BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Two of the three congressmembers in The Villager’s coverage area have chosen to boycott Friday’s presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. They’re not alone. They’ll be joining about 70 other representatives — and counting — who plan to shun the swearing-in ceremony for Donald Trump.
Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez said they won’t be going. But Carolyn Maloney said she will.
Other New York members of the House who reportedly also are boycotting The Donald’s big day include Upper Manhattan’s Adriano Epspaillat, Brooklyn’s Yvette Clarke and Queens’ Grace Meng.
Velazquez, who represents part of the Lower East Side and Brooklyn, issued a lengthy statement to The Villager outlining her copious reasons for not attending the quadrennial affair.
“Given the tone of the Trump campaign, I did not think it appropriate to attend,” she said. “This is someone who has insulted Mexicans, calling them ‘rapists,’ mocked a reporter with a disability, made profoundly offensive remarks about women, and used divisive, hateful rhetoric regarding Muslim-Americans.
“Since the campaign concluded, he has rejected the widespread consensus among professionals in our intelligence community that Russia actively interfered in our election and has shown indifference to the possibility that a foreign power directly meddled in our democratic process.
“I would also note,” Velazquez continued, “that President-elect Trump has refused to properly divest his very extensive business assets or put them in a blind trust. According to ethics experts, he will be in violation of the Constitution’s ‘Emoluments Clause’ the minute he takes the oath of office.
“Instead of attending the inauguration, I plan to show solidarity with many Americans concerned with the incoming administration by participating in the Women’s March. I have heard from many constituents on this issue and they agree with this course of action. As an elected official, I have an obligation to reflect my constituents’ views, and I think my choice in this regard aligns with how most residents of New York’s Seventh District feel.”
Nadler, whose district stretches from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn, said there was no organized effort to boycott the inauguration.
“I haven’t spoken to any other members about it,” he said.
Rather, politicians just saw their peers doing it and thought it was something they wanted to do, too.
“I don’t know if it’s unprecedented — I think that the numbers are unprecedented,” Nadler said of the several dozen reps who are rejecting their seats at the inauguration. “I just decided that in good conscience, I cannot do it.”
Nadler said he was appalled by the president-elect’s “racist rhetoric,” and also the fact that he won’t make his tax returns public.
“We wonder if his ‘unusual attitude’ toward the Russians may have to do with his business interests in Russia,” the congressmember noted.
“He got 3 million fewer votes than Hillary — which is unprecedented,” Nadler added. “And, more importantly, the election was compromised by the F.B.I. and the Russians. Had Comey not put his finger on the scale, I think Hillary would have won the election. You can’t quantify it, though.”
Also troubling to Nadler was Trump’s recent Twitter war with Georgia Congressmember John Lewis. Lewis started it off by saying he would not attend the inauguration because he felt Trump was not a “legitimate president” due to Russian hacking that allegedly affected the presidential race’s outcome.
Many of the members who are boycotting say they are doing so in a show of solidarity with Lewis.
Nadler called Trump’s several tweets lashing back at Lewis a “racist attack.”
“Yes, the Republicans will say Lewis criticized Trump,” Nadler said. “Yes, Trump is justified to say he’s wrong — but not to attack an icon, a hero. Because John Lewis is black, Trump assaults his district as crime-ridden. It isn’t. Trump just made that assumption. Even if Lewis is wrong, then you just say he’s wrong.
“Trump can’t reach Lewis’s ankles in terms of moral stature,” Nadler declared. “He gave blood for his country. John Lewis is one of the heroes of the last century of this country.”
This behavior, though, is a pattern for Trump, obviously, one that we’ve seen before.
“Whenever anyone criticizes him, he launches personal attacks instead of addressing the criticism,” Nadler noted. “It’s one thing to be a real estate developer and insult people. But the president shouldn’t be insulting people. The president should be a unifier,” he stressed.
Like many, Nadler does think the F.B.I. probe into Hillary Clinton’s secret homebrew file server and the Russians’ alleged hacking swayed the race.
“Certainly, there were improper weights on the election,” he said. “They compromised the election.”
As for what Nadler will be focusing on once Trump is in office, he said it depends on what Trump and the Republicans actually do.
“Obviously, we want to protect the Affordable Care Act,” he said, “and civil liberties, the freedom of the press. We don’t know how civil liberties are going to be challenged yet. … We don’t know what he’s going to propose.”
Protecting Social Security and Medicare / Medicaid and a women’s right to choose, and fighting the defunding of Planned Parenthood, will also be top priorities, he said.
Keeping the A.C.A., a.k.a. “Obamacare,” from being dismantled, will be hard, though, he admitted.
“We’re on defense,” he conceded. “You have to get some Republicans not to vote for it. But the Republicans have been unable to come up with a plan in seven years. Trump wants change now on the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans are saying do it in three years. I think the Republicans are getting into a terrible mess — and their voters want change.”
Nadler said he doesn’t think Trump has a clue about what he wants to do at this point to supplant Obamacare.
Meanwhile, Maloney, who represents the Upper East Side and part of the Lower East Side, as well as parts of Brooklyn and Queens, issued a statement on her Web site saying she will attend Trump’s swearing-in on Friday.
“Along with President Obama, Secretary Clinton, the entire United States Senate and the Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives,” her statement said, “I am attending the inauguration out of respect for our country’s peaceful transition of power and our democratic institutions.”
Conservatives were livid over the boycott of the inauguration by more than 15 percent of the House members. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News branded it outright “sedition.”