Jan 22, 2020
Impeachment Trial Day 1 Transcripts: Opening Statement Transcripts from Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Adam Schiff
The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump began this week on January 21, 2020 in the US Senate. The first day consisted primarily of debates and voting on rules for the trial. Read the full transcripts of opening statements from Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, and Adam Schiff.
Mitch McConnell Opening Statement
Mitch McConnell: (01:49)
Majority leader, last Thursday, the United States Senate crossed one of the gravest thresholds that exists in our system of government. We began just a third presidential impeachment trial in American history. This is a unique responsibility, which the framers of our constitution knew that the Senate, and only the Senate, could handle. Our founders trusted the Senate to rise above short term passions and factionalism. They trusted the Senate to soberly consider what has actually been proven and which outcome best serves the nation. That’s a pretty high bar, Mr. President, and you might say that later today, this body will take our entrance exam.
Mitch McConnell: (02:37)
Today we will consider and pass an organizing resolution that will structure the first phase of the trial. This initial step will offer an early signal to our country. Can the Senate still serve our founding purpose? Can we still put fairness, even-headedness, and historical precedent ahead of the partisan passions of the day?
Mitch McConnell: (03:11)
Today’s vote will contain some answers. The organizing resolution we’ll put forward already has the support of a majority of the Senate. That’s because it sets up a structure that is fair, even-handed and tracks closely with past precedents that were established unanimously. After pretrial business, the resolution establishes the four things that need to happen next. First, the Senate will hear an opening presentation from the house managers. Second, we will hear from the president’s council. Third senators will be able to seek further information by posing written questions to either side through the Chief Justice. And fourth, with all that information in hand, the Senate will consider whether we feel any additional evidence or witnesses are necessary to evaluate whether the House case has cleared, or failed to clear, the high bar of overcoming the presumption of innocence and undoing a democratic election.
Mitch McConnell: (04:32)
The Senate’s fair process will draw a sharp contrast with the unfair and precedent breaking inquiry that was carried on by the House of Representatives. The House broke with precedent by denying members of the Republican minority the same rights that Democrats had received when they were in the minority back in 1998. Here in the Senate, every single senator will have exactly the same rights and exactly the same ability to ask questions. The house broke with fairness by cutting President Trump’s counsel out of their inquiry to an unprecedented degree. Here in the Senate, the President’s lawyers will finally receive a level playing field with the House Democrats, and we’ll finally be able to present the President’s case. Finally, some fairness. On every point, our straight forward resolution will bring the clarity and fairness that everyone deserves. The President of the United States, the House of Representatives, and the American people.
Mitch McConnell: (05:43)
This is the fair roadmap for our trial. We need it in place before we can move forward. So the Senate should prepare to remain in session today until we complete this resolution and adopt it. This basic four part structure aligns with the first steps of the Clinton impeachment trial in 1999. 21 years ago, 100 senators agreed unanimously that this roadmap was the right way to begin the trial. All a hundred senators agreed the proper time to consider the question of potential witnesses was after; after opening arguments and senators’ questions.
Mitch McConnell: (06:31)
Now, some outside voices have been urging the Senate to break with precedent on this question. Loud voices, including the leadership of the House majority, colluded with Senate Democrats and tried to force the Senate to pre-commit ourselves to six specific witnesses and documents before senators had even heard opening arguments or even asked questions. These are potential witnesses, Mr. President, whom the House managers themselves, themselves, declined to hear from, whom the House itself declined to pursue through the legal system during its own inquiry.
Mitch McConnell: (07:14)
The house was not facing any deadline. They were free to run whatever investigation they wanted to run. If they wanted witnesses who would trigger legal battles over presidential privilege, they could have had those fights. But the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee decided not to. They decided their inquiry was finished and moved right ahead. The House chose not to pursue the same witnesses they apparently would now like the Senate to pre-commit to pursuing ourselves.
Mitch McConnell: (07:55)
As I’ve been saying for weeks, nobody, nobody, will dictate Senate procedure to non state senators. A majority of us are committed to upholding the unanimous bipartisan Clinton precedent against outside influences with respect to the proper timing of these mid trial questions. And so, if any amendments are brought forward to force premature decisions on mid trial questions, I will move to table such amendments and protect our bipartisan precedent. If a Senator moves to amend the resolution and orders subpoena specific witnesses or documents, I will move to table such motions because the Senate will decide those questions later in the trial, just like we did back in 1999.
Mitch McConnell: (08:50)
Now Mr. President, today may present a curious situation. We may hear House managers themselves agitate for such amendments. We may hear a team of managers led by the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committee chairmen argue that the Senate must pre-commit ourselves to reopen the very investigation they themselves oversaw and voluntarily shut down.
Mitch McConnell: (09:21)
It would be curious to hear these two House chairmen argue that the Senate must pre-commit ourselves to supplementing their own evidentiary record to enforce these subpoenas they refused to enforce, to supplementing a case they themselves have recently described as overwhelming; overwhelming, and beyond any reasonable doubt.
Mitch McConnell: (09:50)
So Mr. President, these mid trial questions could potentially take us even deeper into even more complex constitutional waters. For example, many senators, including me, have serious concerns about blurring, blurring, the traditional role between the House and the Senate within the impeachment process. The Constitution divides the power to impeach from the power to try. The first belong solely to the House, and with the power impeach, comes the responsibility to investigate. The Senate agreeing to pick up and carry on the House’s inadequate investigation, which set a new precedent that could incentivize frequent and hasty impeachments from future House majorities. It could dramatically change the separation of powers between the House and the Senate. If the Senate agrees, we will conduct both the investigation and the trial of an impeachment.
Mitch McConnell: (10:50)
What’s more, some of the proposed new witnesses include executive branch officials whose communications with the President and with other executive branch officials lie at the very core of the President’s constitutional privilege. Pursuing those witnesses could indefinitely delay the Senate trial and draw our body into a protracted and complex legal fight over presidential privilege. Such litigation could potentially have permanent repercussions for the separation of powers and the institution of the presidency that senators would need to consider very, very carefully.
