Schumer: Democratic Candidates Won't Invite Obama, Clinton "If They Don't Think It Will Help Them"

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said Democrats cannot just be the anti-Trump party in 2018 in an interview Wednesday night with CNN's Chris Cuomo. Schumer acknowledged in 2016, "there was too much emphasis on Trump" and "too many people lost that." He said Trump does enough to make the "anti-Trump argument himself."

"We can't just be anti-Trump," Schumer said of the party's message. "And people sort of know what Trump is, he makes the anti-Trump argument himself to the majority of Americans. We have to be for a lot of good positive things. And again, we have done some of those and we're going to do more of them so that the middle-class people, who are the Democratic Party know, not only care about them, and my prediction -- we will work with Republicans and if we get the majority, it’s going to start happening."

When Cuomo asked the Minority Leader for his opinion on former President Bill Clinton and the Me Too movement, Schumer flat out said he is not getting involved. He said, "the public can judge for themselves." He also dashed questions about Sen. Joe Manchin's announcement he may support President Trump in 2020.





Schumer also was asked about the extent the party plans to involve former Presidents Barack Obama and Clinton in the midterm cycle. Specifically, on the Clintons, Schumer said if they offered to help "we'd consider it." He said that it is up to the candidate how much they want the former presidents to campaign for them. Schumer said Senators are running "autonomous races" and if they think the Clintons or Obamas would help, then they will invite them.

"If they think it will help them, they'll invite them," he said. "If they don't think it will help them, they won't invite them."

Schumer revealed that Obama has been "gracious" enough to help fundraise but wouldn't go on to say the former president has volunteered to do more than that. Cuomo noted much of Trump's agenda weighs on undoing the Obama legacy and asked the Minority Leader if getting him out there to rebut the GOP "rallying cry" is part of his election calculation.

"Highly antagonistic to the sitting administration, because they have made Obama their rallying cry of what must be rejected. Was that part of your calculation, of going to the former president and saying I believe in what you were, not what they're saying?" Cuomo asked.

"I talk to him every so often. And he actually volunteered to help and do a couple of fundraisers for us. And I said, of course," Schumer answered.

"That's all so far? Do you need more Obama?" the CNN host asked.

This is where Schumer gave the "autonomous races" answer:

SCHUMER: Well, it will be up to our -- you know, we are helping our candidates, but they are running autonomous races. That’s why they’re doing so well.

You know, Heidi Heitkamp is North Dakota above all. Claire McCaskill is Missouri above all. If they think it will help them, they'll invite them. If they don't think it will help them, they won't invite them.

There is not one overall match. The one thing that unites us is some of these issues like health care, like infrastructure, like having taxes more aimed at the middle class than the highest end that unites our whole party. But each candidate does different things in their states. And that's one of the secrets to the success that it looks like we're on the verge of having.


"So, Obama, yes. The Clintons, no, is what I'm hearing. You're not going to reach out," Cuomo reacted.

"I don't know, you're putting words in my mouth," the New York Senator responded. "I said Obama offered to help and do fundraisers. We said yes. It's up to each candidate to decide which leaders of the party are good in their states and not."

Schumer on the Clintons and 2018:

CUOMO: But you reached out to Obama, will you reach out to the Clintons?

SCHUMER: I talk to Obama every so often about things. And that's the bottom line.

CUOMO: Not the Clintons?

SCHUMER: I talk to them every so often, too.

CUOMO: But you're not asking them to get involved?

SCHUMER: If they offered to help raise the money for us, of course, we’d consider it. Absolutely.

CUOMO: They haven’t offered?

SCHUMER: I don't think it’s come up yet, no.

CUOMO: Why am I chasing? I'm chasing because --

SCHUMER: I don't know.

CUOMO: -- I don't know who the head of the party is.

SCHUMER: It is so rare --

CUOMO: Who’s the head of the party?

SCHUMER: It is so rare for a president, a former president not to help the party that they were a part of. It's nothing new. It's not unusual. It doesn't say there's a total embrace. It doesn't say they're going to campaign everywhere. That's how it is.

