Schumer Floor Remarks On Singapore Summit, The DOJ Inspector General’s Report, And Combatting The ZTE Deal

June 14, 2018

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need for real diplomacy with North Korea, the upcoming release of the Inspector General report, and working in a bipartisan matter to penalize ZTE . Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Mr. President, it has now been two days since the Singapore Summit between President Trump and Chairman Kim concluded.

America remains troubled by the lack of detail in the joint statement signed by both parties as well as some of the remarkable concessions made by President Trump, especially the freeze of joint military exercises with South Korea.

In the wake of this first meeting, it’s become clearer and clearer that Chairman Kim secured far more concessions than President Trump.

And yet, despite all the evidence, President Trump is acting like he just secured world peace.

The president is conducting an alternative reality presidency, and the recent summit with North Korea reveals it.

President Trump says we are no longer on the brink of war with North Korea, after President Trump himself was the one who brought us there in the first place – through bellicose rhetoric and brinksmanship on Twitter. Now, the president takes a victory lap for undoing a problem he created in the first place. He pats himself on the back, saying “we’re now at peace. We were on the brink of war.” He forgets that he brought us there. What kind of presidency is this?

President Trump tweeted yesterday that “there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.” Saying it, Mr. President Trump, doesn’t make it so. Once again, an alternative reality presidency.

Despite what the president says, Chairman Kim has not agreed to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear infrastructure. He has not agreed to stop enriching plutonium and uranium. He had not agreed to any sort of inspections regime. When Chairman Kim went home to North Korea, he did not even mention his vague commitment to completely denuclearize. To say there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea, after one meeting, after signing one sheet of paper, is living in an alternative reality, and that’s where it seems President Trump lives these days – more than ever before.

Finally, in the place of serious, arduous negotiations, President Trump preferred signing ceremonies and proclamations. It’s a pattern in this presidency: flash over substance. Sign documents in front of the cameras, but skip out on the hard work behind the scenes. The idea is to make it look as if the president’s getting stuff done but not actually doing the hard work and getting it done. We can’t have a president who is interested only in playing the role of president, he’s got to do the job of president. On a matter as serious as negotiations with North Korea, there is no substitute for the hard work of real diplomacy. Only in President Trump’s alternative reality presidency do photo ops and handshakes suffice especially – especially – when North Korea still presents such a great danger to us. If tomorrow morning, Kim Jong-un did a 180 degree reversal, having gotten what he wants (the handshake, the summit, the reduction of sanctions), we would be in real danger. And President Trump acts like it’s all over. An alternative reality presidency. But when it comes to something as serious and dangerous as North Korea, it’s not a joke. It’s serious stuff.

The hard details, the concrete concessions, the diplomatic gains for the United States – safety from a dangerous, still dangerous, North Korea – those simply have to wait in President Trump’s world, and it doesn’t even seem to matter if they never happen.

We hope, sincerely, that those hard details do come. We hope that the Singapore Summit was only the first step rather than the final result, because we all wish to see a diplomatic resolution to the conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Ninety-nine percent of all Americans don’t just want a photo op. And we’re glad that President Trump is actually trying at least to channel diplomacy. But he needs to stop behaving like all the hard work is behind him, and open his eyes to the reality that bringing an end to a nuclear North Korea is not as easy, simple, or quick as a few days of photo ops.

Now, on another subject. This afternoon, we expect to receive the report of the Department of Justice Inspector General, who has been reviewing the conduct of the DOJ and FBI in the run-up to the 2016 election. 

Although we have not yet seen the Inspector General’s report, there is no reason – no reason – to believe that it will provide any basis to call the Special Counsel’s work into question. 

The IG report concerns an entirely separate investigation from the Russia probe that Special Counsel Mueller is conducting. The IG report concerns issues that started long before the Special Counsel Mueller was even appointed and concluded before he even began his investigation.

Furthermore, the one thing we do know about what happened late in 2016 is that certain actions taken by the FBI, intentionally or not, helped the Trump campaign and hurt the Clinton campaign. The release that candidate Clinton was under investigation – the release that comments on what she had or had not done – hurt her. It will take an awful lot of spin, an awful lot of stretching, for Republicans to twist that around and portray the president as some kind of victim.

But regrettably, people like Chairman Nunes, like Fox News, like some of the Republican supporters of the president in Congress, and even like the president himself have been running a cynical campaign to undermine the Russia investigation. It seems the only limits to the wild conspiracy theories they’ve cooked up is in their imaginations. This hurts America. We’ve heard new reports that Russia is trying to meddle in our 2018 elections. If foreign powers can meddle in our elections with impunity, this democracy’s in trouble – in trouble – both in what the foreign powers may do and in the lack of faith in democracy it instills in people here in America and around the world. And our Republican colleagues who use this, our president who uses this, as a political whipping boy are hurting our democracy.