Mitch McConnell: (11:37)
So Mr. President, the Senate is not about to rush into these weighty questions without discussion and without deliberation, without even hearing opening arguments first. There were good reasons why a hundred out of a hundred senators agreed two decades ago to cross these bridges when we came to them. That is what we will do this time, as well. Fair is fair. The process was good enough for President Clinton, and basic fairness dictates it ought to be good enough with this president as well.
Mitch McConnell: (12:16)
So, the eyes are on the Senate; the country is watching to see if we can rise to the occasion. 21 years ago, 100 senators, including a number of us who sit in the chamber today, did just that. The body approved a fair, common sense process, to guide the beginning of a presidential impeachment trial. Today, two decades later, this Senate will retake that entrance exam. The basic structure we’re proposing is just as eminently fair and even-headed as it was back then. The question is, whether senators are themselves ready to be as fair and as even-handed.
Mitch McConnell: (13:15)
The Senate made a statement 21 years ago. We said that presidents of either party deserve basic justice and a fair process. A challenging political moment like today does not make such statements less necessary, but all the more necessary, in fact. So I would say to my colleagues across the aisle, there is no reason why the vote on this resolution ought to be remotely partisan. There’s no reason other than base partisanship, to say this particular president deserves a radically different rule book than what was good enough for a past president of your own party. So I would urge every single senator to support our fair resolution. I urge everyone to vote to uphold the Senate’s unanimous bipartisan precedent of a fair process.
Chuck Schumer Opening Statement
Chuck Schumer: (00:00)
Now before I begin, there has been well-founded concern that the additional security measures required for access to the galleries during the trials that cause reporters to miss some of the events on the Senate floor. I want to assure everyone in the press that I will vociferously oppose any attempt to begin the trial unless the reporters trying to enter the gallery are seated. The press is here to inform the American public about these pivotal events in our nation’s history. We must make sure they are able to. Some may not want what happens here to be public. We do.
Chuck Schumer: (00:40)
Now, Mr. President, after the conclusion of my remarks, the Senate will proceed to the impeachment trial of President Donald John Trump for committing high crimes and misdemeanors. President Trump is accused of coercing a foreign leader into interfering in our elections to benefit himself and then doing everything in his power to cover it up. If proved, the President’s actions are crimes against democracy itself. It’s hard to imagine a greater subversion of our democracy than for powers outside our borders to determine the elections from within. For a foreign country to attempt such a thing on its own is bad enough. For an American president to deliberately solicit such a thing, to blackmail a foreign country with military assistance to help him win an election is unimaginably worse. I can’t imagine any other president doing this.
Chuck Schumer: (01:44)
Beyond that, for then the President to deny the right of Congress to conduct oversight, deny the right to investigate any of his activities, to say Article Two of the Constitution gives him the right to, “Do whatever he wants”. We are staring down an erosion of the sacred democratic principles for which our founders fought a bloody war of independence. Such is the gravity of this historic moment.
Chuck Schumer: (02:19)
Now, once Senator Inhofe is sworn in at 1:00 PM, the ceremonial functions at the beginning of a presidential trial will be complete. The Senate then must determine the rules of the trial. The Republican leader will offer an organizing resolution that outlines his plan, his plan for the rules of the trial. It is completely partisan. It was kept secret until the very eve of the trial, and now that it’s public, it’s very easy to see why.
Chuck Schumer: (02:53)
The McConnell rules seem to be designed by President Trump for president Trump. It asks the Senate to rush through as fast as possible and makes getting evidence as hard as possible. He could force presentations to take place at two or three in the morning so the American people won’t see them. In short, the McConnell resolution will result in a rush trial with little evidence in the dark of night, literally the dark of night. If the President is so confident in his case, if Leader McConnell is so confident the President did nothing wrong, why don’t they want the case to be presented in broad daylight? On something as important as impeachment, the McConnell resolution is nothing short of a national disgrace. This will go down, this resolution, as one of the darker moments in the Senate history, perhaps one of even the darkest. Now, Leader McConnell has just said he wants to go by the Clinton rules. Then why did he change them in four important ways, at minimum, to all make the trial less transparent, less clear, and with less evidence?
Chuck Schumer: (04:20)
He said he wanted to get started in exactly the same way. It turns out, contrary to what the leader said, I’m amazed he could say it with a straight face, that the rules are the same as the Clinton rules. The rules are not even close to the Clinton rules. Unlike the Clinton rules, the McConnell resolution does not admit the record of the House impeachment proceedings into evidence. So Leader McConnell wants a trial with no existing evidence and no new evidence. A trial without evidence is not a trial. It’s a coverup.
Chuck Schumer: (04:57)
Second, unlike the Clinton rules, the McConnell resolution limits presentation by the parties to 24 hours per side over only two days. We started one, 12 hours a day, we’re at 1:00 AM and that’s without breaks, it’ll be later. Leader McConnell wants to force the managers to make important parts of their case in the dark of night.
Chuck Schumer: (05:25)
Number three, unlike the Clinton rules, the McConnell resolution places an additional hurdle to get witnesses and documents by requiring a vote on whether such motions are even in order. If that vote fails, then no motions to subpoena witnesses and documents will be in order. I don’t want anyone on the other side to say I’m going to vote no first on witnesses, but then later I’ll determine it if they vote for McConnell’s resolution, they’re making it far more difficult to vote in the future, later on in the trial.
Chuck Schumer: (06:00)
Finally, unlike the Clinton rules, the McConnell resolution allows a motion to dismiss at any time, anytime in the trial. So, in short, contrary to what the Leader has said, the McConnell rules are not at all like the Clinton rules. The Republican Leader’s resolution is based neither in precedent nor in principle. It is driven by partisanship and the politics of the moment.