As for the head of the party, we don't have a presidential candidate, but the leaders of the Democratic Party are pretty much on the same page when it comes to what we want to do. Our candidates are -- the unity in our Democratic Caucus here in the Senate has been amazing. That will prove to be very beneficial for us, not only in November 2018 elections, which you will see, but also should we become the majority in helping us get things done.

And in my prediction, if we get in the majority, we'll see, if we get in the majority, we'll have Republicans working with us far more than when they were in power, having us work with them.

CUOMO: But doesn't that mean that they are more fair in the interest of bipartisanship than you?

SCHUMER: It means we're going to reach out. They rejected us.

As I mentioned to you, on the major issues, they do what's called reconciliation.


The Minority Leader promised that the American people will begin to see bipartisanship "if we get the majority."

Read the full transcript of the Schumer interview:

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Senator Schumer, thank you.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Congratulations on your new show.

CUOMO: Appreciate it.

SCHUMER: Glad to be here.

CUOMO: Good. It's good to have you early on, kind of set the tone about who we think matters, so this is different.

Let's talk --

SCHUMER: You matter.

CUOMO: Let's talk politics, then we'll go into policy.

SCHUMER: Great.

CUOMO: Joe Manchin, Senator of West Virginia, says he's open to backing Trump in 2020. When does he get a phone call from the Senate Democratic leader?

SCHUMER: Our senators are wonderful people. We have a great unity in our caucus. And one of the reasons we do is I let people come to their own decisions.

I'll tell them what I think, but there's no arm-twisting, there's no "you'll lose your committee". I won't put this on the floor. I’ve done none -- I’ve had to do none of that.

And people come together. Joe Manchin is a guy who likes to talk to everybody and listen to them and almost inevitably he does what's right for West Virginia.

CUOMO: I might back Trump in 2020? Never heard a setting Democrat or Republican say that about a president from the other party.

SCHUMER: I have faith that Joe Manchin will come to the right decision for West Virginia. He almost always has.

People never thought that -- you know, he was one of our strongest people on health care. Why? Because the people of West Virginia so desperately need healthcare.

CUOMO: Is this a reflection of weakness of the Democratic Party in states like West Virginia?

SCHUMER: We've stayed totally united. We are doing so much better than people think. There's public poll that showed Manchin up 13 points over his opponent.

CUOMO: And why would he say something like this?

SCHUMER: Joe Manchin always keeps his options open to do what's best for West Virginia. I have confidence he’ll do the right thing.

CUOMO: The idea of why he's doing it. He says Washington Democrats are making it more difficult for me to be a West Virginia Democrat. We keep hearing this, that the Democratic Party writ large is a problem and that people are going to have to go on their own if they want to win.

SCHUMER: I think 2016 is a reflection of that. I think it's all changed. We are focused in our caucus like a laser on the middle class, helping those who are not in the middle class get to the middle class, helping people who are in the middle stay there.

The difference on economic issues between the more moderate members of our caucus and the more liberal members of our caucus is rather small. And that's why on every major vote, you had total unity in our caucus.

CUOMO: But you've also got nothing done.

SCHUMER: Well, we're not in charge.

CUOMO: But you have to bring something to them, right? You can't just be anti-Trump, pro-Russia probe. Is that enough to win?

SCHUMER: Look, we -- it is not, and that’s taken care of, itself, we don't have to do that. But we have proposed things that the American people really, really think are important.

Right now, you know McConnell says we're saying in in --

CUOMO: August.

SCHUMER: August. We're making a health care law.

What is the number one that’s bothering people right now, average Americans? Rising premiums. The premium -- the increase of premiums is giving -- is taking away more out of their pocketbooks than the tax breaks that have been given for large, large numbers.

CUOMO: That could be true for certain segments of the population.

SCHUMER: And for large segments of the population, it’s middle class --

CUOMO: But it's whom they blame, Senator.

SCHUMER: Yes. Well --

CUOMO: Because they blame you guys.

SCHUMER: No.

