Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Refusal To Stand Up To President Putin And SCOTUS Nominee Judge KavanaughJuly 17, 2018
Well Mr. President, like any patriotic American, Democratic or Republican or Independent, I was appalled by the press conference that capped off the president’s trip to Europe this morning.
President Trump hardly pressed President Putin on a single issue, saying that “both countries” are responsible for the state of relations between the United States and Russia.
When it came to interference in the 2016 elections, the president has managed to point the finger at just about everybody except the culprit. The one person he hasn’t blamed is the man who’s actually responsible: Vladimir Putin.
Rather than taking the opportunity to confront Putin and stand up in defense of the United States; rather than demanding that Putin hand over the Russian intelligence agents indicted last week; the president took the word of the KGB over the brave, hardworking men and women of the CIA. It’s amazing. When ever has a president done something like that, believed our enemies over our own intelligence agencies who work so diligently and hard to keep us safe?
Vladimir Putin’s goal for over a decade has been the weakening of American leadership and the erosion of vital international alliances like NATO that promote American values of democracy and freedom and open markets. He’s labored for ten years and he didn’t get very far, and now President Trump is handing him the keys to the city. President Putin could hardly have scripted a more successful foreign trip for his interests than the one we just witnessed by President Trump. And now, because of President Trump’s actions, inexplicable, has Americans from one end of the world to the other scratching their heads and saying “what is going on there inside the president’s head?”
So now because of the president’s almost inexplicable actions, a single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: what could possibly cause the president to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous and inexplicable behavior is the possibility, the very real possibility, that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.
And now the question of the moment that our security has been put at risk by the president. Where are our Republican colleagues? Where are the Republicans who cheered Reagan’s famous challenge to Gorbachev to “tear down this wall?” Where are the Republicans who demanded a strong response of President Obama when Putin annexed Crimea? Where are the Republicans who surely know in their heart that trusting Putin over American intelligence, defense, and law enforcement diminishes the standing of our great country?
Well, now is the time if there ever was one for Republicans to stand up. If we wait much longer, our global alliances will fracture, the institutions that America created in the ashes of World War II will crumble, our allies will consider abandoning us, maybe even embracing China with consequences economic and militarily devastating to our country, and Putin’s Russia will emerge all the stronger for it. American power, prestige, and even our economy will be deeply damaged.
So I am pleading, pleading with my Republican colleagues to push back by doing four things. First, ratchet up – not water down – sanctions against Russia. Second, join us in demanding that the president’s national security team immediately come to Congress and testify. Third, end attacks by so many on the hard right on the Department of Justice, FBI, and Special Counsel Mueller. These attacks are beyond the pale but now that the president has done this with Putin, these attacks are dangerous to the future of the republic. The special counsel needs to finish his work. The president needs to sit for an interview with the special counsel as previous presidents have done and as Republicans demanded of President Clinton. The president has no problem breaking bread with a man who maliciously attacked America during our elections; but he can’t sit down with the man charged with investigating it, Special Counsel Mueller? Please. What is the president afraid of? What is he hiding that we don’t know? And fourth, our Republican colleagues must demand with us that the president insist the twelve indicted Russians be sent to the United States immediately to stand trial. Every one of these actions is important. Every one should be bipartisan. Every one of our Republican colleagues, no matter what their ideology within the Republican Party, ought to choose country over party, what’s good for America over the politics of the moment, strength and not fear when President Trump shows weakness, as he has today.
I am asking Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, both friends, to make sure the four things we’ve asked for are done. I am pleading with them, for the sake of the country, to do so. The president is doing grave harm to the standing of the United States, to the strength of the United States, to the security of the United States, to the economic robustness of the United States, by kowtowing to Vladimir Putin. The president will continue to do it if he’s not checked and the best check is our Republican colleagues if they have the decency, the honor, and the courage to stand up at a time when the moment calls for it. Some have: Senator McCain, Senator Graham, Senator Sasse. Where are the others? And where is Leader McConnell? The summit today was an insult to all Americans – Democrats, Republicans, Independents. We all have to stand up together to push back.
On a related matter, I want to speak for a moment on President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. We know that President Trump promised to pick a judge who would be hostile to a woman’s right to choose, to Roe v. Wade and to the health care law, including protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. That is incredibly troubling in and of itself. But I have little doubt that every one of those twenty-five, in the eyes of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation which put together the list, would do those two things that would so hurt America in my judgment. But another troubling aspect of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination are his views on presidential power, and whether presidents should be treated as though they are above the law.
Judge Kavanaugh seems to take an almost monarchical view of executive power. He has written that a sitting president should not be subject to criminal or civil investigation or prosecution while in office. He has even written that a president doesn’t need to enforce a law that the president “deems” unconstitutional. It contradicts the well-settled principle, something at the heart of our Constitution and what the founding fathers in their greatness did back in 1789, and that presidents should not be above the law.
Now those are dangerous beliefs at any time. But at this moment in time, with this president, those beliefs are especially dangerous. Anyone who followed the president’s trip overseas and his summit today with President Putin saw a reckless, self-centered president, willing to bully allies, comfort adversaries, seemingly on a whim. President Trump’s first year and a half in office has been marked by numerous examples of the president stretching executive authority, testing the rule of law, the separation of powers. Now more than ever, and especially in light of today’s events, we need a Supreme Court Justice who understands and respects the important boundaries the Constitution and our system of government place on the chief executives. We don’t need a Justice who is ideologically pre-disposed to favor almost unchecked executive power, especially with Donald Trump as President of the United States.
Judge Kavanaugh has very clearly tipped his hand that he prefers to give broad deference to the executive. Perhaps that’s why Judge Kavanaugh was ultimately selected from a list of 25 that all had been given the good housekeeping seal of approval by the Federalist Society intent on repealing Roe and the Heritage Foundation intent on rolling back government involvement in health care, whether it be ACA protecting pre-existing conditions or Medicare?
Special Counsel Mueller’s probe appears to be discovering more and more evidence of President Putin’s interference in our election and the potential cooperation of American citizens in that interference. Given that a Justice Kavanaugh could one day be faced with ruling on the matter of whether or not a sitting president can be indicted or subpoenaed, I hope Senators from both parties scrutinize Judge Kavanaugh’s beliefs about executive powers.
On all other courts, defendants, potential defendants, don’t get to pick their jurors. The president, particularly this president, shouldn’t have that power either.