Reilly Jr.’s name on that wall of black stone a few miles from here. None of the names of the 74 sailors who died that day grace the Vietnam Memorial.
Chief Reilly spent much of his energies in the years since the war trying to right that wrong; to get his son and his fellow shipmates who passed away in that tragedy their rightful place in our nation’s history.
Chief Reilly, I regret to inform everyone, passed away earlier this week. We who knew Chief Reilly remember him fondly. We send our condolences to his friends and his family, along with the message that his cause does not die with him. In his honor, we will continue to pressure the Pentagon to recognize those who were killed in the Frank E. Evans tragedy on the Vietnam Memorial.
This weekend, as we honor our fallen veterans in big cities and small towns throughout this grand country, I will be thinking of Chief Reilly and his son. May we never forget the sacrifice they made, along with so many others, so that we all may all enjoy the full blessings of liberty.