CUOMO: I know. I know what the polling data shows that, no, Trump owns it now. He took the mandate away --

SCHUMER: And we have proposed all kinds of things that will make it better.

CUOMO: I hear, is it "Washington Post", and I hear this echoed in their own reporting, you went to the former President Obama saying we need you involved in these midterms, true?

SCHUMER: I did about six month ago. I think every party leader in the House and Senate goes to the presidents, former presidents of their party, and asked for help and he was gracious and he’s helping us raise some money.

CUOMO: Highly antagonistic to the sitting administration, because they have made Obama their rallying cry of what must be rejected. Was that part of your calculation, of going to the former president and saying I believe in what you were, not what they're saying?

SCHUMER: I talk to him every so often. And he actually volunteered to help and do a couple of fundraisers for us. And I said, of course.

CUOMO: That's all it is so far?

SCHUMER: So far.

CUOMO: Do you need more Obama?

SCHUMER: Well, it will be up to our -- you know, we are helping our candidates, but they are running autonomous races. That’s why they’re doing so well.

You know, Heidi Heitkamp is North Dakota above all. Claire McCaskill is Missouri above all. If they think it will help them, they'll invite them. If they don't think it will help them, they won't invite them.

There is not one overall match. The one thing that unites us is some of these issues like health care, like infrastructure, like having taxes more aimed at the middle class than the highest end that unites our whole party. But each candidate does different things in their states. And that's one of the secrets to the success that it looks like we're on the verge of having.

CUOMO: Some say that that is a nod to the fact that the two-party system doesn't have the strength that it once did, that there is independents that is growing in this country, partly a reaction to formation to negative experience with both parties.

SCHUMER: If Democrats can't win votes in New York and say the Great Plains, we’ll never be the majority. We have to win in both and I think we're doing a damn good job of putting together a platform and a program that sell well in both.

CUOMO: So, Obama, yes. The Clintons, no, is what I'm hearing. You're not going to reach out.

SCHUMER: I don't know, you're putting words in my mouth. I said Obama offered to help and do fundraisers. We said yes. It's up to each candidate to decide which leaders of the party are good in their states and not.

CUOMO: But you reached out to Obama, will you reach out to the Clintons?

SCHUMER: I talk to Obama every so often about things. And that's the bottom line.

CUOMO: Not the Clintons?

SCHUMER: I talk to them every so often, too.

CUOMO: But you're not asking them to get involved?

SCHUMER: If they offered to help raise the money for us, of course, we’d consider it. Absolutely.

CUOMO: They haven’t offered?

SCHUMER: I don't think it’s come up yet, no.

CUOMO: Why am I chasing? I'm chasing because --

SCHUMER: I don't know.

CUOMO: -- I don't know who the head of the party is.

SCHUMER: It is so rare --

CUOMO: Who’s the head of the party?

SCHUMER: It is so rare for a president, a former president not to help the party that they were a part of. It's nothing new. It's not unusual. It doesn't say there's a total embrace. It doesn't say they're going to campaign everywhere. That's how it is.

As for the head of the party, we don't have a presidential candidate, but the leaders of the Democratic Party are pretty much on the same page when it comes to what we want to do. Our candidates are -- the unity in our Democratic Caucus here in the Senate has been amazing. That will prove to be very beneficial for us, not only in November 2018 elections, which you will see, but also should we become the majority in helping us get things done.

And in my prediction, if we get in the majority, we'll see, if we get in the majority, we'll have Republicans working with us far more than when they were in power, having us work with them.

CUOMO: But doesn't that mean that they are more fair in the interest of bipartisanship than you?

SCHUMER: It means we're going to reach out. They rejected us.

As I mentioned to you, on the major issues, they do what's called reconciliation.

CUOMO: Right.

SCHUMER: We don't want or need Democratic votes.

Had they included us in health care, had they included us in the tax bill, it would have been a far better bill for the middle class. And they would have been better off. That's why they're suffering now.

CUOMO: Me Too matters to your office. I’ve been told that many times.

SCHUMER: Yes.

CUOMO: What Bill Clinton said about Me Too, a lot of controversy. Your take?

