Schumer Floor Remarks On The Senate Impeachment Trial Of President Donald J. Trump For Abuse Of Power And Obstruction Of Congress

January 21, 2020

Washington D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer spoke today on the Senate floor ahead of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In his remarks, Senator Schumer referenced Senator McConnell’s original impeachment trial resolution, which was altered in significant ways at the beginning of the trial. Senator Schumer announced he will offer amendments ensure a fair and honest Senate impeachment trial that seeks the truth, including key documents and testimony from witnesses. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Before I begin: there has been well-founded concern that the additional security measures required for access to the galleries during the trial could cause reporters to miss some of the events on the Senate floor. I want to assure everyone in the press that I will vociferously oppose any attempt to begin the trial unless the reporters trying to enter the gallery are seated. The press is here to inform the American public about these pivotal events in our nation’s history. We must make sure they are able to. Some may not want what happens here to be public. We do.

Now,  after the conclusion of my remarks, the Senate will proceed to the impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump for committing high crimes and misdemeanors. President Trump is accused of coercing a foreign leader into interfering in our elections to benefit himself and then doing everything in his power to cover it up. If proved, the president’s actions are crimes against democracy itself.

It’s hard to imagine a greater subversion of our democracy than for powers outside of our borders to determine the elections from within. For a foreign country to attempt such a thing on its own is bad enough. For an American president to deliberately solicit such a thing—to blackmail a foreign country with military assistance to help him win an election—is unimaginably worse. I can’t imagine any other president doing this.

Beyond that, for then the president to then deny the right of Congress to conduct oversight, deny the right to investigate any of his activities, to say Article II of the Constitution gives him the right to “do whatever [he] wants” – we are staring down an erosion of the sacred democratic principles for which our founders fought a bloody war of independence.

Such is the gravity of this historic moment.

Now, once Sen. Inhofe is sworn in at 1 p.m., the ceremonial functions at the beginning of a presidential trial will be complete. The Senate then must determine the rules of the trial. The Republican Leader will offer an organizing resolution that outlines his plan, his plan for the rules of the trial. It is completely partisan. It was kept secret until the very eve of the trial. And now that it’s public, it’s very easy to see why.

The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump for President Trump. It asks the Senate to rush through as fast as possible, and makes getting evidence as hard as possible. It could force presentations to take place at two or three in the morning so that the American people won’t see them. In short, the McConnell resolution will result in a rushed trial, with little evidence, in the dark of night. Literally, in the dark of night. If the president is so confident in his case, if Leader McConnell is so confident that the president did nothing wrong, why don’t they want the case presented in broad daylight?

On something as important as impeachment, the McConnell resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace. This will go down, this resolution, as one of the darker moments in the Senate history. Perhaps even one of the darkest.

Now, Leader McConnell has just said that he wants to go by the Clinton rules. Then why did he change them—in four important ways, at minimum? All to make the trial less transparent, lets clear, and with less evidence.  

He said he wanted to “get started in exactly the same way.” It turns out, contrary to what the leader said—I’m amazed he could say it with a straight face—that the rules are not the same as the Clinton rules. The rules are not even close to the Clinton rules.

Unlike the Clinton rules, the McConnell resolution does not admit the record of the House impeachment proceedings into evidence. So Leader McConnell wants a trial with no existing evidence and no new evidence. A trial without evidence is not a trial; it’s a cover-up.

Second, unlike the Clinton rules, the McConnell resolution limits presentation by the parties to 24 hours per side over only two days. We start at 1 p.m., twelve hours a day, we’re at 1 a.m. And that’s without breaks. It’ll be later. Leader McConnell wants to force the Managers to make important parts of their case in the dark of night.

Number three, unlike the Clinton rules, the McConnell resolution places an additional hurdle to get witnesses and documents by requiring a vote on whether such motions are even in order. If that vote fails, then no motions to subpoena witnesses and documents will be in order. I don’t want anyone on the other side going to say, I’m going to vote no first on witnesses, but then later ‘I will determine it.’ If they vote for McConnell’s resolution their making it far more difficult to vote in the future, later on in the trial.

