Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For A Fair & Honest Impeachment Trial That Seeks The Truth, Including Documents & Testimony From Key Witnesses

January 15, 2020

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke today on the Senate floor regarding the need for a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial that includes key documents and testimony from witnesses. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:


Today is a momentous, historic, solemn day in the history of the United States Senate and in the history of our Republic.

The House of Representatives will send articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate, and the Speaker will appoint the House managers of the impeachment case. Two articles will be delivered. The first charges the president with the abuse of power, coercing a foreign leader into interfering in our elections, using the powers of the presidency, the most powerful public office in the nation to benefit himself. The second charges the president with obstruction of Congress for an unprecedented blockade of the legislature's authority to oversee and investigate the executive branch.

Let's put it a different way: the House of Representatives has accused the president of trying to shake down a foreign leader for personal gain to help him in his campaign and has done everything possible to cover it up. This administration is unprecedented in not being open in its desire for secrecy, in its desire to prevent the public from knowing what it's doing. And it's worst of all when it comes in an impeachment trial. The two offenses are the types of offenses the Founders had in mind when they designed the impeachment powers of Congress.

Now, Americans and the Founding Fathers in particular from the very Founding day of the Republic have feared the ability of a foreign power to interfere in our elections. Americans never wanted a foreign power to have sway over our elections, but that is what President Trump is accused of doing, of soliciting, in these articles.

I would ask my colleagues, I would ask the American people: Do we want a foreign power determining who our president is, or do we want the American voter to determine it? It’s that serious. It’s that serious. That is the essential question. Who should determine who's our president and our other elected officials? From the early days of the Republic, foreigners have tried to interfere, and from the early days of the Republic, we have resisted.

But according to these articles, and in other things he has done, President Trump seems to aid and abet it. His view is if it's good for him, that's good enough. That is not America. We are a nation of laws, rule of law, not of the rule of one man.

So the Senate's job is to now try the case, to conduct a fair trial, to determine if these very severe charges, very severe—letting, aiding, abetting, encouraging a foreign power to interfere in our elections and then threatening them with the cutoff of aid—our job is to try the case because the president's offenses merit, if they are proven, the most severe punishment our Constitution imagines.

The House has made a very strong case, but clearly Senators have to see that case and watch it first-hand. A fair trial means that the prosecutors making the case and the president's counsel providing the defense have all, all the evidence available. It means that Senators have all the facts to make an informed decision. That means relevant witnesses. That means relevant documents. And we all know that. We all know, every member of this body, Democrat or Republican, that you can't have a fair, open trial, particularly on something as weighty as impeachment, when we don't have the evidence and the facts.

And the precedents of the Senate are clear. Leader McConnell is constantly citing precedent. Well, here's one: the Senate has always heard from witnesses in impeachment trials. There have been fifteen completed impeachment trials in the history of this country. In every single one of them, the Senate heard from witnesses. Let me repeat that for Leader McConnell’s benefit since he is always citing the precedent of 1999. There have been fifteen completed impeachment trials, including the one in 1999, in the history of this country. In every single one of them, the Senate heard from witnesses. It would be unprecedented not to. President Johnson's impeachment trial had witnesses, forty-one of them. President Clinton’s trials had witnesses, several of my colleagues, including the Republican Leader, voted for them. Conducting an impeachment trial of a president of the United States with no witnesses would be without precedent and frankly a new low for the majority in this body that history will not look kindly on.

Each day that goes by, the case for witnesses and documents gains force and gains momentum. Last night, a new cache of documents, including dozens of pages of notes, text messages, and other records shed light on the activities of the president's associates in Ukraine. The documents paint a sordid picture of efforts by the president's personal attorney, Mr. Rudy Giuliani, and his associate Lev Parnas to remove a sitting U.S. ambassador and pressure Ukrainian President Zelensky to announce an investigation of one of the president's political rivals. Part of the plot to remove Ambassador Yovanovitch involved hiring a cheap Republican operative to follow her around and monitor her movements.

How low can they go? Just when you think that President Trump and his network couldn't get possibly any more into the muck, reports suggest they're even dirtier than you could have imagined. I saw a novelist on TV this morning. He said, ‘if I had brought this plot to my publisher, he would have rejected it.’ He said it's absurd, it could never happen, people won't believe it.

Well, here it is. Led by President Trump, who—again—cares not for the morals, ethics, and honor of this country as much as he cares about himself. To allegedly have some cut-rate political operative stalk an American ambassador at the direction of the president's lawyer, potentially with the president's “knowledge and consent”—that's what one of the e-mails said—I mean, how much more can America take in the decline of our morals, our values, our standing in the world?

I don't care who you are, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative. Doesn’t this kind of thing bother you if anyone did it, let alone the President of the United States?

I don't know how any member of this body could pick up the newspaper this morning, read this new revelation, and not conclude that the Senate needs access to relevant documents like these in the trial of President Trump. The release of this new information dramatically underscores the need for witnesses and for documents.

Now the Republican Leader has so far opposed Democratic requests to call four fact-witnesses and subpoena three specific sets of relevant documents, despite having no argument against them. The Republican position at the moment is to punt the question of witnesses and documents after each side finishes its presentation. Let me remind me colleagues: Democrats have requested four fact witnesses. They are the president's top advisors like Mr. Mulvaney. They are not Democrats. They are the president's men. They’re not Democratic witnesses. They are not our witnesses. They are just witnesses, plain and simple. Each of them has firsthand information about the charges against the president.

So as the House prepares to send the articles to the Senate today, it's time for us, all of us, to turn to the serious job of conducting a fair trial, one that the American people will accept as fair. Not as a cover-up. Not as something that that has hidden the evidence. And the focus of Senators from both sides must fall on the question of witnesses and documents.