SCHUMER: Not getting into that.

CUOMO: Because?

SCHUMER: I think it's irrelevant to what we need to talk about.

CUOMO: Me Too?

SCHUMER: No, Me Too is important. What Bill Clinton said, the public can judge for themselves.

CUOMO: How are both of those things true at the same time, senator?

SCHUMER: They're true at the same time, because you judge the person by their own actions, plain and simple. What we have done, we passed a good bill in the Senate, bipartisan, that really dealt with the kind of problems that we saw in the Senate. That’s what we should be doing.

Not commenting on everybody and every particular case. That doesn't help the cause. It may make nice news, but it doesn't help the cause.

CUOMO: It could change culture also by showing a consistency --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Well, with doing something is most important we have.

CUOMO: Is the bill done? When will it be law that my money doesn't go to pay for settlements for lawmakers?

SCHUMER: There's a bill that's passed the House, there's a bill that's passed the Senate and now we'll reconciling the two. So, the answer is soon.

CUOMO: But if it was such a done deal, why did it take so long?

SCHUMER: Because there are certain differences. That's the legislative process.

CUOMO: But why does it have to be that way?

SCHUMER: It should be that way, because we don't have one person running the place, you have 435 House members, you have 100 Senators. A, they have different opinions. B, on important issues, they should come together. And when the Republicans are willing to work with us, like on this, we get things done.

CUOMO: Why not pick up the phone and call the president on a day like today and say, Alice Johnson, right move, good job on that pardon, let's do more, let's do more on the issues that activated --

SCHUMER: Well, first, he has the power to pardon, not the Senate, not the House.

CUOMO: Right. But the underlying issue, people who are in jail for low level drug offenses and get huge sentences, you care about that, no?

SCHUMER: I do, but it should be done on the basis of fairness to all the people that way, not because Alice Johnson knew Kardashian and she happened to see the president.

What other presidents have done, Democrat and Republican, they have the Justice Department review it, they say, here are my criteria. So, let's say the criteria is, small amount of drugs, you shouldn't be 20 years in jail. Everyone should have an equal chance. Not someone who Kim Kardashian whispers in his ear about.

CUOMO: And yet, at least it's one. Why not congratulate him for that?

SCHUMER: It ought to be fair. American people want fairness, not just who has connections, who knows someone who’s an elite person.

CUOMO: But every president pardons. You don't come out and say, Obama pardons all those low level drug offenders. I don’t like it.

SCHUMER: No one has done it this way. Obama didn't. Bush didn't.

CUOMO: Because, you say, the celebrity aspect?

SCHUMER: Yes, that’s -- but that seems to be the sole motivation. All the people he talks about are celebrities.

CUOMO: The idea of what you --

SCHUMER: And that's a symbol of unfairness to the American people.

CUOMO: How so?

SCHUMER: Because it should be based on the merits, not on who you know.

CUOMO: But couldn’t it be a starting point? That's what I'm trying to say? You know, part of what we're trying to do here is identify common ground and push for progress there on. If you know that the president is on the same page as you when it comes to look at sentencing reform --

SCHUMER: OK.

CUOMO: -- why not use this as entree, call him up and say, I like it, I'll work with you --

SCHUMER: We said to the president a year ago. There's a sentencing reform bill, bipartisan. On the Democratic side, people like Cory Booker and Dick Durbin. On the Republican side, people like Chuck Grassley and other -- many other Republicans.

We said, why don't you take up this bill? It's a bipartisan bill. He's the reason it's being blocked.

CUOMO: Who is?

SCHUMER: The president?

CUOMO: Why?

SCHUMER: The White House doesn't want it.

CUOMO: They said?

SCHUMER: Jeff Sessions doesn't want it.

CUOMO: Jeff Merkley is running around down at the border.

SCHUMER: He did a very good job.

CUOMO: Why aren't all of you there? Why aren't you using it as a hill that's worth dying on? This is not our country.

SCHUMER: Well --

CUOMO: Kids won't be taken from their parents on your watch?