Chuck Schumer: (06:29)
Today, I’ll be offering amendments to fix the many flaws in Leader McConnell’s deeply unfair resolution and seek the witnesses and documents we’ve requested beginning with an amendment to have the Senate subpoena White House documents. Let me be clear, these amendments are not dilatory. They only seek one thing. The truth. That means relevant documents. That means relevant witnesses. That’s the only way to get a fair trial and everyone in this body knows it. Each Senate impeachment trial in our history, all 15 that were brought to completion feature witnesses. Every single one. The witnesses we request, they’re not Democrats. They’re the President’s own men. The documents are not democratic documents. They’re documents, period. We don’t know if the evidence of the witnesses or the documents will be exculpatory to the President or incriminating, but we have an obligation, a solemn obligation, particularly now during this most deep and solemn part of our Constitution to seek the truth and then let the chips fall where they may.
Chuck Schumer: (07:44)
My Republican colleagues have offered several explanations for opposing witnesses and documents at the start of the trial. None of them has much merit. Republicans have said we should deal with the question of witnesses later in the trial. Of course, it makes no sense to hear both sides present their case first and then afterward decide if the Senate should hear evidence. The evidence is supposed to inform arguments not come after they’re completed. Some Republicans have said the Senate should not go beyond the House record by calling any witnesses, but the Constitution gives the Senate the sole power to try impeachments, not the sole power to review, not the sole power to rehash, but to try. Republicans have called our requests for witnesses and documents political. If seeking the truth is political then the Republican party is in serious trouble.
Chuck Schumer: (08:40)
The White House has said that the articles of impeachment are brazen and wrong. Well, if the President believes his impeachment is so brazen and wrong, why won’t he show us why? Why is the President so insistent that no one come forward that no documents be released? If the President’s case is so weak that none of the President’s men can defend him under oath, shame on him and those who allow it to happen. What is the President hiding? What are our Republican colleagues hiding? Because if they weren’t afraid of the truth, they’d say, go right ahead. Get at the truth. Get witnesses. Get documents. In fact, at no point over the last few months have I heard a single solitary argument on the merits of why witnesses and documents should not be part of the trial. No Republican’s explained why less evidence is better than more evidence.
Chuck Schumer: (09:42)
Nevertheless, Leader McConnell is poised to ask the Senate to begin the first impeachment trial of a president in history without witnesses that rushes through the arguments as quickly as possible. That in ways, both shameless and subtle, will conceal the truth, the truth from the American people. Leader McConnell claimed that the House ran the most rushed, least thorough and most unfair impeachment inquiry in modern history. The truth is Leader McConnell is plotting the most rushed, lease thorough and most unfair impeachment trial in modern history and it begins today.
Chuck Schumer: (10:23)
The Senate has put forward a very straightforward question. The President is accused of coercing a foreign power to interfere in our elections, to help himself. It’s the job of the Senate to determine if these very serious charges are true. The very least we can do is examine the fact, review the documents, hear the witnesses. Try the case, not run from it, not hide it. Try it. Because if the President commits high crimes and misdemeanors and Congress refuses to act, refuses even to conduct a fair trial of his conduct, then presidents, this president and future presidents, can commit impeachable crimes with impunity and the order and rigor of our democracy will dramatically decline. The fail safe, the final fail safe of our democracy will be rendered moot. The most powerful check on the executive, the one designed to protect the people from tyranny will be erased.
Chuck Schumer: (11:31)
In short time, my colleagues, each of us will face a choice about whether to begin this trial in search of the truth or in service of the President’s desire to cover it up. Whether the Senate will conduct a fair trial and a fully airing of the facts or rush to a predetermined political outcome. My colleagues, the eyes of the nation, the eyes of history, the eyes of the founding fathers are upon us. History will be our final judge. Will senators rise to the occasion? I yield the floor.
Adam Schiff Opening Statement
Adam Schiff: (00:00)
Mr. Chief Justice, senators, and counsel for the president, the House managers on behalf of the House of Representatives rise in opposition to leader McConnell’s resolution.
Judy Woodruff: (00:07)
Congressman Adam Schiff, who’s Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the lead manager for the House.
Adam Schiff: (00:12)
Let me begin by summarizing why. Last week, we came before you to present the articles of impeachment against the President of the United States for only the third time in our history. Those articles charged President Donald John Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The misconduct set out in those articles is the most serious ever charged against a president.
Adam Schiff: (00:36)
The first article, abuse of power, charges the president with soliciting a foreign power to help him cheat in the next election. Moreover, it alleges, and we will prove, that he sought to coerce Ukraine into helping him cheat by withholding official acts, two official acts: a meeting that the new president of Ukraine desperately sought with president Trump at the White House to show the world and the Russians, in particular, that the Ukrainian president had a good relationship with his most important patron, the President of the United States. Even more perniciously, President Trump illegally withheld almost $400 million in taxpayer funded military assistance to Ukraine, a nation at war with our Russian adversary, to compel Ukraine to help him cheat in the election.
Adam Schiff: (01:29)
Astonishingly, the president’s trial brief filed yesterday contends that even if this conduct is proved that there is nothing that the House or this Senate may do about it. It is the president’s apparent belief that under Article Two, he can do anything he wants, no matter how corrupt, outfitted in God illegal clothing. Yet, when the founders wrote the impeachment clause, they had precisely this type of misconduct in mind. Conduct that abuses the power of his office for personal benefit, that undermines our national security, that invites foreign interference in our democratic process of an election. It is the trifecta of constitutional misconduct justifying impeachment.
Adam Schiff: (02:19)
In Article Two, the president is charged with other misconduct that would likewise have alarmed the founders, the full, complete and absolute obstruction of a coequal branch of government, the Congress, during the course of its impeachment investigation into the president’s own misconduct. This is every bit as destructive of our constitutional order as the misconduct charged in the first article. If a president can obstruct his own investigation, if he can effectively nullify a power the constitution gives solely to Congress, indeed the ultimate power, the ultimate power the constitution gives to prevent presidential misconduct, then the president places himself beyond accountability, above the law, cannot be indicted, cannot be impeached. It makes him a Monarch. The very evil against which our constitution and the balance of powers it carefully laid out was designed to guard against.
