In a move sure to be studied by aspiring screenwriters preparing their dystopian rehash of 2016, outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) censured President-elect Donald Trump on the Senate floor for putting a fire-breathing, right-wing ideologue into the heart of the West Wing.
The speech comes two days after Trump named Stephen Bannon, a former executive at Breitbart, an alt-right website, as White House chief strategist. Bannon has been accused of being an anti-Semite, a misogynist, and a racist, and his appointment prompted former KKK leader and Trump fan David Duke to say: “I think that’s excellent.”
“Democrats like to get things done,” began Reid, citing years of attempts to get Republicans to invest in much-needed infrastructure, which, he said, is “an automatic job creator.” For efforts like that — which Trump has also championed on the trail — Democrats, Reid said, would support Trump’s efforts to improve the life of working Americans.
But he said Democrats would also work to support the millions of Americans who have been told they are not welcome in Trump’s America, and to make sure that what Reid called Trump’s aggressive behavior does not become normal.
“Even as we leaders accept the results of the election, we must also give voice to those who are afraid,” Reid said. While noting that Trump lost the popular vote by a large margin, he mentioned the rise in reported hate crimes in the wake of Trump’s Nov. 8 election victory, and told some personal anecdotes: His doctor is a Pakistani-American; his staffer has a child in middle school who is witnessing a rise in bullying.
“Healing the wounds is going to take action,” Reid said, but he said that Trump’s post-election actions have only served to deepen the wounds, especially picking Bannon to be White House strategist. Reid said that Trump should “rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon. Rescind it. Don’t do it.” In this, he is not alone — 120 members of Congress have signed a letter calling for Trump to rescind Bannon’s appointment.
“Rise to the dignity of the office of President of the United States of America,” Reid added, urging Trump to “show America that racism, bullying, and bigotry have no place in the White House or in America.”
Previously, Reid released a statement that included such zingers as, “The election of Donald Trump has emboldened the forces of hate and bigotry in America” and “If Trump wants to roll back the tide of hate he unleashed, he has a tremendous amount of work to do and he must begin immediately.”
In response to this, Trump transition team advisor and former campaign mastermind Kellyanne Conway said, “He should be very careful about characterizing somebody, in a legal sense, he thinks he’s just being some kind of political pundit there, but I would say be very careful about the way you characterize that. How’s that for accepting the election results?” Reid graciously did not point out that Conway’s last sentence is a meaningless non sequitur, but he did release a statement saying, “Trump owes the nation leadership, not petty attempts to silence critics.”
Trump’s transition team is already apparently showing some internecine battles. Mike Rogers, a Republican who represented Michigan until last year, chaired the House Intelligence Committee, and was a key player in Trump’s national-security team, is apparently leaving the transition team, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. It’s unclear whether that reveals broad fault lines between different factions of Trump loyalists, or whether Rogers is himself angling for a future cabinet position.
For his part, House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, insists that House leadership and Trump are on the same page, though the two fought throughout the campaign and still are worlds apart on many key policy issues. Of Bannon — whose Breitbart had criticized Ryan’s personal life choices — Ryan said: “I’m not looking backwards; I’m looking forward.”
Also on Tuesday, outgoing Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to abolish the Electoral College, a piece of legislation unlikely to garner support from small-state lawmakers.
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