- Rashida TlaibDemocratic congressmember in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District and one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. Tlaib is Palestinian-American.
Newly elected Democratic Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan made headlines last week for declaring, “We’re going to go in there, and we’re going to impeach the motherf***er,” in reference to President Donald Trump. Tlaib made the comment at a Washington, D.C., bar, days after she made history last week when she and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota became the first Muslim women sworn in to Congress. Tlaib is part of the most diverse and most female class of representatives in U.S. history. We speak with Rashida Tlaib in Detroit, Michigan.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin the show with renewed calls for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. On Thursday, Democratic Congressmember Brad Sherman of California reintroduced articles of impeachment in the House. Then, Thursday night, newly elected Democratic Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan made headlines for using a curse to describe the president during a celebration at a bar hours after being sworn in to office.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Now, when your son looks at you and says, “Mama, look, you won. Bullies don’t win.” And I said, “Baby, they don’t, because we’re going to go in there, and we’re going to impeach the [bleep].”
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump responded to Tlaib by saying her remarks were, quote, “highly disrespectful to the United States of America,” and said Tlaib had “dishonored” herself and her family.
Meanwhile, newly elected Democratic Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter, “Republican hypocrisy at its finest: saying that Trump admitting to sexual assault on tape is just 'locker room talk,' but scandalizing themselves into faux-outrage when my sis says a curse word in a bar. GOP lost entitlement to policing women’s behavior a long time ago,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
Well, Congressmember Tlaib made history last week when she and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota became the first Muslim women sworn in to Congress. Congressmember Tlaib is Palestinian-American. Omar is Somali-American. They are part of the most diverse and most female class of representatives in U.S. history.
To talk about impeachment, the government shutdown and more, we are joined by Congressmember Rashida Tlaib in Detroit, Michigan, the community she represents.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Tlaib. Well, if you can start off by explaining your comments that night, Thursday, when you called the president an MFer.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Well, I can tell you, you know, I am a person that every—people that do really know me well know that I’m extremely passionate about fighting for my families and the residents back home. And I can tell you, here in my community, the only thing that I probably didn’t want to happen is to distract us. We are currently in a government shutdown. I want to focus on that. I want to get us—really start driving the message out there about the human impact that the government shutdown has.
Look, you know, I’m my authentic self, Amy. This is who I am. And people want some—you know, they always want people that are real and human. But at the same time, I don’t want us to be deterred or distracted by what’s important right now, which is accountability for the president of the United States, which is to get us back open and functional as a government. There’s so much work to be done. And I didn’t expect this kind of, you know, attention and maybe attacks on what I said, although I still want to impeach him.
AMY GOODMAN: They have demanded that you apologize. What’s your comment?
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Look, one of the things that I think is really important is the fact that I, you know, know that this is a teachable moment. I understand that I’m a member of Congress now. But I am also a person that is angry and upset with the conduct of my president, of a conduct of a person that—you know, what’s happening at the borders, as a person that is Muslim in America, what is being said about my faith. There’s so much there. And I’m passionate, and I’m upset. But I won’t apologize for being upset or angry.
What I do apologize is the use of my words for distracting us. We just had voted, on the first day, voted to open up government. I want to focus on that. I want to focus on the fact that 800,000 employees, workers, right now, that I constantly am hearing from and that are approaching me now—contractors, people that are helping Violence Against Women Act, through their contract with the government, don’t have any income coming in to serve these women that are victims of domestic violence. So much work needs to be done. And that is the thing that I want us to really be focused on, and drive us to talk about that. I, you know, heard from a woman yesterday that she’s calling the Social Security Administration, and no one is calling her back. That’s what we need to focus on, not my use of language.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we’re going to get to the shutdown in a minute, but I did want to ask you about this issue because, obviously, the issue of impeachment is important to many Democrats. What do you say to those who say, “Why not wait for the Mueller investigation to conclude and come out with its findings before moving to try to attempt to impeach the president?”
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Yeah, look, the Constitution demands me, as a member of Congress, to hold him accountable. This is beyond the Mueller investigation. I don’t think American people understand even the decision not to open up government. Is it because it’s the best interest of the American people, or is it because it has something to do with his corporations and his businesses? Because he hasn’t—as the president of the United States, he has not divested in all of his companies and corporation, here or abroad. And so, a lot of the decisions being made out of the White House, out of the president of the United States’ office, could be made because it’s for profit, because it’s in the best interest of his companies and the bottom line, not the best interest of the American people.
That is very dangerous precedent for us to have someone that is sitting in office as our president that has not divested into any of these corporations and his for-profit entities across the country and the world. And so, it’s really important for the American people to understand, this is a really slippery slope that we cannot allow to continue to go down, because it sets a precedent that we are OK with a president being in office that is collecting money for profit. Like, this is literally corporate greed at its best. We can’t allow that to happen as our president.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And also, the issue of the president—he will be speaking tonight—threatening to declare a national emergency because he’s not getting a bill passed by the Congress that he’s willing to sign because he wants his $5.7 billion for a wall. What do you say about this whole issue of a national emergency, that he’s been raising lately?
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Look, you know, we need to really be focused on the issues here. This is a person that wants to intimidate and bully, from the White House. And I can tell you, look, they, the Republicans, had power over the House and over the Senate, as well as the White House. I don’t understand why we’re now talking about this. This is not about a wall. Very clear about—it really is not. If it was, then they would have done something about it before. This is him distracting us from the fact that he had one of the largest tax breaks for corporations, for the rich, and now he’s trying to figure out how to pay for it. Because, guess what, it looks like it’s going to the low-income, middle-class, working families across this country that’s going to have to pay for it.
