Schiff: “In America, no one is above the law. Donald J. Trump sacrificed our national security in an effort to cheat in the next election. And for that, and his continued efforts to seek foreign interference in our elections, he must be impeached.”
Washington, D.C. — Today, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, delivered a floor speech on the articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.
Remarks as prepared are below:
Floor Statement of Chairman Adam B. Schiff
House of Representatives Vote on Articles of Impeachment
against President Donald John Trump
December 18, 2019
I thank my colleague, Chairman Nadler. I thank him for the extraordinary job that he has done as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and throughout these difficult proceedings.
Madame Speaker, my colleagues, my fellow Americans.
I rise to support the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump.
“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may ‘ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.’”
These are the words of Alexander Hamilton, written in 1792. Could we find a more perfect description of the present danger emanating from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?
The Framers crafted a constitution that contemplated free and fair elections for the highest office in the land but also afforded the Congress with the power to remove a president who abused the powers of his office for personal gain, who compromised the public trust by betraying our nation’s security, or who sought to undermine our democratic system by seeking foreign intervention in the conduct of our elections. I would say that the Founders could have little imagined that a single president might have done all of these things, except that the evidence has sadly proved this is exactly what this president has done. Hamilton, among others, seems to have predicted the rise of Donald Trump with a staggering prescience.
Having won freedom from a King, the drafters of our Constitution designed a government in which ambition was made to check ambition, in which no branch of government would predominate over another, and no man would be allowed to be above the law, including the president — especially the president, since with whom would the danger be greater than with the officer charged with being our commander in chief?
Over the course of the last three months, we have found incontrovertible evidence that President Trump abused his power by pressuring the newly elected President of Ukraine to announce an investigation into President Trump’s political rival — Joe Biden — with the hopes of defeating Mr. Biden in the 2020 presidential election and enhancing his own prospects for reelection. He didn’t even need the investigation to be undertaken, just simply announced to the public; the smear of his opponent – the smear of his opponent – would be enough.
To effectuate this scheme, President Trump withheld two official acts of vital importance to a nation at war with our adversary, Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The President withheld a White House meeting that Ukraine desperately sought to bolster its standing on the world stage. And even more perniciously, President Trump suspended hundreds of millions of dollars of military aid approved by this Congress to coerce Ukraine into doing his electoral dirty work.
The President of the United States was willing to sacrifice our national security by withholding support for a critical strategic partner at war in order to improve his reelection prospects.
But for the courage of someone willing to blow the whistle, he would have gotten away with it. Instead, he got caught.
He tried to cheat, and he got caught.
Now, this wasn’t the first time. As a candidate in 2016, Donald Trump invited Russian interference in his presidential campaign, saying at a campaign rally: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” a clear invitation to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails. Just five hours later, Russian government hackers tried to do exactly that. What followed was an immense Russian hacking and dumping operation, and a social media disinformation campaign designed to help elect Donald Trump. Not only did candidate Trump welcome that effort, but he made full use of it, building it into his campaign plan, his messaging strategy, and then he sought to cover it up.
This Russian effort to interfere in our elections didn’t deter Donald Trump; it empowered him. The day after Special Counsel Bob Mueller testified before Congress about Russia’s sweeping and systemic effort to influence the outcome of our last election, the day after President Trump believed that the investigation into his first electoral misconduct had come to an end, the President was back on the phone urging yet another country, this time Ukraine, to help him cheat in another election.
Three consecutive days in July tell so much of the story. Three consecutive days in July of 2019.
July 24th: the day that Special Counsel Mueller testified before Congress, and President Trump thought he was finally in the clear.
July 25th: the day that President Trump got on the phone with the Ukrainian president, and in the context of a discussion about military support for that embattled nation that the President had recently frozen, said, “I would like you to do us a favor though,” and asked Ukraine to do two investigations to help his reelection efforts in 2020. That was July 25th.
And then we come to July 26th: the day Gordon Sondland called President Trump on his cell phone from a restaurant in Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, not some anonymous “never Trumper,” but a million dollar donor to the President’s inauguration and his handpicked ambassador to the European Union. What does President Trump ask Sondland? The day after this call, what does President Trump ask? What does the President want to know? Did he ask about Ukraine’s efforts to battle corruption? Of course not. Did he ask how the war with Russia was going? Not a chance.
On the phone, his voice loud enough for others to hear, President Trump asked Sondland: “So he’s going to do the investigation?” And the answer was clear. Sondland assured Trump that the Ukrainian president was “going to do it” and that he would “do anything you asked him to.”
If that wasn’t telling enough, my colleagues, in a conversation that followed, an American diplomat dining with Sondland asked if it was true that President Trump didn’t give a [blank] about Ukraine. Sondland agreed, saying the President cared only about “big stuff.” The diplomat noted that there was big stuff in Ukraine, like a war with Russia. And Sondland replied that the President cared only about big stuff that benefits him personally, like the “Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.”
In that short conversation, we learned everything we need to know about the 45th President of the United States. He doesn’t care about Ukraine, or the impact on our national security caused by withholding military aid to that country fighting for its democratic life. All that matters to this President is what affects him personally: an investigation into his political rival and a chance to cheat in the next election.
As Professor Gerhart testified before the Judiciary Committee two weeks ago, “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable.”
Even as this body uncovered the facts of this Ukraine scheme, even as we opened an impeachment inquiry, even as we gathered evidence, President Trump continued his efforts to seek foreign help in the next election. “Well I would think,” he said from the White House lawn on October 3rd, “that, if they’re being honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer.”
And he made it clear it’s an open invitation to other nations as well, saying, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” too.
President Trump sent his Chief of Staff to the White House podium and he told the world that, of course, they had linked aid to investigations, and that we should just “get over it.” And even as these articles have made their way to this House floor, the President’s personal attorney has continued pursuing these sham investigations on behalf of his client: the President.
The President and his men plot on. The danger persists. The risk is real. Our democracy is at peril.
But we are not without a remedy prescribed by the Founders for just these circumstances: Impeachment. The only question is: Will we use it, or have we fallen prey to another evil that the Founders forewarned? The excess of factionalism, the elevation of party over country.
Many of my colleagues appear to have made their choice — to protect the president, to enable him to be above the law, to empower this president to cheat again, as long as it is in the service of their party and their power.
They’ve made their choice, despite this President and the White House stonewalling every subpoena, every request for witnesses and testimony from this coequal – coequal – branch of government. They have made their choice knowing that to allow this president to obstruct Congress will empower him – and any other president that follows – to be as corrupt, as negligent, or as abusive of the power of the presidency as they choose. They have made their choice, and I believe they will rue the day they did.
When Donald J. Trump was sworn in on January 20th, 2017, he repeated these words:
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Has he lived up to that sacred obligation? Has he honored his oath of office? Has he preserved, protected, and defended the Constitution of the United States?
The uncontested evidence provides the simple, yet tragic, answer: He has not. In America, no one is above the law. Donald J. Trump sacrificed our national security in an effort to cheat in the next election. And for that, and his continued efforts to seek foreign interference in our elections, he must be impeached.
I reserve the balance of my time.
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