Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the recent school shooting in Santa Fe, TX, urging President Trump to remain tough on China, and the president’s request for a DOJ investigation. Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:
Mr. President, on Friday morning, there was yet another school shooting in America; another community torn apart by senseless violence; another week when parents must bury their children. We are still learning the tragic details of what happened in Santa Fe, but the basic reality in America remains unchanged: far too many people are dying from gun violence.
What we need now more than ever is real, substantive debate on gun violence in America. A real debate about universal background checks. A real debate about protective orders. A real debate on regulating assault weapons, which are often the weapon of choice in most mass shootings – in most deadly mass shootings, rather.
In the wake of Parkland, it looked like President Trump would finally get religion on this issue. He promised a serious debate on gun violence. But as soon as the NRA and their special-interest cronies closed ranks around him, he backed off. That seems to be the pattern in this administration. The president says something one day, some powerful interest says don’t do it, and he backs right off. That’s not the kind of strength he wishes to show, and he sure hasn’t shown it on this issue. Now, after this most recent tragedy in Santa Fe, we’ve heard no new calls for commonsense gun safety from the White House.
But this chamber can still act. I implore my friends across the aisle to take up this debate. We owe it to the people of Santa Fe, Texas; the people of Parkland, Florida; and every other community who lives at the mercy of the gaping loopholes in our gun laws.
On another matter -- the ongoing trade negotiations with China.
As I’ve said many times, when it comes to being tough on China’s trading practices, I'm closer to President Trump than either to Presidents Obama or Bush. I think the president recognized that fact in a tweet this morning.
So when President Trump threatened tariffs and investment restrictions in the face of China’s blatant theft and extortion of our intellectual property, I gave the president a pat on the back. Our companies need to be able to sell our goods and services in China without having to turn over intellectual property. I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the ones that pains me – it’s so typical – GE employs thousands in Schenectady, they have intellectual property and know-how to make turbines spin very fast and not overheat, but China wouldn’t let them sell them there. So, what did they do? The Chinese blackmailed them, and GE went along. A 51-49 company that now makes those turbines in China, great for the heads of GE, great for their board, great for the stock for a few years, but after that once China, in this 51-49, has learned how to make these turbines themselves, we’re gone. More good-paying jobs could be lost in upstate New York, as they have been throughout America.
President Trump’s actions, at first, helped bring China to the table. But now President Trump and his team have to stick with it, be strong, and negotiate a strong, concrete agreement. The worst thing to do would be to sell out for a one-time, temporary purchase of goods without addressing the real issue: theft of intellectual property which costs us millions of American jobs.
Unfortunately, it seems too strong a possibility that President Trump is headed down the road of not being strong.
The president said this morning that “China has agreed to buy massive amounts of ADDITIONAL Farm/Agricultural Products.” Secretary Mnuchin, hardly a tower of strength on this issue, has said that the administration would “follow this up” on this vague commitment and that $150 billion on proposed tariffs would be put “on hold.”
It is deeply disappointing that, thus far, President Trump has won no concessions on intellectual property, and has locked in no new market access. And it appears that what he did win is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. In reality, there were no specific commitments of US good purchases, not that such a commitment would undo the damage China continues to do to us in its other activities.
If nothing else changes, this deal is a win-win for China: they avoid tough actions on intellectual property, and give us some small temporary and relatively small relief to buy some goods. China’s trade negotiators must be laughing themselves all the way back to Beijing. They know what they’re doing, they’re playing us for fools. Temporary purchase of some goods, while China continues to steal our family jewels, the things that have made America great. The intellectual property, the know-how in the highest end industries. It makes no sense. China is pushing the president around, and he seems to accept it.
Worse still, the president’s team is still talking about giving relief to China’s state-backed telecommunications giant, ZTE, a company that violated our sanctions laws and is considered a national security threat.