Adam Schiff: (03:18)
Shortly the trial of these charges will begin and when it has concluded, you’ll be asked to make several determinations: Did the House prove that the president abused his power by seeking to coerce a foreign nation to help him cheat in the next election? And did he obstruct the Congress in its investigation into his own misconduct by ordering his agencies and officers to refuse to cooperate in any way, to refuse to testify, to refuse to answer subpoenas for documents and through every other means?
Adam Schiff: (03:56)
If the House has proved its case, and we believe the evidence will not be seriously contested, you will have to answer at least one other critical question: Does the commission of these high crimes and misdemeanors require the conviction and removal of the president? We believe that it does and that the constitution requires that it be so, or the power of impeachment must be deemed a relic or a casualty to partisan times and the American people left unprotected against a president who would abuse his power for the very purpose of corrupting the only other method of accountability, our elections themselves. You will vote to find the president guilty or not guilty, to find his conduct impeachable or not impeachable, but I would submit to you these are not the most important decisions you will make. How can that be? How can any decision you will make be more important than guilt or innocence, then removing the president or not removing the president?
Adam Schiff: (05:04)
I believe the most important decision in this case is the one you will make today. The most important question is the question you must answer today: Will the president and the American people get a fair trial? Will there be a fair trial? I submit that this is an even more important question than how you vote on guilt or innocence because whether we have a fair trial will determine whether you have a basis to render a fair and impartial verdict. It is foundational, the structure upon which every other decision you will make must rest. If you only get to see part of the evidence, if you only allow one side or the other a chance to present their full case, your verdict will be predetermined by the bias in the proceeding. If the defendant’s not allowed to introduce evidence of his innocence, it’s not a fair trial; so too for the prosecution. If the House cannot call witnesses or introduce documents and evidence, it’s not a fair trial. It’s not really a trial at all.
Adam Schiff: (06:10)
Americans all over the country are watching us right now. Imagine they’re on grand jury or they’re on jury duty. Imagine that the judge walks into that courtroom and says that she’s been talking to the defendant and at the defendant’s request the judge as agreed not to let the prosecution call any witnesses or introduce any documents. The judge and the defendant have agreed that the prosecutor may only read to the jury the dry transcripts of the grand jury proceedings. That’s it. Has anyone on jury duty in this country ever heard a judge described such a proceeding and call it a fair trial? Of course not. That’s not a fair trial. It’s a mockery of a trial under the constitution.
Adam Schiff: (07:02)
This proceeding, the one we are in right now, is the trial. This is not the appeal from a trial. You are not appellate court judges. Okay, one of you is. Unless this trial is going to be different from every other impeachment trial or any other kind of trial for that matter, you must allow the prosecution and defense, the House manager and the president’s lawyers to call relevant witnesses. You must subpoena documents that the president has blocked but which bear on his guilt or innocence. You must impartially do justice as your oath requires.
Adam Schiff: (07:44)
What does a fair trial look like in the context of impeachment? The short answer is it looks like every other trial. First, the resolution should allow the House managers to obtain documents that have been withheld. First, not last, because the documents will inform the decision about which witnesses are most important to call. When the witnesses are called, the documentary evidence will be available and must be available to question them with. Any other order makes no sense.
Adam Schiff: (08:17)
Next, the resolution should allow the House managers to call their witnesses and then the president should be allowed to do the same and any rebuttal witnesses. When the evidentiary portion of the trial ends, the parties argue the case. You deliberate and render a verdict. If there’s a dispute as to whether a particular witness is relevant or material to the charges brought, under the Senate rules the chief justice would rule on the issue of materiality.
Adam Schiff: (08:44)
Why should this trial be different than any other trial? The short answer is it shouldn’t. But leader McConnell’s resolution would turn the trial process on its head. His resolution requires the House to prove its case without witnesses, without documents and only after it’s done will such questions be entertained, with no guarantee that any witnesses or any documents will be allowed even then. That process makes no sense.
Adam Schiff: (09:13)
What is the harm of waiting until the end of the trial, of kicking the can down the road on the question of documents and witnesses? Besides the fact it’s completely backwards, trial first then evidence, besides the fact that the documents would inform the decision on which witnesses and helping in their questioning, the harm is this: You will not have any of the evidence the president continues to conceal throughout most or all of the trial. Although the evidence against the president is already overwhelming, you may never know the full scope of the presence misconduct or those around him and neither will the American people.
Adam Schiff: (09:56)
The charges here involve the sacrifice of our national security at home and abroad and a threat to the integrity of the next election. If there are additional remedial steps that need to be taken after the president’s conviction, the American people must know about it. But if, as a public already jaded by experience has come to suspect, this resolution is merely the first step of an effort orchestrated by the White House to rush the trial, hide the evidence, and render a fast verdict or worse a fast dismissal to make the president’s go away as quickly as possible to cover up his misdeeds, then the American people will be deprived of a fair trial and may never learn just how deep the corruption of this administration goes or what other risks to our security and elections remain hidden.
Adam Schiff: (10:49)
The harm will also endure for this body. If the Senate allows the president to get away with such extensive obstruction, it will affect the Senate’s power of subpoena and oversight just as much as the House. The Senate’s ability to conduct oversight will be beholden to the desires of this president and future presidents. Whether he or she decides they want to cooperate with a Senate investigation or another impeachment inquiry and trial, our system of checks and balances will be broken. Presidents will become accountable to no one.
Adam Schiff: (11:28)
Now it has been reported that leader McConnell has already got the votes to pass this resolution, the text of which we did not see until last night in which has been changed even moments ago. They say that leader McConnell is a very good vote counter. Nonetheless, I hope that he’s wrong; and not just because I think this process, the process contemplated by this resolution, is backwards and designed with a result in mind and that the result is not a fair trial. I hope that he’s wrong because whatever senators may have said or pledged or committed has been superseded by an event of constitutional dimension. You have all now sworn an oath, not to each other, not to your legislative leadership, not to the managers or even to the chief justice. You have sworn an oath to do impartial justice. That oath binds you. That oath supersedes all else.
