Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need For Republicans To Stop Spreading Debunked Conspiracy Theories, The Inclusion Of Paid Parental Leave For Federal Employees In The NDAA, And Senate Dems’ Effort To Save Net NeutralityDecember 10, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the report stating the Department of Justice’s Inspector General found no political bias in the FBI probe into the Trump 2016 campaign and Russia and urged Republicans to stop spreading debunked conspiracy theories, ahead of Pres. Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Senator Schumer also applauded a bipartisan agreement to include paid parental leave for federal workers in the National Defense Authorization Act and called for its swift passage. In addition, he announced Senate Democrats will make a unanimous consent request to pass the Save Internet Act to codify net neutrality rules in the Congressional Review Act, in light of the second anniversary of the FCC’s partisan decision to repeal these rules. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:
For years, President Trump has speculated wildly about a “deep state” conspiracy against his presidency, based on the claim that the FBI opened an investigation into the president’s campaign with political bias, with the explicit purpose that they were out to get him.
Yesterday, the Dept. of Justice Inspector General released a report that puts this conspiracy theory to bed. The report conclusively debunks the baseless conspiracy that the investigation into President Trump’s campaign and its ties to Russia originated with political bias. In fact, the report quotes the FBI Deputy General Counsel as saying, “[the FBI] would have been derelict in our responsibility had we not opened the case.” Let me repeat that, from the number two counsel at the FBI: “The FBI would have been derelict in our responsibility had we not opened the case.”
President Trump commits so many wrongs, and when people call him for it, he blames somebody and comes up with a conspiracy. And the most amazing thing is that not just his appointees, but these Senators in this chamber—almost too many of them—just echo those crazy theories designed to divert us from the truth.
The Inspector General of the Dept. of Justice, Michael Horowitz, has been praised for years by members of both sides of the aisle for his integrity, for his fairness. There is no reason to doubt the report’s conclusion. He’s never been accused of bias before. Attorney General Barr, Senator Lindsay Graham, praised Mr. Horowitz. But all of a sudden, they’re casting aspersions on him and his report.
Only political actors doubt this report. Political actors like Attorney General Barr and, now it seems as well, his handpicked federal prosecutor, John Durham. Attorney General Barr has all-to-often acted on behalf of the president’s interests rather than as a neutral law enforcement officer. He almost seems a hatchet man on a political campaign, rather than being Attorney General, an august position, and following the rule of law, and trying to shield that office from politics whenever possible. Instead, AG Barr loves to jump in to the political pool of muck.
I was skeptical when Mr. Barr appointed John Durham simply because Attorney General Barr had picked him, and he does almost nothing in these sensitive areas that are not political. You had some hope: Durham, some said, had a good reputation. Well yesterday, Durham’s statement confirms our suspicions that he is not a nonpolitical actor. No prosecutor worth his salt would release a political statement like he did while conducting an investigation. Because of issuing that statement, Durham has lost a great deal of credibility even before he issues his report. No one who’s thinking of these things down-the-middle is going to think that Durham is a dispassionate, nonpolitical observer because he’s already shown himself to be, in a certain sense, a henchman of Mr. Barr and his political activities.
To emphasize the broad acceptance of the IG report, FBI Director Wray, appointed by President Trump, embraced the report. When Director Wray was asked whether he thought the FBI targeted the Trump campaign, he said: “I do not.” And for that, not surprising but still rather, again, low, shallow and disgusting, President Trump lashed out this morning at the FBI Director, saying, “I don’t know what the current Director of the FBI was reading, but it wasn’t the one given to me.”
President Trump: if you actually read the report, you’d understand exactly what FBI Director Wray was talking about. And you’d understand exactly why it was his duty, to defend his department, when they behave on a nonpolitical, rule-of-law basis.
My friends, it is a sad state of affairs when truth-tellers have no place in President Trump’s Washington. Anyone inside the Trump administration willing to speak truth to power—Secretary Mattis, DNI Director Coats, even Chief of Staff Kelly towards the end and so many others—cannot survive the president’s insistence on blind loyalty, cannot survive the fact that the president makes them tells lies and mistruths to continue to serve him.
If you do not act in feeble obeisance to President Trump, he will turn on you. And so the quality of people in this administration is getting lower and lower and lower. Top notch people, with the ability to govern and make smart decisions, and with the ability to care about the truth often go hand in hand. But if you care about the truth, you’re out, and so President Trump losses quality people in his administration, and the only people who survive are those who are willing to bow down to President Trump, who will do just what he wants and says, even when they know it’s false.
And that is why this administration is so erratic, so disjointed, so ineffective, and at this time, so unpopular with the majority of the American people. The American people know that Secretary Mattis is a fine man. They know that Wray is a fine man. They know that they’re the kind of people, if President Trump says to tell a lie, they won’t. But unfortunately, the people in this administration who remain are willing to do just that.
And that said—as I said—it’s a very sad state of affairs and one of the reasons this administration has such a difficult relationship with the truth. The president conjures fictions, buys into baseless conspiracy theories told by known liars on Fox News or somewhere else, and then anyone who contradicts him earns his scorn. Contradict him enough, if you’re in the administration, and you lose your job.
Now more worry. Amazingly, this afternoon, the president and Secretary of State Pompeo will meet in secret with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. It shows a blinding disregard for what’s going on in Congress and the world right now. Russian intelligence has been pushing the baseless theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 elections, not just Putin, as a way to divide the West and defend Putin. Certain Republican Senators have stunningly repeated that falsehood around these corridors.
