Schumer on Comey Firing: President Trump Is Testing This Country In "Unprecedented Ways"

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke on the Senate Floor Wednesday in opposition to President Trump's decision to fire FBI director James Comey.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: The events of the last two weeks have shaken my confidence in this Administration's competence and credibility. There has been revelation after revelation, allegation after allegation of misconduct on the part of the president and his team. In the past two days, it's reached new heights.

The president, according to reports in the Washington Post and New York Times, may have divulged classified information to a known adversary and actually tried to quash an investigation of a close political ally.

From the president's own words, we already know that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he fired Mr. Comey. We now know that it may not have been the first time that the president has taken an action to impede an active investigation of his campaign or associates, if the reports in the New York Times are true.

Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation's highest law enforcement agencies are mounting in this land. The stated explanation for these events from the White House have been porous, shifting, and oftentimes contradictory.

The country is being tested in unprecedented ways.

What are now required are facts and impartial investigations into these very serious matters.

First, the White House should make available to the Intelligence Committees the transcripts and any related summaries of the Oval Office meeting between President Trump and the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador. We can then assess exactly what was said, and understand the consequences of any intelligence that was shared with the Russians.

And on the topic of Mr. Comey, if the president has "tapes" of his conversations with Mr. Comey, we ought to be able to review those tapes as well to see if the president pressured the FBI Director to shut down an active investigation. The Times reported that Mr. Comey kept contemporaneous memos of his conversations with the President. And Mr. Comey has a reputation for accuracy in those memos. Those memos should also be provided to the Congressional intelligence and Judiciary Committees, and Mr. Comey should testify before those committees, in public.

Indeed, providing Congress the tapes and the memos may be the only way for this Administration to credibly make a case to a justifiably skeptical American public about its version of the story reported by the New York Times. The President says what Comey said is wrong. Prove it. It's easy to prove. As long as there are tapes or transcripts of what happened. If the President's right, he'll have no problem releasing memos, tapes, transcripts that corroborate his story. But if he fails to release them, the American public will justifiably tend to side with Mr. Comey, not what the President had to say -- particularly in light of so much backtracking, backsliding, factual fabrication in this White House.

Finally, the events of this past week only heighten the need for a special prosecutor who is truly independent to run the Department of Justice's investigation into the potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. The American people must have faith in the integrity and impartiality of this investigation. We now have learned, if the reporting is accurate, that the president is willing to directly interfere with an active investigation. Whether it breaks the law or not is not the point here. The point is he was trying to interfere with an investigation. How can anyone trust someone in the President's chain of command, someone who the President has appointed after those actions? The only way out is a special prosecutor. It's the right thing to do. We know the President's willing to fire an FBI Director. It makes all the sense in the world to have a special prosecutor, who can only be fired for cause, to lead the Russia investigation. That would help protect the integrity of the investigation by insulating it from the White House, which at the very minimum is overreaching.

Given the circumstances, I believe that these requests are reasonable, they're modest. I hope, I really pray, that my friends on the other side of the aisle will see that now is the time to put party considerations aside and do what is right for the country.

I know that several of my colleagues -- Senators from Maine, Tennessee, and Arizona -- have expressed concerns. A few have gone further and endorsed some of the actions that I have mentioned.

It's a good first step, but it's not enough. In the past 24 hours, there has been more movement among Republicans in the House than here in the Senate. The Senate by its traditions should be leading this effort, not following. More of my Republicans friends should join the Senators from Maine and Tennessee and Arizona in speaking out about these events, first, but far more importantly helping us get to the bottom of them, in an impartial, trusted, and respected way.

To my friends on the other side of the aisle: America needs you. America needs you now. America needs you to help pressure the Deputy Attorney General to name a special prosecutor. To compel this White House to turn over the transcripts and tapes to Congress. To demonstrate that Congress, that the American people elected -- Democrats and Republicans -- can come together to do the right thing when it matters most.

I repeat to all of my colleagues: history is watching. This is not a casual or usual time. As great as your desire is to repeal Obamacare or do tax reform, the very faith in the institutions of government now are being tested. They've been tested in the past. It's not the first time in American history they've been tested. But in the past, there have been who rose above party, rose above an immediate interest to defend the needs of the Republic. Is it going to happen now?

History, Mr. President, will judge whether this Congress and these Senators have been able to do what so many Senators before us, Democrats and Republicans, have done in the past -- put "country" above "party."

Whether or not we have decided to act as an appropriate check and balance, as the Founders intended, or whether we will let this continue; history will judge us.

Whether or not, in this moment of trial, the Senate is able to rise above partisanship and achieve statesmanship; again, history will judge us all.

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