So, almost regardless of what the IG report says, we can probably expect the president, Mr. Nunes, some of the Fox News commentators, and others to invent new conspiracy theories and new calls for more special counsels to investigate the investigators. Americans of all stripes are beginning to see these theories for what they are: distortions meant to undermine or distract from Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation into the very serious efforts of Russia to influence the outcome of our elections. Well-meaning members of both parties – both parties – should call them out for what they are. We’re waiting to hear from some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle on this. Too few voices – too few voices on something so significant.

On another matter and this one of some bipartisanship, I’m happy to say. The Senate continues to process the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act in a bipartisan way, to give our military the support and certainty it needs, and to make crucial updates to our national security policy. And one strong bipartisan action in the bill is dealing with the Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

Let me remind this body. ZTE has violated US sanctions, lied about it, but even more importantly, its technology has been deemed a national security threat – a national security threat – to these great United States by the FCC, the FBI, and the Pentagon, all appointed by Republicans.

President Trump was flat-out wrong when he decided to go easy on ZTE and allow it to start selling its technology in the United States. If you believe some reports, he did it once again on a whim: a phone call from President Xi – President Xi – our enemy on economic matters, who’s robbing American jobs and stealing our technology, calls him up and says let’s undo this. And President Trump, seemingly without preparation, without briefings by the military or intelligence agencies or our law enforcement agencies, just does it – hurting America.

The good news: bipartisan efforts in this body, and in the House, to undo what the president did, and re-impose the penalties on ZTE that they deserve. President Trump was flat-out wrong when he decided to go easy on ZTE and allow it to start selling its technology in the U.S. again. That puts America at severe risk: the risk of a China-backed company spying on Americans’ private information, spying on businesses, spying on our military. If ZTE is allowed to come in here, every American should be worried when they talk on their iPhone that China is spying on them. Every American business should be worried that China is spying on its businesses and their intellectual property. And most of all, our military leaders should be worried that China is purloining secrets that help keep us safe.

That’s why we’ve included a bipartisan amendment. I want to salute Senators Cotton and Van Hollen for leading the charge. I want to salute folks like Senator Rubio who have been so strong on this issue, putting country first. I want to salute the many on our side who have agreed with that. It’s the right thing to do to not allow ZTE to be here for both national security interests as well as the economic importance of being tough on China.

Yesterday, it was reported, of course, that the White House will oppose the amendment and may seek to strip it out of the bill. We hope cooler heads in the administration – Secretary Mattis, Chief of Staff Kelly, and others who have had a military background – can inform the president how ill-advised his actions are. Both parties in Congress must be resolute in blocking the president’s bad, pro-China ZTE deal. Protecting America’s national and economic security is paramount and any deal that jeopardizes them should be stopped in its tracks.

Senator Corker made a point this week. He’s been freed of the political constraints and can say what he thinks. And he made a point passionately that this body does not have to assent to every whim of the president. It’s not easy when you’re of the same party as the president. I know that. But, as everyone in this chamber knows, on some major issues, I opposed President Obama because I thought he was wrong. And I know how difficult it is. I know how difficult it is. But sometimes duty and country and patriotism require it. On a matter as vital as this one, having to do with America’s national and economic security, we cannot back off. I urge my colleagues, particularly my friends Senators Cotton and Rubio and Cornyn who have been so strong and right on this issue, to hang tough – especially when we get to conference. And I want to thank our acting chair of the Armed Services Committee for understanding the security risks America has and for working in a bipartisan way to do it.

Now finally, Mr. President, indulge me a few more words. They’re personal but they’re meaningful. Today is Flag Day. It’s also my father’s 95th birthday. And this upcoming weekend is Father’s Day.

My father was a World War II vet over in Burma. And when he came back to Brooklyn after the war, he took over a small exterminating business from his father, my grandfather. I often joked that we’re the only family who associates the smell of DDT with love, because he would come home from the office smelling of all those chemicals. My father, he hated his job. He’d pace the floor at 2 A.M. on Sunday nights, unable to sleep, dreading work on Monday.

But there was great honor in what he did. He never complained. He was supporting a family even if it was in a job he was stuck with after getting back from World War II. And his passion and his idea of serving without complaining gave his children, grandchildren, and God-willing in November his soon-to-be first great grandchild, the idea that we could follow our dreams standing on his strong and weary shoulders. Mine led me here. I’ll never stop being grateful to my dad for that.

So, Mr. President, allow me to wish my father a happy birthday today, and to say I look forward to seeing him and my mom Selma, who turned 90 just on D-Day, as well as my wife and two daughters, this weekend for Father’s Day. And I wish all Americans the same joy in celebrating Father’s Day this weekend.