It’s totally backward. The way to win real concessions from China is to stay tough, not to bluster and then back off at the first sign of friction. So I say to President Trump, who knows I genuinely want him to succeed with China: stay strong. Don’t back off sanctions on ZTE. You have to pursue the course, or China will continue to enjoy the upper hand.
Now, Congress also has a say on this issue. I was gratified to see that last week – bipartisan – Democrats and Republicans in a House appropriations subcommittee approved a measure that would block the president from weakening sanctions on ZTE. Senate Democrats will also consider additional measures, if necessary, to block relief for ZTE. We hope our Republican colleagues will join us in that effort.
The United States cannot let China continue to steal America’s lifeblood, our intellectual property, and flout international trade laws. If President Trump doesn’t get tough with them now, China will know he’s willing to back down at the first sign of resistance. It’ll be a sad day for America, for America’s workers, for our future wealth, our future prosperity. It’ll help China replace us as number one. It’s crucial.
Finally, on the probe into Putin’s interference in our elections.
In a series of tweets yesterday, President Trump demanded that the Justice Department start a counter-investigation of the Russia investigation itself.
That he would issue such an absurd and abusive demand based on no evidence shows just how little regard the president has for the rule of law. President Trump seems to have the terribly misguided view that the Department of Justice is there to protect his political interests and prosecute his enemies.
Well, it’s not. The Department of Justice is required to follow the law, not the political bidding of the president, particularly when they’re investigating him. The president’s demand is a blatant abuse of executive power, an ill-informed, sloppy attempt to discredit the duly-constituted investigation led by the special counsel. As we speak, the president is reportedly meeting with Justice Department officials to press his case, even after they’ve already called on the inspector general to look into this matter. The president’s behavior is the kind of grossly autocratic behavior we’d expect in a banana republic, not a mature democracy.
By now, we should all recognize that President Trump’s latest demand is just another example of a relentless campaign to distract from the serious wrongdoing being uncovered by the Russia probe. This weekend, it was reported that members of President Trump’s inner circle met with emissaries and companies from several other foreign countries during the campaign to discuss manipulation of American voters in order to sway the election. This is exactly what our Founding Fathers feared: attempts by foreign capitals to influence American elections.
As a reaction, the president does what he always does when faced with alarming news about the conduct of his campaign and the people in it: he kicks up dust. He tries to distract. He issues of flurry of tweets pointing people in every other direction. That’s all this demand for a counter investigation is – another distraction.
I must add, with sadness and some reluctance: a good deal of the blame for the president’s undemocratic behavior lies with Congressional Republicans, who have engaged in a scorched-earth campaign to discredit the Justice Department, broadly, and the special counsel investigation, specifically. Representative Nunes has been at the center of much of this campaign, but the circle of blame is widening. Speaker Ryan is not doing his duty when he stands aside and lets Chairman Nunes and his cohorts do what they’re doing.
Members of the majority here in the Senate have recently demanded that the DOJ hand over copious amounts of information and documents – including potential evidence – about an ongoing criminal investigation. Any prosecutor would tell you that’s not how criminal investigations operate. It’s hard to view these requests as anything but a coordinated campaign with the White House to interfere with or impede Mr. Mueller’s investigation. And frankly, these kinds of actions are enabling and encourage the president to test the bounds of the rule of law in this country. When the president sees Republicans in Congress go after the Special Counsel investigation, he feels even more emboldened. And that’s a shame for our country, broadly defined in history.
There is a disturbing trend emerging. Chairman Nunes and the Republicans on the Hill concoct a plan to tear down the chain of command of the Mueller investigation. They feed it to the right wing press, which churns out innuendo-laden and often factually inaccurate story after story. The president tweets, and the fringe conspiracy theories of far-right Republicans in Congress land themselves on the front pages of mainstream media outlets. All in service of the president’s despicable attempt to distract and deflect from the legitimate probe into Russia’s interference in our elections.
Republican, Democrat, Independent – it shouldn’t matter – all Americans should want Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to continue the Russia probe and follow the facts to their conclusion, without interference, and without intimidation.