Adam Schiff: (12:38)
Many of you in the Senate and many of us in the House have made statements about the president’s conduct or this trial or this motion or expectations. None of that matters now, that is all in the past. Nothing matters now but the oath to do impartial justice, and that oath requires a fair trial. Fair to the president and fair to the American people. But is that really possible or, as the founders feared, has factionalism or an excessive partisanship made that now impossible?
Adam Schiff: (13:23)
One way to find out what a fair trial should look like devoid of partisan consideration is to ask yourselves how would you structure the trial if you didn’t know what your party was and you didn’t know what the party of the president was. Would it make sense to you to have the trial first and then decide on witnesses and evidence later? Would that be fair to both sides? I have to think that your answer would be no.
Adam Schiff: (13:49)
Let me be blunt. Let me be very blunt. Right now, a great many, perhaps even most, Americans do not believe there will be a fair trial. They don’t believe that the Senate will be impartial. They believe that the result is precooked. The president will be acquitted, not because he is innocent, he is not, but because the senators will vote by party and he has the votes, the votes to prevent the evidence from coming out, the votes to make sure the public never sees it. The American people want a fair trial. They want to believe their system of government is still capable of rising to the occasion. They want to believe that we can rise above party and do what’s best for the country, but a great many Americans don’t believe that will happen. Let’s prove them wrong. Let’s prove them wrong.
Adam Schiff: (14:55)
How? By convicting the president? No, not by conviction alone. By convicting him if the House proves its case, and only if the House proves its case, but by letting the House prove its case, by letting the House call witnesses, by letting the House obtain documents, by letting the House decide how to present its own case and not deciding it for us. In sum, by agreeing to a fair trial.
Adam Schiff: (15:29)
Now let’s turn to the precise terms of the resolution, the history of impeachment trials, and what fairness and impartiality require.
Adam Schiff: (15:44)
Although we have many concerns about the resolution, I will begin with its single biggest flaw. The resolution does not ensure that subpoenas will in fact be issued for additional evidence that the Senate and the American people should have, and that the president continues to block, to fairly decide the president’s guilt or innocence.
Adam Schiff: (16:03)
… continues to block, to fairly decide the President’s guilt or innocence. Moreover, it guarantees that subpoenas will not be issued now, when they would be most valuable to the Senate, the parties and the American people. According to the resolution the leader has introduced. First, the Senate receives briefs and filings from the parties. Next, it hears lengthy presentations from the House and the President. Now, my colleagues, the President’s lawyers have described this as opening statements, but let’s not kid ourselves. That is the trial that they contemplate. The opening statements are the trial. They’ll either be most of the trial or there’ll be all the trial. If the Senate votes to deprive itself of witnesses and documents, the opening statements will be the end of the trial.
Adam Schiff: (16:52)
So to say, let’s just have the opening statements and then we’ll see, means let’s have the trial and maybe we can just sweep this all under the rug. So you’ll hear these lengthy presentations from the House. There’ll be a question and answer period for the senators and then and only then after essentially the trial is over, after the briefs have been filed, after the arguments have been made, after the senators exhaust all their questions, only then will the Senate consider whether to subpoena crucial documents and witness testimony that the President has desperately tried to conceal from this Congress and the American people. Documents and witness testimony that unlike the Clinton trial have not yet been seen or heard.
Adam Schiff: (17:38)
It is true that the record compiled by the House is overwhelming. It is true, the record already compels the conviction of the President. In the face of unprecedented resistance by the President, the House assembled a powerful case, evidence of the President’s high crimes and misdemeanors. That includes direct evidence and testimony of officials who are unwilling and unwitting in this scheme and saw it for what it was. Yet, there is still more evidence, relative and probative evidence that the President continues to block that would flesh out the full extent of the President’s misconduct and those around him.
Adam Schiff: (18:16)
We have seen that over the past few weeks, new evidence has continued to come to light as the Nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has determined that the hold on military to Ukraine was illegal and broke the law. As John Bolton has offered to testify in the trial, as one of the President’s agents, Lev Parnas, has produced documentary evidence that clarifies Mr. Giuliani’s activities on behalf of the President and corroborates Ambassador’s Sondland’s testimony that everyone was in the loop. As documents released under the Freedom of Information Act have documented the alarm at the Department of Defense while the President illegally withheld military for Ukraine, an ally at war with Russia without explanation.
Adam Schiff: (19:06)
As Senior Office of Management and Budget official, Michael Duffey instructed Defense Department officials on July 25th, 90 minutes after President Trump spoke by phone with President Zelensky, the Defense Department should pause all obligation of Ukraine military assistance under its purview, 90 minutes after that call. Duffey added, “Given the sensitive nature of the request, I appreciate your keeping that information closely held to those who need to know to execute the direction.” Although, the evidence is already more than sufficient to convict, there is simply no rational basis for the Senate to deprive itself of all relevant information in making such a hugely consequential judgment. Moreover, as the President’s answer to his summons and his trial brief make clear, the President now attempts to contest the facts, albeit in false and misleading ways. But the President should not have it both ways. He should not be permitted to claim that the facts uncovered by the House are wrong while also concealing mountains of evidence that bear precisely on those facts. If this body seeks impartial justice, it should ensure that subpoenas are issued and that they are issued now, before the Senate begins extended proceedings based on a record that every person in this room and every American watching at home knows does not include documents and witness testimony it should because the President would not allow it to be so.
