Schumer Floor Remarks On The Victims Of The Jersey City Shooting, The Need For GOP’s “Conspiracy Caucus” To Accept The Facts, Opposing The Nomination Of Lawrence VanDyke To The Ninth Circuit, And The Failure Of The Trump-Republican Tax Law

December 11, 2019

Washington, D.C. – Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor in response to the shooting yesterday in Jersey City, NJ. Senator Schumer also called on Senate Republicans and Attorney General Barr to accept the facts and stop spreading reckless conspiracy theories. In addition, he urged his Senate colleagues to reject the nomination of Lawrence VanDyke to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and detailed how the Trump-Republican Tax Law has failed the American people ahead of the second anniversary of its passage. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here.

Before I begin, I want to express deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the shooting yesterday in Jersey City, which left one fallen police officer, Detective Seals, and several bystander as victims. My heart goes out to their friends and family today.

Local and federal law enforcement must investigate quickly and professionally so we can implement the best responses. We are not sure yet if this was motivated by hate, or if it was criminal in nature. But whatever the answers, rest assured the response must be swift, sure, and strong.

Now on impeachment. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee announced two Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States. The articles allege that President Trump abused the office of the Presidency by soliciting the interference of a foreign power in our elections to benefit himself personally. They also allege the President obstructed Congress in the investigation of these matters.

The president has had every chance to defend himself against these allegations. He has had every chance to rebut the specific evidence that was presented in the House. If there’s information or a witness who the White House believes can provide exculpatory evidence in defense of the president, nothing is stopping them from testifying under oath.

If the president is so innocent, if this is a mere witch hunt, then why isn’t he answering the specific charges? Why is he blocking witnesses from testifying, who would have direct knowledge of these facts? The House has made an extremely strong case. The burden now lies on the president to rebut it if he can. And what most Americans are saying is: the fact that he refuses to produce rebutting evidence, the fact that he blocks witnesses from testifying, the fact that he won’t let documents come forward, may well indicate that he did everything alleged in the House proceedings.

The president merely declaims his innocence. If he has nothing to hide, he should have nothing to fear from handing over documents or allowing witness to testify. So their silence—the silence imposed by the White House on top officials with knowledge of these dealings—speaks volumes.

And what does the president, the White House, and their congressional allies here in the Senate and the House try to do? Instead of defending the president with facts, the White House, the president himself, and Congressional Republicans employ one fringe conspiracy theory after the next to explain away the president’s conduct, even though they have nothing to do with the specific charges against the president. Here in the Senate, unfortunately, we have several members on the other side of the aisle who are forming their own conspiracy caucus. Any conspiracy theory, pulled out of the air by known cranks, then broadcast on Fox News—which is all-too-willing to broadcast this stuff—is then picked up here, as a diversion. Why do they want to divert? Is it because they know the facts can’t be answered?

For the past few weeks, certain Republican Senators have repeated the fiction invented by Putin’s intelligence services that Ukraine—not Putin—interfered in the 2016 election. They are mouthing Putin’s propaganda. The Republican Party used to be anti-Russia, anti-Putin, anti-communist. But now, all of a sudden, because President Trump has created so many different diversions, because he seems to go along with what Putin wants, these Republicans have become Putin mouthpieces when it comes to these conspiracy theories.

Today, an example, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the report issued this week by the Dept. of Justice Inspector General, which found no evidence—no evidence—of a political motive for the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign. The deputy counsel of the FBI said there was obligation to investigate, not by anyone’s design, once they heard these allegations that came from a credible source.

What will the Judiciary Chairman do? Will he focus on the central finding of the IG report? I suspect not. I suspect the Republicans on that committee, instead, will take every opportunity to contort the facts to further the president’s baseless claim the FBI was out to get him. So many people accused of crimes and wrongdoing, instead of addressing the issue when they know they’re guilty, blame the prosecutor. That is not what our system of justice is about.

But, astonishingly, that’s what the chief law enforcement officer of the land, the Attorney General of the United States, did yesterday in interviews. Contradicting the findings of his own Inspector General—someone who had studied the case for months, someone who the Attorney General himself had recently praised as “fiercely independent and a superb investigator”—what Attorney General Barr did was push the false narrative that the FBI acted in “bad faith” when it investigated the Trump campaign.

Attorney General Barr has signed himself up to be a charter member of the conspiracy caucus. The real “bad faith,” is the relationship between the Attorney General and his oath of office. He did not swear to ‘support and defend President Trump.’ But that’s what he’s done as Attorney General—and it is deeply, dangerously corrosive to the primary rule of law in our constitutional system.

At the same time, Attorney General’s handpicked prosecutor, John Durham, put out a ridiculous statement on Monday criticizing the findings of the IG report. Durham used to have some credibility as a no-nonsense prosecutor. But when Attorney General Barr chose him, I said uh-oh, because Attorney General Barr’s not a down-the-middle guy, and by putting out a hugely partisan, political statement on a pending investigation he is doing, Mr. Durham has signaled to the world he’s not capable of producing a report that anyone can take seriously.