SCHUMER: Well, Dianne Feinstein will be introducing legislation, which we will push very hard for, which will stop this from happening. That's our job.

Our job is to legislating. And Jeff Merkley highlighted it. He did a great thing. And now, we're going to try to get bipartisan legislation on it. That's our job.

And, by the way, there are lots of -- the omnibus bill, the big budget bill, Democrats and Republicans came together without Trump, and we did so many good things. We increased spending against opioid, you know, spending to fight the opioid crisis.

CUOMO: Sure.

SCHUMER: We increased NIH funding. We got some education money restored. We got some infrastructure money restored. When are Republican colleagues are not so afraid of the White House, which really doesn't want to do anything except on its own terms, we could get things done?

And my prediction is this, Chris.

CUOMO: Go ahead.

SCHUMER: If we get a majority, I think Trump will move to us. Then he'll realize that this intransigence, this, you know, way of working isn't going to work, and he’ll have to work with us.

CUOMO: If the sides are going to come together, wouldn't there have been over school shootings. I mean, you know there’s so much things could be done. You can harden up the schools --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHUMER: Have you been following what’s happening? Donald Trump --

CUOMO: Every day, every hour.

SCHUMER: No, Donald Trump opposed anything that the NRA didn't want. You know that.

CUOMO: They say --

SCHUMER: You know, you're --

CUOMO: -- that they wouldn't put something on the table that didn't have very aggressive gun control as --

SCHUMER: Oh, is universal background check supported by 90 percent of the people, felons shouldn't get guns, mentality ill people adjudicated, mentally ill, is that extreme? No, 91 percent of the people wanted it, Trump didn't.

Trump sat in a room with a bunch of bipartisans. I'm not going to be afraid of the NRA. The next day, he went to the NRA and said, I'm not going to do a thing to buck you. That's the reason.

You know, you've got to -- I understand you like to be, let's look at each side, but --

CUOMO: Is that an impression of me that you just did, Senator? Is that how I come off to you?

SCHUMER: No, maybe it was your father.

CUOMO: What I'm trying to do is, I'm trying to test the arguments to see why we’re not getting more done.

SCHUMER: Yes, but on the arguments you bring up, like guns, it's clear as the nose on anybody's face that Donald Trump has stood in the way of very rational, very middle of the road -- 80 percent of gun owners support universal background checks, 70 percent of Republicans --

CUOMO: Understood.

SCHUMER: He stood in the way.

CUOMO: Last question, defining the party. There's criticism out there right now that the party has changed. Sure, you're the leader. I'm not questioning that, but --

SCHUMER: I'm one of the leaders.

CUOMO: Chuck Schumer, deal maker --

SCHUMER: Yes.

CUOJMO: -- little guy, working family, that the party is that any more. It’s the elite, the academic, the intellectual condescends to those who aren't smart enough to know what they know that adopts niche cultural issues and pushes out the blue collar men and women that you used to hold in your warm bosom of embrace.

SCHUMER: And still do. And I would say this, in 2016, maybe there was too much emphasis just on negative Trump and people lost that. We are getting it back.

CUOMO: How?

SCHUMER: We are talking about things that matter, as I told you -- health care, infrastructure, taxes. We're talking to rural people about rural broadband. One third of all rural homes don't have broadband. You can’t get Netflix. You can’t do school work. You can't get small businesses to.

Franklin Roosevelt, 1930s, he said every American home should get electricity, even the rural homes. It’s hard to reach them, because it’s a necessity. We're saying the same thing about broadband, very popular in rural areas.

We’re talking about job training, so we can prepare people for jobs. We are focused like a laser on middle class and people who want to get there. And as we get closer and closer to the campaign, as these issues get crystallized, it's going to help us dramatically.

We can't just be anti-Trump. And people sort of know what Trump is, he makes the anti-Trump argument himself to the majority of Americans. We have to be for a lot of good positive things. And again, we have done some of those and we're going to do more of them so that the middle class people, who are the Democratic Party know, not only care about them, and my prediction -- we will work with Republicans and if we get the majority, it’s going to start happening.

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