Schumer Floor Remarks On Singapore Summit, Health Care, And The IG Report

June 13, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s summit in Singapore with Chairman Kim Jong-Un, Democrats’ commitment to  focusing on health care during the August work period, and the impending Inspector General report . Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, talks between President Trump and Chairman Kim in Singapore concluded yesterday.

Certainly, we are heartened to see the two leaders engage in a dialogue. We feel much better when both President Trump and Chairman Kim are talking rather than trading insults and military threats. We all want this diplomacy to succeed.

But now that the dust has settled after the Singapore Summit, three things are clear: first, Chairman Kim achieved more than President Trump did; second, our adversaries Russia and China have gained, while our allies like South Korea and Japan have lost footing and some degree of faith in America’s reliability; and third, the summit was much more show than substance; what the Texans call all cattle, no hat.

Let me elaborate, in past agreements with North Korea, the United States has won stronger language on denuclearization and we won specific measures to ensure that North Korea was taking steps in that direction. Of course, even with stronger language, the North Korean regime repeatedly backtracked from previous American-led agreements.

The joint statement in Singapore includes none of the concrete details that could make an ambitious goal like “complete denuclearization” close to meaningful. Chairman Kim did not even mention his ambiguous commitment to denuclearize when he returned home to North Korea. It was absent in all the North Korean press. Often you can tell how a leader feels [by] what they tell their people, not what they say publicly to the world, and in this case denuclearization was not even mentioned. Still, President Trump tweeted this morning “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” What planet is the president on? Saying it doesn’t make it so. North Korea still has nuclear weapons. It still has ICBMS. It still has the United States in danger. Somehow President Trump thinks when he says something it becomes reality, if it were only that easy, only that simple. That’s what stood in the way of making this meeting more meaningful. It’s not show, it’s not verbiage, its action. President Trump in his actions did things that President Kim wanted. I don’t know what President Kim has done that we wanted other than show up, which was a benefit for him.

President Trump also agreed to freeze joint military exercises with South Korea, and he called them “provocations” – right out of the North Korean propaganda playbook –without the knowledge of South Korea or our own military. I guarantee you our military men and women were squirming when President Trump called our joint military actions “provocations.”

These exercises and others that the military conduct around the world are designed to ensure that our service members are fully trained and ready for action. They’re not a provocation, President Trump. Adopting the North Korean view on American military exercises, which President Trump did, is nothing short of a public relations coup for Chairman Kim. And it seems that President Trump did not think it through or consult with anybody. You cannot do this stuff on the fly. Just like saying the danger from North Korea is over doesn’t make it so, saying that these are provocations makes things worse. You cannot do it on the fly. You need serious thought because it has consequences. And if President Kim walked away from these negotiations thinking “it’s easy to deal with President Trump,” Kim might think “I get what I want and I don’t have to give him anything,” that doesn’t bode well for the future.

In final tabulation, after all the pomp and circumstance have faded, it seems clear that Chairman Kim walked away the victor, unfortunately. What President Trump achieved on behalf of the United States is unclear and difficult to certify; what Chairman Kim achieved for North Korea is tangible, and lasting.

No doubt, our Republican friends would be up in arms if a Democratic president walked away from a summit with so little to show for it. But, of course, while we haven’t heard full throated praise from our Republican side, their reactions have been kind of lukewarm, it’s not close to the criticism they launched at President Obama in similar situations.

In the weeks and months ahead, President Trump and his team need to focus on securing real and enduring concessions from the North Koreans: on plutonium and uranium enrichment, on the destruction of nuclear infrastructure, on an anywhere, anytime inspections regime, and the unambiguous end of missile testing.

These are the things that make a strong nuclear agreement. Unfortunately, the Singapore Summit produced none of them, and even talked about none of them. We hope in the future that changes for the safety of America, but again the emphasis on showmanship as opposed to substance will not serve America or the prospects for peace well in the long run.

One final point: Congressional oversight and involvement is critical to this process. Secretary Pompeo needs to make clear what the process moving forward includes and what, if any, additional agreements were made in Singapore. Congress needs to learn the terms for any sanctions relief; whether U.S. troop presence in Korea was discussed; and whether any agreement will include a halt to North Korea’s key missile programs. 

Now, on healthcare. Even as the North Korea summit dominates the headlines, Democrats are going to continue to focus on the number one issue on the minds of most Americans: healthcare.

Insurers in state after state are announcing double-digit premium increases and blaming Republican health care policies for the increase. Now, amazingly, the Trump administration is refusing to defend the constitutionality of protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, turning its back on the most popular and most humane advancement in our health care system.

Imagine the return of the days when a mother with a child who has cancer can no longer find affordable care for her daughter; the days when hardworking Americans who fall on hard times are made to suffer, denied health care coverage precisely because they need it so desperately. How wrong, how backward, how immoral that system was. That’s where President Trump wants to take us again.

So we Democrats are going to spend the next few months, including the August work period, focusing on the nation’s health care system, the critical issue, trying to get premiums down, costs down, better healthcare, not the deterioration we have seen under President Trump and the Republican congressional leadership. We’re going to focus on all our Republican friends have done to drive up the costs of healthcare to average Americans and what we should be doing to reverse that awful trend.

Finally, Mr. President, the IG report. Tomorrow, the Inspector General of the Justice Department will release a report about the department’s handling of an investigation of Secretary Clinton in 2016.

We look forward to the report and learning what it has to say.

Now we hope that our Republican colleagues don’t take the cynical track of trying to spin the report’s contents to somehow sully the completely separate and ongoing investigation into Putin’s meddling in the 2016 election.

The DOJ IG report is likely to focus on the conduct of the Justice Department and the FBI in handing the Clinton email investigation in the run-up 2016. Special Counsel Mueller was not appointed at that point; he wasn’t a glean in anyone’s eye. So what he’s doing is totally independent of what happened here. And furthermore, when the president says “witch hunt,” somehow blames Democrats for this, well, whatever Comey did hurt Hillary Clinton and he didn’t do the same thing to President Trump, which would have hurt him. He released the details of Hillary’s investigation, many of us thought he did that wrongly, but didn’t release any details of the investigation into possible collusion of the Trump campaign with the Russians. So this idea that somehow what Comey did and what Mueller is doing was designed to hurt President Trump and Republicans at Democrats’ behest is like Alice in Wonderland. It’s the opposite of the facts.

The investigation into Putin’s meddling in our elections, and any potential associations between Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign, is an entirely separate investigation from what happened with Hillary Clinton.

It would be erroneous to try and use the information in the IG report to discredit the special counsel, but we hearing rumblings that some of these very partisan Republicans led by Chairman Nunes may try to go down that road. We hope they won’t be so cynical or so willing to twist the facts inside out and turn truth on its head, all for political gain.

It is crucial, critical that Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation gets to the bottom of what happened and who was involved in Russia’s efforts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election.

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