Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate floor regarding diplomacy with North Korea and the need to protect the integrity of the Special Counsel’s ongoing investigation. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:
Now, let me begin by addressing the administration’s ongoing effort to secure a diplomatic deal in North Korea to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
It is a worthy and ambitious goal. Indeed, we should all root for a diplomatic resolution to the decades-long conflict. It is undeniable, however, that this meeting is fraught with peril. My primary concern is that the president, and his penchant for spur-of-the-moment decision making, could lead the United States into danger in one of two ways.
My first concern is that the president, without a clear or coherent strategy, will buy a pile of magic beans, accepting an agreement – any agreement – that allows him to declare victory. We’ll know he’ll say it’s the “Greatest comprise ever! Greater than Versailles, greater than anything!” Talking is good, but it is very far from an agreement to disarm. President Trump should not accept a deal that doesn’t include concrete steps to verifiably roll back North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, including those that threaten our allies and partners. So, that’s one concern, that the president accepts any agreement because he’s just so eager to tout that he was a great dealmaker and made an agreement, even if it’s a rotten agreement for America.
My second concern is – and it’s sort of the opposite – my second concern is that the president, without a disciplined or coherent strategy, will walk away from a bilateral meeting if he doesn’t get everything he wants. There is also the possibility that the president will walk away from an agreement after the fact, if he decides later he is unhappy with it. We’ve seen him do that on so many occasions. As someone who has negotiated “deals” with the president, I know that’s a very real possibility. You could say these are opposite possibilities; they are in a certain sense. Takes too little, walks away because he didn’t get everything, but they’re all underlined by one coherent fact: there is no strategy, at least there’s none apparent to just about everyone. The president seems to operate on a whim, saying something one day, another thing the next, and when there’s no coherent strategy each of these dangers is too real. Either scenario could leave relations with a rogue state worse and more dangerous than before.
Now, the president said last night at Mar-A-Lago that he would leave a meeting with Kim Jong-Un if it wasn’t fruitful. Mr. President, this is not like a business deal. There is a very real danger to walking away from a meeting with a nuclear-armed dictator. It could risk serious escalation. If the United States is seen as the one walking away from talks, we should be under no illusions that China, Russia, and others won’t follow suit.
So, we all want to see negotiations with the North Koreans succeed. If it is true that North Korea will take its demand for US troops to leave the Korean peninsula off the table, that’s a good step. Our commitment to the Korean people, our alliances with Korea and Japan are not subject to negotiation. But I repeat, if these talks are going to truly succeed, the president and his team require a coordinated strategy, something this administration hasn’t been able to show with respect to Russia, Syria, Yemen, the Middle East, and other hotspots around the globe.
On another topic. I’ve come to the floor several times over the past month to document the number of ways in which this administration has signaled a willingness, perhaps a desire, to interfere with Special Counsel Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Beyond troubling statements from the White House Press Secretary and the president’s allies in the media, President Trump has publicly mused about firing the Special Counsel. So while I appreciate that the Majority Leader believes the president would be wrong to fire the Special Counsel, I believe it’s a real mistake not to pass legislation to protect the investigation. And I sincerely hope Leader McConnell reconsiders his refusal to entertain bringing such a bill to the floor.
It’s a bipartisan bill. I’ve talked to members on both sides of the aisle who are worried of a constitutional crisis, and we all know the consequences of presidential interference in the Russian probe, and how dire it would be for the rule of law fundamental to our democracy, and the constitutional crisis that it would create should be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, there is substantial evidence that the president has thought about firing the Special Counsel more than once in the past, and may well do so in the future. The bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Graham, Coons, Tillis, and Booker has no real downsides to it, it would simply provide a legal avenue to restore the Special Counsel if existing DOJ regulations are breached, and he’s fired for political reasons.
So, what is the reason not to do it? Why not head off a constitutional crisis off at the pass, rather than waiting until it’s too late? The rule of law is fundamental to the functioning of our democracy. Why even flirt with the prospect of a president challenging the very nature of our system of government?
So, I’d urge my friend Lead McConnell to think twice about this. Think not simply of his responsibilities to his party, not simply to doing what the president might want, but to our country and our constitution. And if you think of it in those terms, I think it’s inevitable that we would want to pass this legislation, and that’s because the rule of law is fundamental to the functioning of our democracy. To flirt with a president challenging the very nature of our system of government is a real mistake. So, I hope the Judiciary Committee moves forward with the bipartisan bill. I hope there is no attempt to water it down or create a backchannel for political interference in ongoing investigations. It is clear that several Republicans, including Chairman Grassley, Senator Tillis, and Senator Graham, and others, see a need to pass this legislation. Let them prevail upon the Republican Leader to reconsider his position.