Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer delivered remarks on the Senate floor regarding the circumstances of FBI Director Mr. Comey’s dismissal:
Mr. President, this morning the Democratic caucus met to discuss the circumstances of Mr. Comey’s dismissal by the White House. There are many questions to be answered and many actions that should be taken. We will be pursuing several things in the coming days and weeks, and we’ll have more to say about those next steps in the days ahead.
But there are three things that our caucus agreed must happen right away.
First, Mr. Rosenstein should not be the one to appoint a special prosecutor; that responsibility should go to the highest serving career civil servant at the DOJ.
Second, Mr. Comey should still testify before the Senate.
Third, AG Sessions and DAG Rosenstein should brief all Senators on these events, separately, and in a classified setting if necessary.
First, it is the overwhelming view of my caucus that a special prosecutor should now be appointed to conduct the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Mr. Rosenstein cannot be the person to appoint that person.
Serious doubt has been cast on Mr. Rosenstein’s impartiality for two reasons. First, there are many reports that Director Comey met with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last week to make a request for more resources or help with the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. And second, Mr. Rosenstein signed his name to a highly political memo arguing for Dir. Comey’s dismissal, and made no complaint about the involvement of the Attorney General, who has recused himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation, in recommending the firing of the man who was leading it.
These facts make it clear that the decision to appoint a special prosecutor should go to the highest ranking career civil servant at the Department of Justice. Mr. Rosenstein and other political appointees should not be the ones making the call on a special prosecutor, lest that decision be seen as influenced, or worse, made at the direction of the Administration.
We need to ensure the American people that they can have confidence in our criminal justice system to conduct the Russia investigation impartially. The best and only way to do that now would be for a career civil servant at DOJ to be the person who decides on a special prosecutor, not a political appointee.
My friend from California, Sen. Feinstein, brought this up in our meeting this morning and it received the widespread support of our caucus.
Second, we’ve also recently learned that Mr. Comey will no longer be appearing before the Intelligence Committee tomorrow. In his stead will be the Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe.
There are so many unanswered questions that only Mr. Comey can answer. We Democrats hope and expect that he will still come before the Senate in some capacity, and I for one salute Sens. Burr and Warner for inviting him to testify next week before the Intelligence Committee. It’s the right thing to do. We ought to hear from Mr. Comey. At this moment of profound doubt about the reasons and timing of FBI Director Comey’s firing by the President, about the status and progress of the very serious investigation into the Trump campaign and Russia by his agency – we require answers.
And third, the recent revelations about the Rosenstein and Comey meeting demand that Attorney General Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein brief the Senate to answer the questions whirling about from last night’s firing. That briefing should be classified if necessary, and be done separately.
Mr. President, let me speak plainly. The prospect that a campaign for the presidency of the United States colluded with a foreign power in order to win our nation’s highest office is as grave a topic for an investigation as there could be. It gets right to the heart of a pillar of our democracy: the free and fair elections of our representatives.
What we are seeking… the only thing we are seeking… are assurances that this investigation is carried out in an impartial, independent way. That we get all the facts. That we get to the very bottom of it.
All we are seeking is some assurance that the subject of this investigation is not able to influence it or, god forbid, quash it.
The topic of the investigation itself is very serious. The possibility that the investigation is being impeded or tampered with is even worse. That threatens the integrity of our criminal justice system.
I believe this rises far above party labels and partisan politics. I have been heartened that several Republicans have expressed concerns.
I hope and expect my Republican friends will be joining us in these efforts to make sure this investigation is conducted in the manner it deserves.
We want Congress’ role to be nonpartisan and looking at the good of neither political party but the good of the country.