Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Dangerous Comments On The Russia Probe, The Upcoming Summit Between President Trump And Kim Jong-un, And Proposed Health Care Rate Increases

June 4, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s recent comments on the Russia probe, the upcoming summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, and proposed health care rate increases. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Madame President, first let me welcome you and all of my colleagues back from another productive state work period. I traveled a good deal around my state, spoke at a bunch of graduations, and found it fun and productive. You learn a lot, and so glad to be back but glad we were out in our states. Now first, let me address the president’s recent comments on the Russia probe, then on our negotiations with North Korea, and then on health care.

This morning, the president tweeted that he “has the absolute right to pardon himself” and that “the appointment of the special counsel is totally unconstitutional.”

President Trump, you went 0 for 2 on the Constitution this morning.

First, of course, no president has the power to pardon himself or herself. If they did, the presidency would function above and outside the law, counter to the very founding principles of our country -- that we don’t have a king. We are a nation of laws, not men. That’s what the Founding Fathers created America all about, they didn’t like the monarchies, but if a president can pardon himself, it’s virtually a monarchy, at least as far as the president’s concerned. If presidents had the power to pardon themselves, we’d no longer be a democracy. As the Department of Justice legal counsel wrote four days before Nixon resigned, “Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself.” This is virtually indisputable, and does the president get to choose what he can pardon himself over? Theft? Murder? Who knows! The president does not have the right to pardon himself, that’s for sure.

Second, of course, the appointment of the special counsel is constitutional. Never mind the fact that President Trump’s own Republican appointees made the appointment of the special counsel, this is far from the first special counsel to investigate a serious matter concerning the president. Again, if the president were beyond the reproach of any investigation, there would be no check on the president’s conduct. The president could engage in rife corruption and self-dealing without consequence. Surely – surely – that’s not what our constitutional system envisions. That’s not the structure of America that the Founding Fathers set up, and that we have followed for more than two hundred years.

So the president’s tweets are silly, farcical, even absurd. They are not legal arguments to be treated seriously. Rather, they seem to reveal increasing desperation on the part of the president. President Trump has escalated his criticism of the Russia probe, from smearing the special counsel and his team and hawking outrageous conspiracy theories to attacking the very legal architecture of our country.

Special Counsel Mueller has already issued more than a dozen indictments. He’s secured several guilty pleas from top Trump campaign officials. The probe is not only legitimate; it is finding violations of the law on the part of the Trump campaign and others.

So as wrong as President Trump was in his tweets this morning, you have to wonder, why is he asserting the right to pardon himself? Why is he questioning the constitutionality of an investigation in the first place? For a man who constantly proclaims his innocence, President Trump is doing an awfully good impersonation of someone who has something to hide.

It’s hard to think of another explanation for the increasingly ridiculous and far-fetched legal theories peddled by the president and his lawyers.

Now, the pundits and the analysts in the media are debating whether it makes smart, strategic sense for President Trump to sit down for an interview with the special counsel. They are asking the wrong question. The president’s strategy and political interests shouldn’t be the basis for whether or not he sits down with the special counsel.

If the special counsel requests an interview with the president as a part of his investigation, the president should agree to provide testimony. If President Trump has done nothing wrong, as he so often and so loudly claims, he should have nothing to fear by sitting down with the special counsel.

Now, on another matter, North Korea. Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen an off-again-on-again routine from the Trump administration when it comes to the potential summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Now that the meeting will seemingly proceed as planned, we want to make sure that the president’s desire for a deal with North Korea doesn’t saddle the United States, Japan, and South Korea with a bad deal.

We are all hoping the president succeeds. We’re all rooting for peace. We very much hope that he’ll be able to achieve a strong and enduring agreement because the danger of a nuclear-armed, ICMB-equipped North Korea is very, very real to the United States. But the president needs to be willing to take time to construct a good deal, and if he finds that one is not achievable, the president must be willing to walk away from the table.

In a letter to the president, Senator Menendez and I strongly urged the administration to ensure that any agreement with North Korea meets five key principles.

First, North Korea must dismantle or remove every single one of its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

Second, North Korea must end the production and enrichment of uranium and plutonium for military purposes, and permanently dismantle its nuclear weapons infrastructure. That means test sites, all nuclear weapons research and development facilities, and enrichment facilities all have to be destroyed.

Third, North Korea must continue to suspend all ballistic missile tests.

Fourth, North Korea must commit to anytime, anywhere inspections for both its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, including all non-declared suspicious sites. If inspectors reveal any violation, we must be permitted to implement snap-back sanctions.

And lastly, any agreement between the United States and North Korea must be permanent.

If President Trump meets with Kim Jong-un and reaches a deal that meets these principles, he will have made the world a much safer place.

But if he tries to reach a deal with Kim Jong-un just for the sake of reaching a deal, and if the agreement fails to live up to the principles we’ve laid out, then he’ll have been bested at the negotiating table yet again. These five principles are the lens through which Senate Democrats will evaluate any deal with North Korea. If the deal doesn’t live up to these standards, then the president should not expect Democratic support in the Senate if he tries to lift sanctions to implement an agreement.

Finally, on health care. Today, health insurers in the state of Washington proposed an average rate increase of 19%. In my home state of New York, insurers are requesting an increase of 24%, half of which they said is due to the Republicans’ repeal of the health care coverage requirement. Following rate increases in Virginia, Maryland, Vermont, and Oregon, these increases confirm what we already know to be a trend: the policies of the Trump administration and Congressional Republicans are driving up health care costs for millions of Americans.

President Trump promised the American people that health care would be “far less expensive and far better” but once again has failed to deliver. Instead of “far less expensive and far better,” Americans have gotten health coverage that is far MORE expensive and will be far worse.

And it is a direct result of Republican policies, and President Trump’s actions.

President Trump has deliberately sowed major uncertainty in the marketplaces, he’ll start offering expanded junk insurance plans, and Congressional Republicans repealed the coverage requirement in their tax bill. Each of those actions, taken separately, destabilized our health care system. Taken together, these policies are causing chaos: skyrocketing rates and the return of dark days in which people with pre-existing conditions faced higher premiums, denied care, and medical bankruptcy.

On health care, like on my issues, President Trump made bold promises but has failed to deliver the results that middle-class Americans need and expect. On health care, he has just swung at the ball and struck out.

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