Adam Schiff: (20:47)
Complying with these subpoenas would not impose a burden. The subpoenas cover narrowly tailored and targeted documents and witnesses that the President has concealed. The Senate deserves to see the documents from the White House, the State Department, the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Defense. These agencies already should have collected and at least preserved these documents in response to House subpoenas. Indeed, in some cases agencies have already produced documents in FOIA lawsuits, albeit in heavily redacted form. And witnesses with direct knowledge or involvement should be heard.
Adam Schiff: (21:24)
That includes the President’s acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, his former national security advisor, John Bolton, who has publicly offered to testify. To senior officials integral to implementing the President’s freeze on Ukraine’s military aid also have very relevant testimony. Why not hear it? Robert Blair, who serves as Mulvaney’s senior advisor, Michael Duffey, a senior official at OMB, and other witnesses with direct knowledge that we reserve the right to call later, but these witnesses with whom we wish to begin the trial. Last month, President Trump made clear that he supported having senior officials testify before the Senate during his trial, declaring that he would love to have Secretary Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney, now former secretary Perry and, “Many other people,” testify in the Senate trial.
Donald Trump: (22:20)
So, when it’s there and it will be there in the Senate, I would love to have Mike Pompei, I’d love to have Mitch, I’d love to have Rick Perry and many other people testify.
Adam Schiff: (22:35)
The Senate has an opportunity to take the President up on his offer to make his senior aides available, including Mr. Mulvaney and secretaries, Perry and Pompeo. But now the President is changing his tune. The bluster of wanting these witnesses to testify is over, not withstanding the fact that he has never asserted a claim of privilege during the course of the House impeachment proceedings. He threatens to invoke one now in a last ditch effort to keep the rest of the truth from coming out. The President sends his lawyers here to breathlessly claim that these witnesses or others cannot possibly testify because it involves national security.
Adam Schiff: (23:15)
Nevermind that it was the President’s actions in withholding military aid from an ally at war that threatened our national security in the first place. Nevermind that the most impeachable serious offenses will always involve national security because they will involve other nations and that misconduct based on foreign entanglement was what the framers feared most. The President’s absurdist argument amounts to this. We must endanger national security to protect national security. We must make a President’s conduct threatening our security beyond the reach of impeachment power if we are to save the presidency. This is dangerous nonsense. As justices of the Supreme Court have underscored, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.
Adam Schiff: (24:04)
But let us turn from the abstract to the very concrete and let me show you just one example of what the President is hiding in the name of national security. There is a document which the President has refused to turn over in which his top diplomat in Ukraine says to two other appointees of the President, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” The administration refuses to turn over that document and so many more. We only know about its existence, we have only seen its contents because it was turned over by a cooperating witness. This is what the President would hide from you and from the American people.
Adam Schiff: (24:52)
In the name of national security, he would hide graphic evidence of his dangerous misconduct. The only question is, and it is the question raised by this resolution, will you let him? Last year, President Trump said that article two of the Constitution will allow him to do anything he wanted. And evidently believing that article two empowered him to denigrate and defy a coequal branch of government, he also declared that he will fight all subpoenas. Let’s hear the President’s own words.
Donald Trump: (25:28)
Then I have an article two where I have the right to do whatever I want as President.
Donald Trump: (25:33)
But we’re fighting all the subpoenas.
Adam Schiff: (25:37)
True to his pledge to obstruct Congress, when President Trump faced an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, he ordered the executive branch to defy every single request on every single subpoena. He issued this order through his White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, on October 8, the same counsel that stood before you a moment to go to defend the President’s misconduct. He then affirmed it again at a rally on October 10. Following President Trump’s categorical order, we never received key documents and communications. It is important to note, in refusing to respond to Congress, the President did not make any, any formal claim of privilege ever.
Adam Schiff: (26:25)
Instead, Mr. Cipollone’s letter stated, in effect, that the President would withhold all evidence in the executive branch unless the House surrendered to demands that would effectively place President Trump in charge of the inquiry into his own misconduct. Needless to say, that was a nonstarter and designed to be so. The President was determined to obstruct Congress no matter what we did. And his conduct since, his attacks on the impeachment inquiry, his attacks on witnesses have affirmed that the President never had any intention to cooperate under any circumstance. And why? Because the evidence and testimony he conceals would only further prove his guilt. The innocent do not act this way.
Adam Schiff: (27:11)
Simply stated, this trial should not reward the President’s obstruction by allowing him to control what evidence is seen and when it is seen and what evidence will remain hidden. The documents the President seeks to conceal include White House records, including records about the President’s unlawful hold on military aid. State department records, including text messages and WhatsApp messages exchanged by the State Department and Ukrainian officials and notes to file written by career professionals as they saw the President’s scheme unfold in real time. OMB records demonstrating efforts to fabricate an after the fact rationale for the President’s orders and showing internal objections that the President’s orders violated the law.
Adam Schiff: (27:59)
Defense Department records reflecting bafflement and alarm that the President suspended military aid to a key security partner without explanation. Many of the President’s aides have also followed his orders and refuse to testify. These include central figures in the impeachment inquiry, including White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, former national security advisor, John Bolton, and many others with relevant testimony like Robert Blair and Michael Duffey. Mr. Blair, who serves as a senior advisor to acting Chief of Staff, Mulvaney, worked directly with Mr. Duffey, a political appointee in the Office of Management and Budget to carry out the President’s order to freeze vital military and security assistance to Ukraine.
Adam Schiff: (28:44)
The Trump administration has refused to disclose their communications, even though we know from written testimony, public reporting, and even Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, that they were instrumental in implementing the hold and extending it at the President’s expressed direction. Even, even as career officials warned accurately that doing so would violate the law. The President has also made the insupportable claim that the House should have enforced it subpoenas in court and allowed the President to delay his impeachment for years. If we had done so, we would have abdicated our constitutional duty to act on the overwhelming facts before us and the evidence the President was seeking to cheat in the next election.
