Schumer Floor Remarks on President Trump Bowing to the NRA and the Need for a Response to Russian Election Interference

March 12, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s insufficient gun safety proposal and the need for a strong response to Russian interference in our elections. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Madam President. after the deadly shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, the American people are wondering if Congress can do something meaningful to curb the epidemic of gun violence – an epidemic that has gone on far too long and taken the lives of far too many.

For years, Democrats have proposed common sense gun safety policies to ensure that dangerous people can’t get their hands on dangerous weapons. Recently, Democrats have reiterated our support for several, specific measures, including universal background checks, protection orders, and a debate on banning assault weapons.

Americans of all political stripes support a debate on these policies. And yet, the Majority Leader, who has given gun safety no time on the floor of the Senate. He’s also given us no indication that we might consider the issue anytime soon. He’s sweeping it under the rug. The NRA is powerful around here.

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Trump failed to show the conviction and steady leadership required to make progress on this issue.

After indicating support for a host of reasonable gun safety measures a few weeks ago and in front of the TV cameras that he invited in, yesterday, President Trump released a list of Administration policies which represents a 180-degree reversal. What Trump said at the public meeting and what he proposed yesterday are opposites. After signaling that he would be for raising the age of purchase for assault weapons from 18 to 21, a modest measure, President Trump backed off – saying he would leave it to the states and the courts to decide. That’s a cop out, we know that. After indicating support for universal background checks, President Trump makes no mention of closing the dangerous gun show loophole or internet sales loophole. No mention of anti-domestic violence legislation. No mention of assault weapons or support for significant changes to protection orders.

The president’s plan consists only of small-bore, NRA-endorsed policies, including the absurd proposal to send more guns into classrooms by arming teachers.

In the wake of so many American tragedies, the Trump proposal on gun safety is utterly insufficient as a response. Even if you discarded the idea of arming teachers and took the Fix NICS proposal and the changes to mental health in President Trump’s proposal, that wouldn’t be close enough to address the issue of gun violence. The nation is clamoring for significant, meaningful progress on gun safety, but President Trump’s proposal is just a baby step when America needs to take a giant leap.

The administration’s proposal makes it perfectly clear that President Trump has an obeisance to the NRA. Even when President Trump momentarily departs from the NRA’s script, he quickly gets reeled back in.

And Madame President, if President Trump and his staff and some of our Republican friends are wondering why his ratings are so low, it’s because he does this all the time. At the meeting he challenged conservative Republican Senator Toomey and said “Oh I guess you’re afraid of the NRA?” Well, Toomey is not afraid of the NRA, he’s taken them on. It’s President Trump who’s afraid of the NRA. He’s afraid to do anything that doesn’t meet their approval. We all know what this Fix NICS bill is about, it’s tiny, but it’s okay with the NRA, so my good friend from Texas is happy to come on the floor and talk about it. When is he going to come on the floor and say something that we really need, that the NRA doesn’t support? We’re all waiting, not just for him, but for our Republican colleagues. We all know the game going on here: make it seem like you want to do something, but don’t offend the NRA, which is way to the extreme when you look at where Americans are at on this issue.

After watching the same sequence of events take place on guns, on immigration, no one should be surprised when President Trump initially talks about bipartisanship, but ends up caving to the hard-right special interests. No one should be afraid that the Republican leadership here in the Senate when it comes to guns, does the same exact thing. In this case, the gun lobby is hard right’s special interest. President Trump’s behavior on the most sensitive political issues is turning into a predictable kabuki theater where he invites the cameras in,  talks a good talk, but then refuses to walk the walk.

It shows great weakness in this president and if he doesn't have the guts to move forward, he shouldn’t invite the camera in and act like he does. Now, that may give him a temporary, little high, but it’s not what the American people want. It’s not leadership and in my judgement, at least, that’s why the president is down so much in the polls no matter what he does. That’s why even a race in Pennsylvania, the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, in a district he won by 20 points is a nail biter. So, I hope the president will change. I hope he’ll become a leader. I hope he’ll just stop focusing on the show, but actually get things done. So far, the American people, not just us, are disappointed.

Now, Democrats in the Senate, we’re going to keep fighting to go much further than the president’s proposal. We’re going fight to pass universal background checks, to actually get federal legislation on protection orders and to start debating banning assault weapons. This is the conversation the country needs to have, and we’ll keep pushing our Senate colleagues and President Trump to do something real, not just something they think they can talk about that the NRA rubber stamps approval of.

Madam President, on a different subject, Russia. Despite heaps of evidence that Russia interfered in our election, President Trump has hardly lifted a finger to punish Russia or safeguard future elections. This is a dereliction of duty.

Over the last few weeks, the Senate has heard testimony from the Director of National Intelligence and the head of US Cyber Command; neither had been directed by the Administration to counter Russia’s continued efforts to undermine our democracy. A report in the New York Times last week documented how President Trump’s State Department quote “has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy.” And still, the Trump Administration has not fully implemented the sanctions Congress passed to punish Putin.

Meanwhile, Russian-linked bots continue to sow division and inflame political tensions on social media. Multiple officials from the Intelligence Community have warned that Russia will try to interfere in our elections again. We have done nothing to harden our election security in anticipation of the midterms.

Our democracy is under attack, and the President of the United States seems unwilling to punch back or even harden our defenses. It’s as if an enemy Naval flotilla were headed to our shores and we didn't put up any defense. That’s exactly what’s happening; it’s a new world. It’s not a flotilla of Navy, or planes buzzing along our coasts, it’s these cyber-attacks and social media attacks on our election system, but they’re every much as vital to America as our physical defense and yet we hear nothing, nothing, nothing out of the White House. 

You only have to look at an ally, the United Kingdom, for an example of how a nation should respond to the threat from Russia. Today, just today, Prime Minister Theresa May went to the House of Commons to expose a likely Russian attack against two people in her country using a nerve agent. She demanded a response from President Putin and promised appropriate countermeasures if he refuses or the answer is insufficient.

Prime Minister May’s quick and decisive action is exactly what is missing from President Trump when it comes to cyber security in our elections.

Now the president, our president, still has an opportunity.

Over the weekend, President Putin, rather ridiculously blamed Ukrainians, Jews or other minorities for the attack on our elections in 2016; another attempt of course at  misdirection and distraction. Of course, in reality, Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation has charged 13 Russian nationals with subverting the 2016 elections – not Jews, not Ukrainians, not Tatars – 13 Russian nationals.

Today, Leader Pelosi and I, alongside Senator Feinstein and Congressman Nadler, sent President Trump a letter urging him to use all available resources to extradite the 13 Russian nationals named in the Special Counsel’s investigation to stand trial here in the United States.

Ensuring Russian nationals stand trial in the United States would be a clear signal to those who seek to meddle with our election that their actions are not without consequences. This is imperative -- to deter Russia and any other nation in the future, from attacking our democracy.

Another test of President Trump’s leadership. Another test he’s failing miserably.

If President Trump really cares about our country, he would expend every resource in his possession to bring justice to these foreign actors who meddled with our country’s most sacred, democratic process -- the one enshrined by the founding fathers and embraced and worshiped by Americans over the centuries with good reason. And now there’s meddling in this sacred process and President Trump does nothing? Why are we not hearing anything from those on the other side of the aisle about that? You can be sure that if it was another president, particularly a Democratic one, we’d hear howls. But this is not about Democrat or Republican. This is about our democracy. And when President Trump doesn’t ask for those Russians to be extradited, Americans inevitably ask why is President Trump so afraid to do anything, anything about Putin?