Unfortunately, Mr. Durham, like too many others, has aligned himself with Attorney General Barr and consigned himself to the world of alternative truth facts, many of them on the fringe. Whatever reputation Durham had for fairness is now in tatters.

Now, there is a possibility that the Senate will be served with the Articles of Impeachment for the president from the House. We may soon, in all likelihood, confront the demands of hosting a trial for the chief executive and serving as judges and jurors in determining the fate of that trial. With such a weighty constitutional responsibility on the horizon, I implore my colleagues to stop dipping their toes in the murky waters of conspiracy. Hew to the facts. Don’t prejudge the outcome. Remember our oaths to the Constitution, our responsibility to “do impartial justice” in the Senate trial. That is our responsibility. History will judge whether we lived up to it or not.

Now on the recent decision about the wall by a federal court in Texas. Yesterday, a federal court in Texas issued a nationwide injunction blocking the Trump administration from using military construction funding to build his wall. The decision confirms what many Democrats—and a few Republicans in the past—have said: the president’s emergency declaration, which allowed the administration to steal funds from military families to pay for a wall President Trump promised Mexico would pay for, is an outrageous legal power grab.

The injunction is a win for the rule of law. It should serve as a warning to Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration that the power of the purse, given exclusively to Congress by the Constitution, cannot be usurped.

At his rally last night, President Trump said, “The courts are siding with me on the wall!” He hadn’t read the decision. He says that he’s already built so much of the wall. Well thank you, President Trump. You have just buttressed a portion of the wall that President Obama built, nothing new.

As we look ahead to concluding negotiations on appropriations before the end of the year, my Republican colleagues should remember that a federal court ruled the Trump administration was beyond its legal right when it took funding from other sources to build a wall.

Today, the Senate will vote on the confirmation of Lawrence VanDyke to serve on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After seeing so many radical and unfit judicial appointments over the past few years, I am almost surprised President Trump is still able to find nominees like Mr. VanDyke, who is unqualified even in comparison to some of the worst nominees we’ve seen under this administration.

VanDyke has a history of bigoted writing about LGBTQ Americans, radical views on even the most commonsense gun safety legislation, and a proven hostility to reproductive rights. On top of his radical views, VanDyke has received stunningly negative reviews on his qualifications and temperament. The American Bar Association doesn’t do this much, but it rated him ‘not-qualified.’ In over 60 interviews with Mr. VanDyke’s colleagues, he was described as “arrogant, lazy, an ideologue, and lacking in knowledge of the day-to-day practice including procedural rules.” It went on to say: “the nominee lacks humility, has an ‘entitlement’ temperament, does not have an open mind, and does not always have a commitment to being candid and truthful.”

This is who we’re voting on today, my Republican friends. What is going on here? Because someone is hard right and radical we excuse all their personality defects found by the ABA? And amazingly, this is someone not even for a district court, but the circuit court. This is getting to the point of utter absurdity.

For obvious reasons, both home-state Senators objected to VanDyke’s nomination. In the past, the Senate would respect those objections, it would be a check on someone so unqualified on getting to the bench. But Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans are in such a rush to fill the bench with these hard-right nominees, they’ve blown through Senate traditions and most standards of reason and good judgment.

Please reject this nominee. He is so unqualified. He’s a low human being, at least according to all of this, and he’ll have a lifetime appointment on a circuit bench? That would indicate the decline of America. One more indication, unfortunately, propagated by this administration.

Finally, in a week or so, it will be two years since Republicans jammed through a massive tax cut for corporations and the mega-wealthy on a party-line vote. Two years later, it is worth looking back on the promises Republicans made when selling this to the American people.

At the time, the president said the bill would be a “middle-class miracle.” The administration promised Americans would get a $4000 raise. Congressional Republicans said giving a corporate tax cut would boost jobs and investment.

Two years later, it’s clear that the tax bill has failed to live up to any of those sunny predictions. Middle-class wages still aren’t growing fast enough to keep up with the costs of living. Businesses aren’t investing their newfound profits in jobs or wages. In fact, since the passage of the Trump-Republican tax bill, while capital expenditures by businesses remain low (that’s investing in jobs and equipment and things that employ people and give them better wages, that’s low), corporate stock buybacks which benefit by and large wealthy shareholders explodes, setting annual records. Last year alone, over a trillion dollars was spent on stock buybacks, while millions of middle-class Americans didn’t see enough improvement in their quality of life.

So, as many Democrats, including myself, predicted, two years after its passage, the Republican tax bill has overwhelmingly benefited shareholders and corporate executives, not workers and their families. America will remember that as we head into an election year.

###