And finally, unlike the Clinton rules, the McConnell resolution allows a motion to dismiss at any time, any time in the trial.

So, in short, contrary to what the Leader has said, the McConnell rules are not at all like the Clinton rules. The Republican leader’s resolution is based neither in precedent nor in principle. It is driven by partisanship and the politics of the moment.

Today, I will be offering amendments to fix the many flaws in Leader McConnell’s deeply unfair resolution and seek the witnesses and documents we’ve requested—beginning with an amendment to have the Senate subpoena White House documents. Let me be clear: these amendments are not dilatory. They only seek one thing: the truth. That means relevant documents; that means relevant witnesses. That’s the only way to get a fair trial, and everyone in this body knows it.

Each Senate impeachment trial in our history—all fifteen that were brought to completion—featured witnesses. Every. Single. One.

The witnesses we request are not Democrats; they’re the president’s own men. The documents are not “Democratic documents;” they are documents, period. We don’t know if the evidence, of the witnesses or the documents, will be exculpatory to the president or incriminating. But we have an obligation, a solemn obligation, to seek the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

My Republican colleagues have offered several explanations for opposing witnesses and documents at the start of the trial. None of them has much merit.

Republicans have said we should deal with the question of witnesses later in the trial. Of course, it makes no sense to hear both sides present their case first and then afterward decide if the Senate should hear evidence. The evidence is supposed to inform arguments, not come after they’re completed.

Some Republicans have said the Senate should not go beyond the House record by calling any witnesses. But the Constitution gives the Senate “the sole power to try impeachments,” not the sole power to “review”, not the sole power to “rehash,” but to try.

Republicans have called our request for witnesses and documents “political.” If seeking the truth is “political”, then the Republican Party is in serious trouble.

The White House has said that the articles of impeachment are brazen and wrong. Well, if the president believes his impeachment is so brazen and wrong, why won’t he show us why? Why is the president so insistent that no one comes forward, that no documents be released? Is the president’s case so weak that none of the president’s men can defend him under oath? What is the president hiding? What are our Republican colleagues hiding? Because if they weren’t afraid of the truth they would say, go right ahead, get at the truth, get witnesses, get documents.

In fact, at no point over the last few months have I heard a single, solitary argument on the merits of why witnesses and documents should not be part of the trial. No Republicans explained why less evidence is better than more evidence.

Nevertheless, Leader McConnell is poised to ask the Senate to begin the first impeachment trial of a president in history without witnesses; that rushes through the arguments as quickly as possible; that, in ways both shameless and subtle, will conceal the truth—the truth—from the American people.

Leader McConnell claimed that the House ran the “most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history.” The truth is Leader McConnell is plotting the most rushed, least thorough, and most unfair impeachment trial in modern history. And it begins today.

The Senate has before it a very straightforward question. The president is accused of coercing a foreign power to interfere in our elections to help himself. It is the job of the Senate to determine if these very serious charges are true. The very least we can do is examine the facts, review the documents, hear from witnesses, try the case. Not run from it. Not hide it. Try it.

Because if the president commits high crimes and misdemeanors and Congress refuses to act—refuses even to conduct a fair trial of his conduct—then presidents, this president and future presidents, can commit impeachable crimes with impunity, and the order and rigor of our democracy will dramatically decline. The final fail-safe of our democracy will be rendered moot. The most powerful check on the executive, the one designed to protect the people from tyranny, will be erased.

In short time, my colleagues, each of us will face a choice about whether to begin this trial in search of the truth, or in service of the president’s desire to cover it up; whether the Senate will conduct a fair trial and a full airing of the facts, or a rush to a predetermined, political outcome.

My colleagues, the eyes of the nation, the eyes of the Founding Fathers are upon us. History will be our final judge: will Senators rise to the occasion?

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