But what is important for the folks that are listening to us today is that even if we pass what we sent over—what the House Democrats sent over, and seven Republicans sent over, to the Senate is a bill, is bills that would open up government again. But he doesn’t have to sign it. If it passes through the Senate, then in 10 days it becomes effective. So, we don’t need him.
This is somebody that is not going to care about that worker, about that senior, or even the veteran that I’m going to see in an hour, that is being denied access to services that government is supposed to be about. And so, I don’t understand, you know, this kind of play that he wants to—because this is not a game for us. And it’s really frustrating, continuing to be frustrating for me, upset—upsetting for so many people here in Detroit, in Wayne County communities that I represent, that he is doing something like this versus doing what’s responsible, which is lead with compassion, lead with some sort of sense of responsibility for these people.
These are people that are supposed to be about government. You know, government is not supposed to be about, you know, who is in power or who’s going to do this or that. Really, it’s supposed to be about us. And that’s what’s so increasingly frustrating about some of his actions. And it really is so distracting us from the human impact of this government shutdown right now.
AMY GOODMAN: In a video address last month, President Trump compared his proposed wall to the separation wall in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. This is what he said.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am asking Congress to defend the border of our nation for a tiny fraction—tiny fraction—of the cost. Essential to border security is a powerful physical barrier. Walls work, whether we like it or not. They work better than anything. In Israel, 99.9 percent successful. Think of it. I spoke to Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister, two days ago. We were talking about it. He said it’s 99.9. I mean, he came up; I didn’t ask. He said 99.9 percent successful.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Rashida Tlaib, you’re Palestinian-American. You’re one of two, the first two Muslim women congressmembers, just sworn in last week. Your thoughts?
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: A wall is dehumanizing. We have to be a nation of compassion and some sort of humanity when it comes to the treatment of other human beings. And they can compare walls after walls, but we all know when a wall is put up, violence increases, separation increases.
You know, when I think of our immigration system, I’m tired of thinking about criminals and walls and separation of families. We should be thinking about the humanity and our values of who we are. When I think of immigration, I want to think of families. I want to think of unity. I want to think of a safe place, you know, free of persecution, a place where we can welcome a child that is hungry.
I am really frustrated where we oversimplify this sense of let’s put walls up, let’s deport people, let’s just separate people. I can tell you over and over again, not only as a Palestinian, just as a Detroiter here, when we did that, when we segregated families, when our country denied access to my black neighbors here to jobs, to where they could live, all of those things, all of it, to me, so intersected to what he’s trying to say.
And I, you know, want to push back against that and say to folks, “Please stay focused.” Focus on the human impact of the fact that the United States government is now experiencing a shutdown, on the 18th day. I don’t think people realize that even though so-called critical employees, or folks that are still employed and still able to function—they’re not able to function, because they have nowhere else to call, because those individuals that are underneath them, that are supposed to serve our residents back home, are not answering the phones because they’re not at work. And it really needs to be refocused on that.
You know, Amy, over and over again, I mean, I know this from hearing from folks here—they keep telling us, “Don’t sell out to this kind of rhetoric. Don’t believe and fall into the trap of this kind of rhetoric.” And I tell the American people across the country, not only—my 13th Congressional District gets it. But I can tell you, across the country, we need to wake up, to understand how dangerous these messages are and how it really isn’t going to make our country safer, because I truly believe our border is safe. And we need to fully understand the impact of starting to say, “Let’s put walls up.”
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about, now that you’re in Congress, what you hope to accomplish while you’re there. You’ve been a supporter of Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage and abolishing ICE. Several of these planks of the left wing of the Democratic Party are considered pipe dreams by even other Democratic Party members. What’s your sense of what you can accomplish?
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: We can accomplish so much, because elevating the voices of your residents is powerful, and it’s part of a movement to make sure people have justice and equality, income equality, and so many things that I think is lacking in our country right now.
You know, my first bill, Justice for All Civil Rights Act, really came out from hearing from people that, you know, are saying, “Look, Rashida, we have the third poorest congressional district,” which is the 13th Congressional District here in Michigan. We also—less than half of our families don’t own their own home. I have—some cities don’t even have school districts right now. Again, all of that is so connected with the fact that we don’t have a just, equitable society.
And my Justice for All Civil Rights Act expands what we can do against car insurance companies, against mortgage companies, banks—all of those entities that have structures in place that keep people down, that, from the impact of their policies, is discriminatory in practice. So many of my families today, based on what they look like, based on where they live, are being discriminated against. And, yes, we passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 50 years ago, but, guess what, the courts watered it down, to the point where the threshold is so high that we can’t be able to push back against some of these discriminatory practices.
So, it’s transformative, because Justice for All Civil Rights Act says, “Look, we can look at a disparate impact.” If the impact of the procedure or structure that is in place, in the public or private sector, is discriminatory, it hurts families, that’s enough to say that our civil rights is violated.
To me, I know that if we could pass the Civil Rights Act of ’64 over 50 years ago, then we can pass Justice for All Civil Rights Act. We can pass Medicare for all. We can push up against the corporations tainting our democracy right now with the campaign finance laws out of whack.
And we’re going to continue to educate people, to really be able to increase this movement around the fact that these are possible. They’re possible because it’s the will of the people. And I can tell you, even at home here, people know this, that just talking about it alone ignites the kind of fire that we need in our communities at home to push D.C. and push the members of Congress to finally say, “We can do something about it.” The fact that we’re having hearings on Medicare for all, to me, alone, says that we’re moving in the right direction.