And now President Trump and the Secretary of State Pompeo are meeting with the Russian foreign minister in secret. What new conspiracies are they cooking up with Lavrov today? I worry. The president has been so unable to articulate a defense of the facts uncovered in the House impeachment inquiry that he’s resorted to one conspiracy after the next to explain his conduct. His allies, including members of the Senate Republican caucus, have elevated several of these theories. Here in the Senate, certain members of the Grand Old Party are forming their own “conspiracy caucus.” Any crazy conspiracy—whether launched by Putin or some wild-eyed crazy conspiracy theorist, who manages of course all the time to get on Fox News and have his story or her story repeated—some of my colleagues just repeat, even though it’s clear they’re false and they know they’re false.
Senator Angus King has a great op-ed last week in USA Today which I commend to every one of my colleagues. It basically said, if what the impeachment proceeding has found is false, then where are the Trump people to refute it? Not to come up with some irrelevant conspiracy theory and bring this one and that one into it which has nothing to do with it, but actually refute the facts? Where is that?
President Trump has not refuted a single fact that the impeachment inquiry has found. None of his people have been willing to come forward who would have knowledge to refute those facts if those facts were false. And so they try to create a shiny object, a diversion, and unfortunately too many of the news media on the right will spend time on that diversion and repeat President Trump’s claim that the actual facts are false. This is the beginning of the end of a democracy when we can’t have truth. We can disagree on the outcomes of those facts but we can’t have truth of fact and everything is fake news, particularly those from the right who don’t like the truth and conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact govern, our democracy’s at risk. It’s one of the main reasons, I think, so many Americans believe, whatever their ideology, that President Trump should not be president.
Conspiracy theories are not harmless. They are sinister. They are insidious. They erode the democratic fabric of this country. They erode our fidelity to truth which is at the basis of democracy and they help Putin sow discord in our country.
The conspiracies need to stop. If the White House would like to submit evidence or offer witnesses to make the president’s case, please do so! They haven’t done it once. Instead, the White House is blocking documents and withholding witnesses who could potentially defend the president’s actions, a surefire sign, as Senator King said in his op-ed, that the president has something to hide.
Given that the House announced that it would write two Articles of Impeachment this morning, the White House’s refusal to rebut the evidence under oath is something not lost upon members of the United States Senate who could soon be judges and jurors in a Senate trial.
On another, happier subject. Over the weekend, negotiations on the annual defense bill concluded. There are lots of things missing in that bill, things that should have been included but were blocked by the Republican majority in the Senate. But there’s one very good thing, among a few others. I am proud that the bill will now provide all federal employees with 12 weeks of paid parental leave, something Democrats have pursued for a long time.
Once the NDAA is passed (hopefully, in the coming week), two million federal employees will no longer have to choose between caring for a newborn and putting food on the table. This is huge, huge news it will make the lives of millions of families better. They have a newborn baby that needs care, he or she. I just had a grandson who turned one, I know just exactly what it’s like. And if both the mom and dad work or it’s a single parent family, what is that family going to do? It’s one of the most nerve-wracking decisions that impedes on the joy of a new birth.
Well, in many other countries there’s something called paid family leave, where you can take off three months and raise the child in those early days when he or she is helpless. In the US, some private companies that are progressive do it, but not enough. Well now all federal employees will get that opportunity, parental leave. It recognizes the changes in the world.
When I was growing up, my mom stayed at home while my dad went to work. He was an exterminator. That’s not the norm anymore: most families have two working parents, and we have lots of single parents who bear the load of raising a family. All it takes is one serious illness, complication or accident to wreak financial havoc on that family. It’s no surprise that paid family leave ranks near the top of voters’ concerns.
The United States is the only developed nation in the world that does not guarantee paid leave for parents of newborns or newly adopted. I hope that, after we pass parental leave for federal employees, employers in the private sector will take notice and they will act as well. If this spreads throughout America as often federal policies do, it will be a great thing, for our parents and our children. Today only 16% of workers in the private sector have access to paid leave. Studies overwhelmingly show that when working parents can take care of their families without fear of losing jobs, families are better off and the economy is better off, as well.
So I am glad that the long push we have made on this side of the aisle for parental leave has been secured for all federal workers. I hope it will become a reality soon for all workers. And I want to thank all my colleagues who helped make this a reality.
On net neutrality.
This Saturday marks the second anniversary of the FCC’s party-line decision to repeal net neutrality rules. To restore the safeguards of a free and open internet that those rules protected, today my colleagues Senators Markey, Cantwell and Wyden will ask the Senate’s consent to pass the Save Internet Act, which codifies Net neutrality in a similar manner to last year’s Congressional Review Act that passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support.
I want to thank those Senators and so many others for their leadership on this important, if sometimes overlooked, issue.
Net neutrality is based on a very simple idea: that the internet—just like our phones, highways, and power sources—is a public good that all Americans should have access to without discrimination, whether you’re a big company or a start-up, a rural school or an individual consumer. Just like water companies can’t discriminate between their customers, and say, “Oh, I’m going to charge you $10 a use, for a day’s use of water and I’m going to charge your neighbor down the street $100”—that would be unfair, we wouldn’t allow it—the same thing should be true for the internet. Under the Obama administration, Net Neutrality rules prevented moneyed groups from getting preferential treatment. We should return to it. The administration has unfortunately sided with the big special interests and repealed it.
Senator Markey’s legislation would restore the rules of the road that protect a free and open internet. I want to thank my colleagues for bringing this to the Senate’s attention today.