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Kshama Sawant: Don’t Wait for Authoritarian Trump to Be Impeached, This is the Moment to Revolt

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As we broadcast from Seattle, we get response from Kshama Sawant, a Socialist city councilmember, to President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. “I would say that it is really indicative of the deep instability of this administration,” Sawant says. “But we, as ordinary people, as social movements, we cannot wait for whether or not there will be a smoking gun that will be found in the investigations, which, of course, should go forward. The question is: What do we do now? And I think that right now the time is ripe to really build social movements.” Sawant helped win a $15/hour minimum wage for all workers in Seattle. She is also a member of Socialist Alternative.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman, in Seattle, Washington. I’ll be back in New York tomorrow speaking at The New School tomorrow night. But right now we continue our coverage of President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. The New York Times is reporting Comey’s dismissal came just days after he asked the Justice Department for more resources to expand the bureau’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election. Speaking to Fox News, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defended Trump’s decision to fire Comey.

NEWT GINGRICH: The key fact is that the brand-new deputy attorney general, who is a 30-year career professional in the Justice Department, who was President Barack Obama’s U.S. attorney for Maryland, who was, just two weeks ago, endorsed by the Senate 94 to 6, this is the person who wrote the letter, which is devastating, and said that it’s clear that Comey cannot lead the FBI, that he has made such a significant series of mistakes that it has crippled the morale of the FBI. And in that letter, he goes through citing attorney general after attorney general after attorney general, all of them saying what Comey’s done violates totally the FBI.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined by Kshama Sawant, a Socialist city councilmember here in Seattle, Washington, where we’re broadcasting from. Sawant has helped win a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all workers in Seattle. Also she’s a member of Socialist Alternative.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Kshama Sawant. Can you respond to President Trump’s firing of James Comey, who many Democrats have attacked for a long time, feeling that he actually meddled in the 2016 election by going after Hillary Clinton, or saying publicly the FBI was, and yet now we know he at the same time was going after Donald Trump but never mentioned this?

KSHAMA SAWANT: Right. Thank you for having me, Amy. And it’s true that the firing of James Comey is an extremely significant political event. It definitely puts on display the authoritarian streak of the Trump administration, his billionaire-backed, right-wing administration. And it also shows an administration in deep crisis. And it is completely correct that a lot of ordinary people, working people around us, are talking about this as, you know, is there a potential to maybe start impeachment proceedings on Trump? There is also this whole question in the media—I think correctly so—whether there’s a whiff of the Nixon-era Watergate scandal in what’s happening today. And I think, as I said, there’s some truth to that.

But I would say that as far as ordinary working people, people like us, people like most of the people watching this show, are concerned, I don’t think the most important question is whether or not a certain FBI director was fired. And I’ll say why: because the FBI itself is part of a racist and repressive security and state apparatus. It has a long track record of targeting activists, black activists. So, at the end of the day, the larger question is not so much about that, but about what this indicates as far as the status of the administration is concerned, and what should we be doing about it. I think a lot of people correctly want Trump out. I want Trump out. But I want Trump, the Republicans, the billionaire class and the security state out of power. How do we accomplish that?

So, in addition to the Watergate as a memory from the Nixon era, I would say there’s another very, very relevant educational memory that we should draw upon from the Nixon era. It was during Nixon’s regime in the White House that we had one of the most historic eras of social and political and workers’ movements. It was when Nixon was in the White House that we had the Environmental Protection Agency formed; the Occupational Safety and Health Act that was passed; the Supreme Court pro-abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, landmark decision, was passed; and the Vietnam War was ended; and there were massive strike actions by workers. But none of this was because of Nixon in any way. He was a misogynist, racist, right-wing president. It was because movements were drawing the correct conclusions that it is time to really build on our own independent strength. And I think we can do that right now, as well.

And so, in relation to Comey, I would say that it is really indicative of the deep instability of this administration. But we, as ordinary people, as social movements, we cannot wait for whether or not there will be a smoking gun that will be found in the investigations, which, of course, should go forward. The question is: What do we do now? And I think that right now the time is ripe to really build social movements. I don’t know if your viewers saw this, but one of the sociologists recently in America said that there is no protest fatigue happening right now, that’s the wrong conclusion to draw. Actually, people are starting to come into a state of revolt like never before, in our generations, at least. And you can see the rise of the popularity of socialism among younger generations. The strike actions on May 1st were very significant. And ultimately, a very strong indicator of what’s already happened in Trump’s regime is the airport actions that happened in late January, that were a decisive factor, the civil disobedience and shutdown, peaceful shutdown, of airports. That was a decisive factor in giving Trump his first stinging defeat on his attempted Muslim ban. I think we need more of those kinds of social movements. And right now, if people are sitting up and taking notice, it’s correct, and let’s get organized.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I wanted to turn right now to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont responding to Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: I think it is a situation where the president is impeding a significant investigation to determine whether in fact there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. As you know, Russia has been interfering in elections big-time in Germany, in the Ukraine, many countries around the world. Our intelligence agencies all agree that they interfered significantly in the American election. They were in France last week trying to elect Le Pen, a very right-wing individual. So this is an investigation that has to go forward in a nonpartisan way.

AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on what Senator Sanders said and where you feel movements need to go from here? There’s also discussions about the possibility of this being the beginning of the end, the possibility of impeachment, though that would take a lot of Republicans coming on board. And what would make that happen, Kshama Sawant?

KSHAMA SAWANT: Well, I completely agree with Bernie Sanders that the investigations into the Russian involvement in the election process in the U.S. should be investigated completely, thoroughly, in a nonpartisan basis. But I would say that, you know, if you’re talking about interference in elections, look at the interference that the U.S. regime, the U.S. ruling class, has carried out, year after year, decade after decade, in other countries, especially neocolonial countries. And so, if we’re to be clear here, we should be absolutely clear that we’re not on the side of Putin. We have no illusions in Putin. He is an odious and oppressive figure. And actually, working people who are, you know, joining protest movements in the U.S., we should be in solidarity with the working people, young people in Russia, who are courageously, at grave danger to their personal lives, speaking out against Putin.

But we should see this not so much from a nationalistic standpoint and rather from the standpoint of what’s happening all across the world, especially in the United States and in Europe. Everywhere, what you’re seeing, and including with the sort of the starting to the—the crisis of the Trump regime—Bernie Sanders mentioned the election, but, you know—in France, but the right-winger, Marine Le Pen, wasn’t elected. Macron was elected. But the reality is that the vast majority of people who voted for Macron in France said that they voted because they wanted to keep the right wing out. They have no illusions in the neoliberal apparatus that will be upheld by Macron. So what we are seeing on both sides of the Atlantic, really, is a whole new generation in a historic period of revolt. The vast majority of young people, actually, in Europe, in a recent survey, said that they are far more likely to participate in an uprising than to vote.

So, in reality, what message we should be drawing from the crisis in the Trump regime, the crumbling of the legitimacy of the ruling classes everywhere, is that this is exactly the moment for us to build our movements, not to be complacent, not to wait for an impeachment to happen, but to recognize that Trump, as vicious as he is, as vicious as his right-wing, billionaire-backed administration is, we can defeat him. We have shown it through the airport actions. We have shown, through the revolt that happened against the earlier version of Trumpcare, that this can be done.

But I think it’s a question of strategy. So, as far as, you know, what Sanders said, I think it’s really important that Sanders is a figure in this discussion, because we are—you know, if you’re talking about the most important issue for Americans right now, it’s healthcare. You know, the newest version of Trumpcare was just passed through the House. So what is our strategy to fight against Trumpcare? I would say that the biggest reason that Trump and the Republicans and the right wing are able to push through newer and newer versions of vicious attacks on healthcare is because we have no real alternative to keep out the for-profit industry. And so, really, the only alternative is to fight for single-payer Medicare for all. A majority of Americans want publicly funded affordable healthcare. A majority, and certainly a vast majority of Democrats, want single payer. The question is: How are we going to win that?

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Kshama Sawant, isn’t there a single-payer referendum being considered, being put forward, in Washington state, where we are right now?

KSHAMA SAWANT: Exactly. That’s exactly right. There is a—there is an attempt to a referendum on single-payer healthcare in Washington. This is being done by grassroots activists. That’s what’s important. In California, there is a real energy in the grassroots, in the movements, to push for single-payer healthcare. So the question really that we should be asking is: Why is—when the majority of people want single payer, why is it that the most prominent Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, said that single payer will not be in the Democratic Party platform? Why is it that in Democratic-dominated states—Washington, Oregon, California, all of these have Democratic governors—why isn’t it that they are joining? Why aren’t the prominent Democrats joining the movements on the ground and saying, “Let’s fight for single-payer healthcare. Let’s tax the rich. Let’s make sure we have a West Coast-wide single-payer healthcare”? If they did that, if Jerry Brown, the governor of California, woke up today and said, “I want to fight for single-payer healthcare with you,” he would get a huge echo, and they would win. But instead, he is an obstacle to that. And so, you know—and he said, “I don’t know how we can do this.”

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

KSHAMA SAWANT: And that’s—yeah. And that shows that, ultimately, movements, our working people’s, young people’s movements, we cannot rely on corporate Democrats. We will have to build independently of the corporate Democrats and fight for single-payer healthcare.

AMY GOODMAN: Kshama Sawant, I want to thank you so much for being with us, Socialist city councilmember here in Seattle. She spearheaded the movement to win a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all workers in Seattle. She’s a member of the Socialist Alternative.

When we come back, an attorney who is suing Jeff Sessions, the attorney general of the United States. We’ll find out why. And we’ll talk about the dramatic situation that’s developing at Hanford here in Washington, D.C. [sic], around radioactive materials. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: “Young Blood Blues” by Alynda Segarra and Hurray for the Riff Raff. You can see our whole interview with Alynda and the musical performances in our studios at I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! We’re broadcasting from Seattle, Washington.

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