Schumer Remarks on Judge Gorsuch’s Remarks on President Trump and TerrorismFebruary 9th, 2017
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor about Judge Gorsuch’s Remarks on President Trump and terrorism. Below are his remarks as delivered:
Before our great friend from Utah gets up, I have other remarks. I’ll let the senator from Utah speak before those but I wanted to join my distinguished friend, the Majority Leader, in recognizing the Senator from Utah who’s become the longest serving Republican senator in history.
We’ve been friends for a long time. He’s given me guidance. He keeps telling me he is going to straighten me out one of these days. A work in progress, I guess you would say. But he is just a terrific guy. He’s a decent man. He’s a caring man. He’s an honorable man. He has been a great partisan when he has to be, but he has also shown tremendous independence on many different occasions. My mentor around here, Senator Kennedy, loved working with Senator Hatch, and they accomplished great things for America. Even just recently, on an issue like Puerto Rico…not much gain for him personally, I don’t think there is a large Puerto Rican population in Provo or Ogden, but he cared, and he knew there was a problem, and we spent late nights trying to figure out what to do.
While the solution may not have been as good as some of us would have wanted, it was a solution and it wouldn’t have happened without Senator Hatch.
So you can say on issue after issue after issue, he has risen to the occasion and been the best of the Senate. And it’s a fitting honor that he is here. Last time around when he was thinking of not running, I think in the hearts of most Democrats, it was hoped that he would run again. And that was because we esteem him.
So I want to congratulate, join the Majority Leader in congratulating Senator Hatch and wish him many, many more years of success, both personally and professionally. He has a large and wonderful family. We have talked about our religious faiths quite often, as well as a successful career. And with that, I will yield the floor and resume it after Senator Hatch has had a few words to say.
I thank my friend from Utah for his kind words and much more importantly his distinguished service to this country. Now on to other subjects. Mr. President, I rise on a few topics.
First, our president has shown a deeply troubling lack of regard or respect for an independent judiciary. He criticizes individual judges and the court system in general. He has gone so far as to preemptively blame future terrorist attacks on the judiciary for putting a stay on his executive order. I have not heard a president - I can’t recall a president in history doing something like that, certainly not in my lifetime. And let’s look at the facts. Our president all too often seems fact-averse. I’ve experienced that personally. Not one terrorist attack has been perpetrated on U.S. soil by a refugee from one of these countries, not one. Since 1975, 3,024 Americans have been killed on U.S. soil in a terrorist attack. I know many who died at 9/11 in that awful, vicious, horrible attack that still stays with me every day. I wear this flag in my lapel in memory of those who were lost and have since 9/12/2001. So I’m aware of the danger of terrorism.
But of those 3,024 Americans killed, zero, zero of these deaths were the result of an attack by a person from one of the countries listed in the ban. And do you know where I got that information? Not from some liberal publication but the libertarian-leaning Cato institute. I hope the president’s not going to attack them now.
What are the threats to terrorism? Great threats? If you ask the experts they are two things above all. The lone wolves and the visa waiver program. Lone wolves were responsible for the terror recently in both San Bernardino and Orlando -- American citizens importuned by the evil ISIS. American citizens who were probably disturbed or off-base in a lot of ways, and ISIS’s propaganda got to them and they did acts. Nothing in the president’s law would have stopped them, even if it were in effect, the president’ proposed law.
The Visa Waiver Program, that’s the gaping hole. The Visa Waiver Program tells 29 countries you can send people here without going through extensive checks and background checks, and they were mainly countries that were friendly, for instance, the countries of the E.U.
But what’s happened recently, Mr. President, is that those countries have become a place of refuge for terrorists -- people trained by ISIS. Belgian citizens and French citizens perpetrated the horrible attacks in those countries. And one of those terrorists could, God forbid, get on a plane and come to America with few questions asked. The president's proposal does nothing to stop that. The president's proposal, if anything, encourages lone wolves because it makes them even more of an outcast, and those are not my words. Those are Senator John McCain's words, and he's one of the greatest experts in this body and in this country on terrorism.
So if the president wants to do something on terrorism, instead of these back-of-the-envelope, quickly-put-together, shabbily-put-together proposals, if you study it, talk to the experts, you’d certainly want to close these two or greatly decrease the danger of terrorism from these two places. So to blame judges for future attacks because they didn’t pass this law where not a single American has died because of people coming from these countries and leave open these other two gaping loopholes, I want to work to close them right now.