Adam Schiff: (29:32)
We could not engage in a deliberately protracted court process while the President continued to threaten the sanctity of our elections. Resorting to the courts is also inconsistent with a constitution that gives the House the sole power of impeachment. If the House were compelled to exhaust all legal remedies before impeaching the President, it would interpose the courts or the decision of a single judge between the house and the power to impeach. Moreover, it would invite the President to prevent his own impeachment by endlessly litigating the matter in court, appealing every judgment, engaging in every frivolous motion or device. Indeed, in the case of Don McGahn, the President’s lawyer who was ordered to fire the special counsel and lie about it, he was subpoenaed by the House in April last year and there is still no final judgment.
Adam Schiff: (30:26)
A President may not defeat impeachment or accountability by engaging in endless litigation. Instead, it’s been the long practice of the House to compile core evidence necessary to reach a reasoned decision about whether to impeach and then to bring the case here to the Senate for a full trial. That is exactly what we did here with an understanding that the Senate has its own power to compel documents and testimony. It would be one thing if the House had shown no interest in documents or witnesses during its investigation. Although even there, the House has the sole right to determine its proceedings as long as it makes the full case to the House, as it did.
Adam Schiff: (31:09)
But it’s quite another when the President is the cause of his own complaint. When the President withholds witnesses and documents and then attempts to rely on his own noncompliance to justify further concealment. President Trump made it crystal clear, we would never see a single document or a single witness when he declared, as we just watched, that he would fight all subpoenas. As a matter of history and precedent, it would be wrong to assert that the Senate is unable to obtain and review new evidence during a Senate trial, regardless of why evidence was not produced in the House. You can and should insist on receiving all the evidence so you can render impartial justice and can earn the confidence of the public in the Senate’s willingness to hold a fair trial. Under the Constitution, the-
Adam Schiff: (32:02)
Under the Constitution, the Senate does not just vote on impeachments. It does not just debate them. Instead it is commanded by the Constitution to try all cases of impeachment. If the founders intended for the House to try the matter and the Senate to consider an appeal based on the cold record from the other chamber, they would have said so, but they did not. Instead, they gave us the power to charge and you the power to try all impeachments. The framers chose their language and the structure for a reason. As Alexander Hamilton said, “The Senate is given awful discretion in matters of impeachment.” The Constitution then speaks to Senators in their judicial character as a court for the trial of impeachments. It requires them to aim at real demonstrations of innocence or guilt, and it requires them to do so by holding a trial. The Senate is repeatedly subpoenaed and receive new documents, often many of them while adjudicating cases of impeachment. Moreover, the Senate has heard witness testimony in every one of the 15 Senate trials, full Senate trials in the history of this Republic, including those for presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. Indeed, in President Andrew Johnson’s Senate impeachment trial the House Managers were permitted to begin presenting documentary evidence to the Senate on the very first day of the trial. The House Manager’s initial presentation of documents in President Johnson’s case carried on for the first two days of trial, immediately after which witnesses were called to appear in the Senate. This has been the standard practice in prior impeachment trials. Indeed, in most trials, this body has heard from many witnesses, ranging from three in President Clinton’s case to 40 in President Johnson’s, and well over 60 in other impeachments. As these numbers made clear, the Senate has always heard from key witnesses when trying an impeachment. The notion that only evidence that was taken before the House should be considered is squarely and unequivocally contrary to Senate precedent. Nothing in law or history supports it.
Adam Schiff: (34:24)
To start, consider Leader McConnell’s own description of his work in a prior Senate impeachment proceeding. After serving on the Senate Trial Committee in the case of Judge Claiborne, Leader McConnell described how the Senate committee, quote, “labored intensively for more than two months, amassing the necessary evidence and testimony.” In the same essay, Leader McConnell recognized the full body’s responsibility for amassing and digesting evidence. There was certainly a lot of evidence for the Senate to amass and digest in that proceeding, which involved charges against a district court judge. The Senate heard testimony from 19 witnesses and it allowed for over 2,000 pages of documents to be entered into the record over the course of that trial.
Adam Schiff: (35:10)
At no point did the Senate limit evidence to what was before the House. It did the opposite, consistent with unbroken Senate practice in every single impeachment trial, every single one. For example, of the 40 witnesses who testified during President Johnson’s Senate trial, only three provided testimony to the House during its impeachment inquiry. Only three. The remaining 37 witnesses in that Presidential impeachment trial testified before the Senate. Similarly, the Senate’s full first impeachment trial, which involved charges against Judge Pickering, involved testimony from 11 witnesses, all of whom were new to the impeachment proceedings and had not testified before the House.
Adam Schiff: (35:59)
There are many other examples of this point, including the Senate’s most recent impeachment trial of Judge Porteous in 2010. It is one that many of you and some of us know well. It too is consistent with this longstanding practice. There the Senate heard testimony from 26 witnesses, 17 of whom had not testified before the House during its impeachment inquiry. Thus there was a definitive tradition of the Senate hearing from new witnesses when trying Articles of Impeachment. There has never been a rule limiting witnesses to those who appeared in the House or limiting evidence before the Senate to that which the House itself considered, and that is because, as Senator Hiram Johnson explained in 1934, “The integrity of Senate impeachment trials depend heavily upon the witnesses who are called, their appearance on the stand, their mode of giving testimony.” There was thus an unbroken history of witness testimony in Senate impeachment trials, presidential and judicial. I would argue in the case of a president, it is even more important to hear the witnesses and see the documents. Any conceivable doubt on this score, and there should be none left, is dispelled by the Senate’s own rules for trial of impeachment.
Adam Schiff: (37:22)
Obtaining documents and hearing live witness testimony is so fundamental that the rules of procedure and practice in the Senate when sitting on impeachment trials, which date back to the 19th century, devote more attention to the gathering, handling, and admission of new evidence than any other single subject. These rules expressly contemplate that the Senate will hear evidence and conduct a thorough trial when sitting as a court of impeachment. At every turn, they reject the notion that the Senate would take the House’s evidentiary record, blind itself to everything else, and vote to convict or acquit.
