By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
On Thursday, Dec. 19, NNPA Newswire interviewed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The discussion covered a wide range of topics, focusing primarily on the impeachment of the president. The senator also shared some insight on his conversations with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
Republicans have steadfastly sided with President Donald Trump on impeachment and most other issues, perhaps out of fear that they might wind up sleeping – politically – with the fishes.
At least that’s how Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer views the otherwise hard-to-explain loyalty Republicans have displayed toward the president.
When asked whether he believed the GOP has a “Don Corleone-like” fear of the president, Schumer quickly answered in the affirmative.
“I have never seen anything like this,” Schumer told NNPA Newswire one day after the House voted to impeach the president, and moments after the Democrat met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to discuss the upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate.
“What motivates these Republicans to just circle the wagons? And, whatever this president says, who is known for having a low moral character, who is known for not telling the truth, why do they rally around him? When I talk to a good number of them privately, they know how bad this guy is. But, there’s one reason they rally around him: Fear.” When asked, “What, is he the Godfather… Corleone here?” the Senator chucked and replied, “Politically speaking, he probably is.”
On Wednesday, Dec.18, the House voted along party lines to impeach Trump, making him just the third president in U.S. history to face impeachment. Richard Nixon resigned during the impeachment process.
Since the historic impeachment vote, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she would withhold sending the case to the Senate until Democrats and Republicans can reach a consensus on how a Senate trial would take place.
Based on the Constitution, if the Senate votes to convict Trump, he would be removed from office.
McConnell and other Republicans have said there’s no chance they’d convict the president and GOP leaders have threatened to lock Democrats and the public out of any Senate trial.
“Impeachment of the president is a very solemn and serious moment for our country,” Schumer stated.
“When you have a president who overreaches, the Founding Fathers put a few tools or checks on him, but the biggest and most important most serious and solemn check is impeachment. And, if the president goes off the rails, the Founding Fathers said the Congress has the ability to remove him,” he noted.
The House voted in favor of two articles of impeachment against Trump, obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.
Schumer said the Founding Fathers listed their top fear as being a president overreaches his authority and that he would get a foreign government to interfere in the U.S. election.
“That’s what this is all about,” Schumer stated.
“So, conducting an impeachment trial in the Senate is a weighty and solemn responsibility and we Democrats in the Senate believe that the trial must be fair and it’s important to let the American people judge it to be fair,” he added.
A fair trial is when the Senate hears all the evidence and can decide the case impartially, and the only way to accomplish that is with witnesses and documents, Schumer stated.
“We will treat every witness with respect and no off-topic questions. We also need documents, and we requested them. Thus far, Mitch McConnell is resisting that, and you have to ask yourself the question, ‘Why don’t they want the truth to come out?’ Do they fear it? Why don’t they want to have a trial in the normal sense where there’s evidence on both sides and, instead, want what seems to be a cover up? So, we feel strongly that this is all about our democracy and protecting it.”
Schumer said the black community especially understands the value of a fair trial.
“The African American community knows when you don’t have fairness, and you don’t have democracy, people with little power get the short end of the stick,” he stated.
Statistics show that most Americans side with the Democrats on impeachment, Schumer noted.
An ABC News poll revealed that 71 percent of Americans expect a fair Senate trial and believe that Trump should allow his top aides to testify. Approximately 64 percent of Republicans agreed, as well as 72 percent of independents, and 79 percent of Democrats.
“We believe when these [Republican] Senators go home to their constituents, they will ask them why don’t you want to have witnesses and documents,” Schumer stated. “Right now, our Republican colleagues are sort of twisting themselves in knots, trying to avoid this, but they don’t have any good arguments.”
Schumer also applauded Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), and six others in Congress who voted in favor of impeachment despite the potential political risks of their decision.
“I have such respect for the seven members of Congress, all of whom served in the military or the CIA. They said what motivated them to serve the country is motivating them to go forward even if they lose the election because if we don’t do it, and here’s the problem this president is more overreached than anyone else and if there’s no fair trial and he can withhold documents and witnesses, that renders impeachment impotent. This president will do even worse things, and the next president will do even worse things, so it’s really our democracy that motivates us.”
In his meeting on Thursday, Dec. 19, with McConnell, Schumer said he told the Leader that witnesses, and documents are necessary. “He said, ‘I don’t want to give them.’ I said, ‘well, I hope you and your 52 Republican colleagues will think about this over the holidays,’” Schumer stated.
When asked if there is anything Democrats, who are the minority in the Senate, could do to ensure that the trial would not be a rubberstamp proclaiming Trump’s innocence, Schumer said he’s hoping some Republicans will change their minds and allow testimony from witnesses and to include documents.
“When in the minority, you don’t have many tools. But, the one tool you have in the impeachment trial is the force of vote. All we need is four (GOP) votes because all 47 (Democrats) will be ours [and] to get to that magic number 51. And, if we get 51, we’ll get the witnesses, so I hope your readers, if they agree with us, will talk to their Senators, especially Republican senators,” Schumer stated.
The Minority Leader then praised the African American community for its awareness about the importance of impeachment.
“Thank god the African American community has become very mobilized in New York and around the country because they know of the dangers Donald Trump presents to the African American community in so many different ways,” Schumer stated.
“Reaching out [to their respective Senators] would be important,” he noted. “I urge them to do it if they believe in the future of America. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends in the direction of justice.’ All we’re seeking here is justice,” said Schumer.
The Senator offered a holiday greeting: “I wish your readers a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, Happy Kwanza, and happy everything!” he stated.