I’ll work with the president. I’ll work with Senator McCain. I’ll work with our Republican colleagues. We all will on this side of the aisle. But the president put together something that didn’t seem to have much thought, didn’t seem to have much coordination. We all know, despite the fact that the admirable General Kelly took the – took the lance and said “Oh, I will take the blame” -- we all know that didn’t happen. He was not consulted at length, nor was his department. And now the president seems to preemptively say “Well, if there is terrorism, blame the judge.”
This is dangerous that he says this. It’s dangerous because it diverts us from going after the big, gaping loopholes of terrorism: lone wolves, visa waiver. It also underscores the fact, Mr. President, that we need judges who are going to be independent of this president. If this president can attack the judiciary the way he does, if this president has so little respect for rule of law or for separation of powers, our last and best refuge are the courts. So this new nominee to the Supreme Court has to pass a special test, in my opinion, a true independence from the president. I worry that he doesn’t have it. His answers to my questions, I won’t go into them today, were disappointing in terms of that independence. You can’t just assert “I’m an independent person,” which he did. You have to show examples. I await them. He said when I met him, he said “Well, I’m disheartened.” He said it to me, he said it to Senator Blumenthal, he said it to Senator Sasse.
To whisper in a closed room behind closed doors to a senator that “I’m disheartened” and not condemn what the president has done to the judiciary and not do it publicly - what he did does not show independence. It shows a desire to show the appearance of independence without actually asserting it. And there is even more reason to do it now because the president – I don’t know how, I don’t know who told him about those meetings, but the president tweeted that Judge Gorsuch didn’t say those things, as mild as they were and at least in my opinion as insufficient as they are to showing independence.
To whisper to a senator but refuse to say anything publicly is not close to good enough show on independence. So from my view, not a good start for Judge Gorsuch. Not a good start. I haven’t made up my mind completely. I’m willing to. There is going to be a process. There are going to be papers filed, there are going to be hearings. Judge Gorsuch may go further, but right now it’s an uphill fight to get my support.
Now, while this president’s attacking everyone under the sun, most of which with no basis in fact just an assertion -- and by the way, I will talk more about this later, Mr. President, if we become a nation where facts don't mean anything, the sun will set on this great country. We have always been a fact-based country. The founding fathers had different views, but they never disagreed on the facts as they debated things in Philadelphia for the Declaration of Independence, for the Constitution. In this chamber where we have had great senators, the Clays and the Websters and the Calhouns, they never disputed the real facts. Neither, in my opinion, has any president, Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, until this one. And he just seems to make it up as it goes.
So today he attacked not only my colleague Senator Blumenthal in what I thought was a cheap way, but he attacked Sen. John McCain, one of the most respected voices on national security. Sen. John McCain voiced his views on what happened in Yemen. Most of the independent reports corroborate what Sen. John McCain said. The president, of course, said it was a great success. I don't know if anyone believes that. He is saying so many things that are not fact based, that I don't know if anyone believes him anymore. It’s amusing, except it's not. It’s sad, as he would say.
And that's not the first time he's impugned a Republican senator from this chamber. He has had harsh words for the senator from Nebraska, Ben Sasse. Ben is one of the most independent, thoughtful senators on either side of the aisle that I have ever come across. I really respect that man. We have spent some time together. We see each other in the gym. He’s attacked the Senator from South Carolina., my friend Lindsey Graham. He’s attacked the Senator from Florida. He’s attacked the Senator from Kentucky, the junior Senator from Arizona and so many others.
So I would ask my colleagues, who I know care about this chamber, and the Senator from Utah’s heartfelt plea that we can get over these bumps in the road and start working together is one I feel and share, but are we going to let this new president, who seems to have so little respect for other institutions and other people and himself oftentimes, are we going to let him force us to change the rules of this great body? He immediately demanded a changing of the rules on the Supreme Court. I hope not. I hope not.
So in conclusion, Mr. President, I hope that these attacks on an independent judiciary are restrained. I hope my colleagues will join some of us in voicing discontent with those attacks and asking the president to cease and desist. I hope the president himself will stop attacking senators personally, whether it be the Senator from Connecticut, a Democrat, or the Senator from Arizona, a Republican, which just happened this morning. And I hope that we will not let the president intimidate us into changing the way this body works and instead we try to come together, not let him divide us. With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.