Adam Schiff: (37:55)
For example, rule six says, “The Senate shall have the power to compel the attendance of witnesses and enforce obedience to its orders.” Rule seven authorizes the presiding officer to rule on all questions of evidence, including but not limited to questions of relevancy, materiality, and redundancy. This rule too presumes that the Senate trial will have testimony giving rise to such questions. Rule 11 authorizes the full Senate to designate a committee of Senators to receive evidence and take testimony, at such times in places as the committee may determine. As rule 11 makes clear, the committee’s report must be transmitted to the full Senate for final adjudication, “but nothing herein,” the rule states, “shall prevent the Senate from sending for any witness and hearing his testimony in open Senate or by order of the Senate involving the entire trial in the open Senate, hereto the Senate’s operative impeachment rules expressly contemplate and provide for subpoenaing witnesses and hearing their testimony as part of the Senate trial.” And the list goes on. These rules plainly contemplate a robust role for the Senate in gathering and considering evidence. They reflect centuries of practice of accepting and requiring new evidence in Senate trials. This Senate should honor that practice today by rejecting this resolution.
Adam Schiff: (39:32)
” What about the Clinton trial?” “What about the Clinton trial?” It will be argued. Even if we are departing from every other impeachment trial in history, including the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, what about the Clinton trial? Aren’t we following the same processes in the Clinton trial? The answer is no. First, the process for the Clinton trial was worked out by mutual consent among the parties. That is not true here, where the process is sought to be imposed by one party on the other. Second, all of the documents in the Clinton trial were turned over prior to the trial, all 90,000 pages of them so they could be used in the House’s case. None of the documents have been turned over by the President in this case, and under Leader McConnell’s proposal, none may ever be. They certainly won’t be available to you or to us during most or all of the trial. If we are really going to follow the Clinton precedent, the Senate must insist on the documents now, before the trial begins.
Adam Schiff: (40:45)
Third, the issue in the Clinton trial was not one of calling witnesses but of recalling witnesses. All of the key witnesses in the Clinton trial had testified before the grand jury or been interviewed by the FBI, one of them dozens of times, and their testimony was already known. President Clinton himself testified on camera and under oath before the Senate trial. He allowed multiple chiefs of staff and other key officials to testify, again, before the Senate trial took place. Here, none of the witnesses we seek to call, none of them have testified or have been interviewed by the House. And as I said, the President cannot complain that we did not call these witnesses before the house when their unavailability was caused by the President himself. And last, as you will remember, those of you that were here, the testimony in the Clinton trial involved decorum issues that are not present here. You may rest assured, whatever else the case may be, such issues will not be present here.
Adam Schiff: (41:58)
In sum, the Clinton precedent, if you’re serious about it, if we’re really serious about modeling this proceeding after the Clinton trial, the Clinton precedent is one where all the documents had been provided upfront, where all the witnesses had testified upfront, prior to the trial. That is not being replicated by the McConnell resolution, not in any way, not in any shape, not in any form. Far from it. The traditional model followed in President Johnson’s case and all of the others is really the one that’s most appropriate to the circumstances. The Senate should address all the documentary issues and most of the witnesses now, not later. The need to subpoena documents and testimony now has only increased due to the President’s obstruction, for several reasons.
Adam Schiff: (42:53)
First, his obstruction has made him uniquely and personally responsible for the absences of the witnesses before the House. Having ordered them not to appear, he may not be heard to complain now that they followed his orders and refused to testify. To do otherwise only rewards the President’s obstruction and encourages further, future presidents to defy lawful process in impeachment investigations.
Adam Schiff: (43:20)
Second, if the President wishes to contest the facts, and his answer and trial brief indicates that he will try, he must not continue to deny the Senate access to the relevant witnesses and documents that shed light on the very factual matters he wishes to challenge. The Senate trial is not analogous to an appeal where the parties must argue the facts on the basis of the record below. There is no record below. There is no below. This is the trial.
Adam Schiff: (43:51)
Third, the President must not be allowed to mislead the Senate by selectively introducing documents while withholding the vast body of documents that may contradict him. This is very important. The President must not be allowed to mislead you by introducing documents selectively and withholding all of the rest. All of the relevant documents should be produced so there is full disclosure of the truth. Otherwise, there is a clear risk that the President will continue to hide all evidence harmful to his position while selectively producing documents without any context or opportunity to examine their creators.
Adam Schiff: (44:35)
And finally, you may infer the President’s guilt from his continuing efforts to obstruct production of documents and witnesses. The President has said he wants witnesses like Mulvaney and Pompeo and others to testify, and that his interactions with Ukraine had been perfect. Counsel has affirmed today that will be the President’s defense. His conduct was perfect. It’s perfect. Perfectly fine to coerce an ally by withholding military aid to get help cheating in the next election. That will be part of the President’s defense, although albeit not worded in that way. But now he has changed course and does not want these witnesses to testify. The logical inference in any court of law would be that the party’s continued obstruction of lawful subpoenas may be construed as evidence of guilt.
Adam Schiff: (45:22)
Let me conclude. The facts will come out in the end. The documents which the President is hiding will be released through the Freedom of Information Act or through other means over time. Witnesses will tell their stories in books and film. The truth will come out. The question is, will it come out in time? And what answer shall we give if we did not pursue the truth now, and let it remain hidden until it was too late to consider on the profound issue of the President’s guilt or innocence?
Adam Schiff: (46:07)
There are many overlapping reasons for voting against this resolution, but they all converge on a single idea: Fairness. The trial should be fair to the House, which has been wrongly deprived of evidence by a President who wishes to conceal it. It should be fair to the President, who will not benefit from an acquittal or dismissal if the trial is not viewed as fair, if it is not viewed as impartial, and fair to you Senators who are tasked with the grave responsibility of determining whether to convict or acquit, and should do so with the benefit of all of the facts, and fair to the American people, who deserve the full truth and who deserve representatives who will seek it on their behalf.
Adam Schiff: (47:06)
And with that, Mr. Chief Justice, I yield back.