Schumer Remarks Following Trump-Putin Summit And Press ConferenceJuly 16, 2018
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today held a media availability following the Trump-Putin summit and joint press conference. Below are his remarks:
Good afternoon everybody. Sorry I’m a bit late.
Now, in the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin.
For the president of the United States to side with President Putin against American law enforcement, American defense officials, American intelligence agencies is thoughtless. It’s dangerous. It’s weak. The president is putting himself over our country.
Starting with the president’s trip to NATO [and] ending with his shameful performance at today’s press conference, President Trump has strengthened our adversaries while weakening our defenses and those of our allies.
A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: what could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.
Like any patriotic American, I was absolutely appalled by the press conference that capped off the president’s trip to Europe this morning. I didn’t think it could get worse than his performance at the NATO Summit. But it sure did.
In just the last week alone, the president attacked our closest allies in NATO, calling the European Union a foe, meddled in the domestic affairs of an ally by undermining the prime minister of the United Kingdom– and that was all before he held a summit and downright shameful press conference with the man who directed the interference in our 2016 elections and according to all reports continues to try and do so today.
At every step along the way, the president is kneecapping our allies and offering a helping hand to our adversaries. When it comes to the interference in our 2016 elections, the president has managed to point his finger at just about everybody – except the culprit. It’s inexplicable – or maybe it’s not.
President Trump has blamed Secretary Clinton. He’s blamed the DNC. He’s blamed the FBI. He’s said that “both countries” are responsible for the state of relations between the United States and Russia. The one person he hasn’t blamed is the person he stood shoulder to shoulder with this morning: Vladimir Putin.
On Friday, Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller handed President Trump the evidence that President Putin had requested. The 29-page indictment is a document of unparalleled work and is exactly what the president needed to stand up to Putin. He should have marched in, put the indictment on the table, and demanded justice.
Rather than taking the opportunity to confront Putin, rather than taking the opportunity to demand that Putin hand over the named Russian intelligence agents indicted last week, the president sided with Vladimir Putin’s denial over the unanimous – unanimous – conclusion of the United States intelligence community. He took the word of the KGB over the men and women of the CIA.
Rather than placing blame for what happened in 2016 on Russia, where it belongs, the president has the gall to blame “both countries” for the troubled relationship. The president put what’s best for him over what’s best for the security and well-being of the United States.
The question now looms: what, if anything, will Congress do in response to this awful trip? Where are our Republican colleagues? Where are the Republicans who roared approval when Reagan told Gorbachev to tear down the wall? Where are the Republicans who demanded a strong response when Putin annexed Crimea? Where are the Republicans who know in their hearts that the president is giving away the store to Vladimir Putin?
Now is the time for our Republican colleagues to join us – bipartisan – and stand up. If we wait much longer, our global alliances will fracture, the institutions that America created in the wake of World War II will crumble; our allies will consider abandoning us – possibly for China and others, and Putin’s Russia will emerge stronger for it. That’s what he wants and that what President Trump inexplicably is helping him do.
Our Republican colleagues can take steps right now to push back against this slippery slope the president has put us on. Speaker Ryan today said nice things. But talk is not enough. We need action – bipartisan, strong action. And we need our Republican colleagues to stand up for the good of this country.
I am asking our Republican colleagues to do four things.
First, they can start by refusing to water down, and instead, decide to ratchet up sanctions against Russia. In the House, there is right now an effort to ratchet these sanctions down. Given what Mr. Putin said today, given the indictments, given what Mr. Trump said today, that cannot happen. Sanctions should be ratcheted up, and as you know the Republicans have been pushing a provision in the defense bill that would create a loophole in sanctions targeted at Putin’s defense and intelligence sectors. They should drop that immediately.
Second, our Republican colleagues should demand, as we are, that the president’s national security team that accompanied him to the Putin meeting immediately come and testify before Congress. What kind of briefings did they give him beforehand? What did he say to them afterward? We need them to come before Congress and the American people immediately because there are so many troubling questions out there, and if you think the press conference was bad, imagine what happened inside when the president and Mr. Putin were alone. We need answers, and we need them now.
Third, our Republican colleagues need to end once and for all their attacks on the Department of Justice, FBI, and Special Counsel Mueller. The special counsel needs to finish his work. The president needs to sit for an interview with the special counsel, now more than ever. Enough delay. Enough interference. It’s time to sit down for an interview.
And fourth, our Republican colleagues must demand loudly and clearly that the president insist that the 12 Russians named in the indictment last night be sent to the United States immediately to stand trial. I am asking Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, both friends, to make sure these four things are done. In fact, for the sake of our country, I am pleading with them to join us in making sure that these four things are done. Senator McCain spoke out strongly. He’s always been the conscience of the Republican Party when it comes to actually taking action on issues like these. A few of our Republican colleagues have spoken out and talked the talk, but it’s time for the Republican Party to walk the walk given the direness of this situation.
The president is doing grave harm to the standing of these United States while kowtowing to the number one enemy which we probably have on the globe, Vladimir Putin. He’ll continue to do so if he isn’t checked and the best people to check him are not Democrats, but his fellow Republicans. What the president has done is an insult to all Americans – Democrats, Republicans, Independents, we all have to stand up together and push back. I’m ready for your questions.
Reporter: Leader Schumer you alluded to this earlier: in your view is the only explanation for the president’s behavior here is that the Russians have something on him?
Schumer: His behavior is so inexplicable and so against the interest of the United States, so against what his advisors would tell him, that Americans are scratching their heads and saying, “If that’s not the explanation, that Putin has something on him then what is it? What the heck could it be?”
Reporter: Leader Schumer you say this lies, much of this lies with the Republicans to be the best check, but what check can the Democrats be? You hear people whisper around the edges about impeachment. You hear some people, you know John Brennan suggested this was treasonous, if it’s really that far why not take the gavel and go?
Schumer: We don’t have the power to take the gavel, we don’t have the gavel. What the best thing we can do is first speak truth to power. Silence here is not acceptable. And the second thing we can do is try in every way we can to get the Congress to act, which requires our Republican colleagues to act with us.
Reporter: Leader Schumer do you agree with the former CIA Director John Brennan that the president’s comments were treasonous?
Schumer: Look I’ll let people use descriptions they see fit. What the president did, side with our number one enemy who is attacking the United States daily in a variety of ways and belittling, kneecapping our allies, is appalling and demands some kind of explanation other than it’s self-serving of the president.
Reporter: What’s your sense of what the president might have gotten out of this and what President Putin might have gotten?
Schumer: Well you know when you just looked at the press conference President Putin was the real victor. He got almost everything he wanted, I don’t know a single thing the United States would get that we wanted.