Schumer Floor Remarks On The House Proceeding With Articles Of Impeachment, The Need For Senate GOP To Stop Spreading Putin’s Propaganda, Trump Administration’s Proposal To Require U.S. Citizens Undergo Facial Scans At Airports, And Applauding House Passage Of Robocall LegislationDecember 5, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor after the House of Representatives announced it will proceed with articles of impeachment. Senator Schumer also urged Senate Republicans to stop spreading the unsupported and false narrative promoted by Russia that Ukraine was responsible for 2016 meddling after the Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the FBI probe into the Trump campaign was a setup. In addition, he spoke regarding reports that say the Trump administration will propose a new rule to require U.S. citizens to undergo facial scans when they leave or enter the country and he applauded the House for passing the bipartisan TRACED Act, which would crack down on the tens of billions of robocalls that plague Americans every year. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
This morning, the Speaker of the House instructed House Committee Chairs to begin drafting articles of impeachment against the President of the United States. That is a very solemn duty and solemn undertaking. The Speaker’s decision comes after the House Intelligence Committee reported that its inquiry had “uncovered a months-long effort by President Trump to use the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 elections.” We know Russian interfered on Trump’s behalf in 2016 and now he’s trying to make it happen again, this time by trying to push Ukraine.
The charges against the president are extremely serious. No belittling of these charges will hold any water. The charge to use foreign interference on behalf of a candidate in the 2020 elections is dramatic and awful stuff. These charges concern our national security. They concern the sanctity of our elections and the potential corruption of our nation’s foreign policy for personal, political interests of the President of the United States. The gravity of those charges demands that Senators, if articles of impeachment are served to us, to put country over party and examine the evidence without prejudice or partisanship.
And that is why it's so disheartening, confounding, and deeply disappointing that at this historic moment I heard the Republican Leader criticizing in such strident terms the process of the impeachment inquiry in the House for being too short and not including enough witnesses or due process for the president.
I would respond on two counts. First, the Republican leader is simply wrong to suggest that the House process has been anything but deliberate, evenhanded, and serious. Speaker Pelosi, the House Intelligence Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, are proceeding exactly how the Constitution proscribes.
But second, it is the height of hypocrisy to criticize the House process for being too short and not including enough witnesses when the Trump administration is the one blocking witnesses from testifying! What hypocrisy! How can the Leader even say it with a straight face? Will this febrile obeisance to President Trump never cease? Are they so afraid of him and his bullying that they can’t admit the obvious truth and twist themselves in pretzel knots to make arguments that are so spurious?
It is the height of hypocrisy to criticize the House for not including enough opportunities for the president to make his defense when the president is refusing to participate.
It is the height of hypocrisy to say there were not enough witnesses when we don’t hear a peep out of the Republicans urging the president to allow the witnesses that the House wanted to come forward.
This hyperventilation about the length of the House process and the number of witnesses is simply ridiculous. The Trump administration is responsible for those things, not House Democrats, everyone knows that. Everyone knows they’ve gone to court to block witnesses and documents.
I’d remind my colleagues: if the articles of impeachment are indeed passed by the House, Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans must work with Democrats to set the parameters of a fair and impartial trial. Every member of the Senate should support a fair process. The House is running a fair process now; we must do the same in the Senate, if it comes to that.
All week, I’ve been urging my Senate Republican colleagues not to spread or even speculate about the dangerous myth that Ukraine—not just Putin—interfered in the 2016 elections. That myth was invented by Putin’s intelligence services to deflect blame away from Putin while driving a wedge between the United States and Ukraine, one of Putin’s top goals.
When certain Senate Republicans are parroting Putin’s talking points, we have a serious problem. Hopefully, the overwhelming criticism of the members who did that this week have convinced them to stop and back off in the Republicans’ absurd denial of fact and total defense of President Trump, even when it’s obvious he’s not telling the truth. We have reached a low moment, and maybe the lowest of all was the mouthing of Putin’s conspiracy theory about Ukraine.
Now another insidious conspiracy theory was doused with cold water this morning. You know the truth comes out, Republicans, sooner or later. Another theory was doused with cold water when it was reported that Attorney General Barr’s handpicked prosecutor had reportedly found no evidence that the FBI probe into the Trump campaign was a setup.
Republicans in the House, conservative media personalities, Fox News, and other blind partisan loyalists to the President have long conjured and peddled these deep-state conspiracy theories without evidence. The Attorney General is even using the resources of the Justice Department—which could be exposing Chinese Communist Party’s spies or tracking would be radical terrorists or fighting opioids or tackling ransomware attacks on cities across the country—to investigate the origins of the 2016 probe. Attorney General Barr’s actions are presumably in the hopes of turning up evidence to support these far-fetched theories. Well, too bad, Republicans, too bad, hard-right. The Attorney General’s handpicked prosecutor found no evidence to these conspiracy theories that the investigation of President Trump was started with evil and political intent.
The only evidence we have is that the outlandish theories peddled by President Trump and his allies to defend this administration are totally baseless.
Now on another note, airport face scans. This morning, it was reported that the Trump administration will propose a rule to require U.S. citizens to have their faces scanned whenever they enter or leave the United States. This sounds like something out of China.
Currently, all U.S. citizens are allowed to opt-out of facial scans when entering or exiting the country. The Trump administration is poised to remove that option and make facial scans mandatory for all travelers, including U.S. citizens. I have significant concerns about what this policy would mean for privacy of every American citizen. Just last year, a cyberattack of CBP compromised the personal information, in this case it was license plates and facial data, of just under a hundred thousand people. Imagine if DHS were required to retain the facial data of every American who travels in and out of the country.
There are of course legitimate questions about whether the federal government is legally allowed to collect and store this data. Those questions must be answered before—not after—the Trump Administration moves forward with its new rules. On something as serious as this, Congress should debate this issue. I see no reason why the current opt-out policy must change, and I will work with privacy advocates here in the Senate like my friend Sen. Markey to legislatively prevent the administration from moving forward.
Another issue, robocalls. The House of Representatives, yesterday, passed bipartisan legislation to crack down on the tens of billions of robocalls that plague Americans every year. All of us are bothered by these darn robocalls. They come at the worst times and they are on again and on and on, and you can’t even shut them off. Last year alone, Americans were battered by forty-eight billion—billion— robocalls. That’s 150 calls per person, per year.
Robocalls are annoying, they are persistent, and beyond that, many of them are dangerous to consumers. Foreign companies can make thousands of calls with the push of a button and can charge Americans simply for picking up the call. Can you believe that? Many are designed to scam elderly Americans, we’ve heard about elderly Americans who are frightened and send their life savings to these criminal callers. And many of the calls target institutions like hospitals and slow down important businesses.
The TRACED Act, passed by the Senate in May and recently amended and passed by the House, requires phone companies to block robocalls without charging consumers and will give the Justice Department and the FCC better tools to prosecute scammers who prey on unsuspecting, many elderly, Americans. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the original Senate bill, I pushed hard to move it forward. The Senate should now take action on the amended and expanded robocall legislation from the House and pass it before the year is out.
As we saw with the recent legislation to the democratic protests in Hong Kong, when there is bipartisan consensus on an issue, we can move swiftly to enact bipartisan legislation. These moments, unfortunately, are far too rare under Leader McConnell, who has avoided the consideration of legislation on the floor even when it has bipartisan support. But I hope, as we enter the final few weeks this year, Leader McConnell will address the issue of robocalls and send this bipartisan bill to the president’s desk.