Beyond the Shock, the House Resistance Forms

  • 11/09/2017
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor

Shortly after it was announced that a grand jury handed down a 12-count indictment against former Donald Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and another campaign official, Rick Gates, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-CA 33rd District, called upon Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to protect Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“We’ve been down this road before,” Lieu wrote in an emailed message to supporters. “Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey in order to “relieve pressure” from the investigation into Russia’s involvement with electing Trump. If Trump attempts to fire Robert Mueller or otherwise interfere with the investigation, Congress must step in. I am working on legislation to protect the Special Counsel from being fired.”

We were not able to get Rep. Lieu’s recollection of his reaction on election  night in time for inclusion in this story, but he’s on record as saying he was as shocked as anyone, but gave Trump the benefit of the doubt. At an April 2017 town hall meeting, Lieu said that benefit ended not long after Trump’s inauguration.

Rep. Nanette Barragan has bittersweet memories of the night she was elected to congress in the 44th District, succeeding Janice Hahn, who’s now a  Los Angeles County supervisor

“I remember getting into my car; I had the radio on and I remember the commentator saying Trump has won another state and it looks like he’s going to become the next president of the United States, and I said to myself, ‘Did they make a mistake? What’s going on here?’” Barragan recounted. “Then I got to my campaign office and by then, as the reports were coming in, it was pretty much he was going to win. But they hadn’t called it yet. My office … there was just complete silence. I was in shock. A lot of people were really sad. By the time they called it, people were crying. We were in a state of disbelief and shock.

“It was bittersweet in that sense. When our numbers first started coming out, we were down by, like, 16 points. It was still kind of a downer night. It wasn’t until a couple of hours later when we took the lead that there was some sense of celebration but the shock of what was happening to the presidency was still there. We were all still celebrating my outcome but we were all wondering what [Trump’s victory] meant for the country and what it would mean for me coming into Congress with a Trump presidency.

“Under Trump, this country has changed for the worse. He has been a disaster. The reality is everything he has been doing has been to undo progress that we have made over the past several years. He has turned this country into a divisive one. He has negatively impacted people’s lives.”

Barragan, noted that the 44th District is 70 percent Latino and that people are living in fear.

“They are worried that their families would be split up,” Barragan said.  “There are families being split up because they are at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“If he has his way, we will see cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency that will dramatically impact the districts that rely on the EPA to help curb air pollution. And we need that. We already live in a district that is one of the most heavily polluted. He’s proposing cuts to homeless programs and community block grants that’s aimed at curbing homelessness. And in Pedro, we’ve seen an explosion in the homeless problem. They are not investing in the things that we need and Trump is behind that…. He is devastating not only to the country but the 44th Congressional District in particular.”

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, 47th District, described the Trump presidency of the past year as an undoing of all the progressive politics of the past 30 years, and noted that that, too, was a shock.

“When Mr. Trump was first elected, I thought he was taking us in the wrong direction,” he said. “And now, I’m convinced that he is.”

Lowenthal went on to say that whereas, the United States used to be a beacon of hope throughout the world, he believes it has lost that ability to lead and inspire people.

“You know when it comes to the presidency, I always want, regardless of who the person is, someone who my kids and my grandkids could really look up to and say, “That’s the president.” I just cannot say that about Mr. Trump,” Lowenthal said. “All he does is belittle people and attack people, and if you don’t agree with him—he puts you down.”

Barragan recounted the Democratic struggles of pushing their own agenda while keeping track of Trump’s actions, noting that he’s governing in such a way where he’s asking Congress to save him and the country from himself. Barragan notes that this has created an additional strain, forcing Congress to determine if his actions are even constitutional rather than focus on their agenda.

Barragan quickly noted there are a number of congressional Republicans, who are willing to work with Democrats … just as long as they are not seen doing it.

“The fascinating thing is in Congress, there are actually a number of members across the aisle on the Republican side who don’t even agree with the president and don’t like the president,” she said. “So there are opportunities for us to actually work together with members across the aisle and we have to find those members. Some of them have been vocal and you don’t have to look very far.”

Barragan pointed out Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker as an example. Unfortunately, vocal Republicans like these have limited time in Congress; they are either retiring, or in Arizona Sen. John McCain’s case dealing with a potentially terminal illness. Basically they have nothing to lose.

Lowenthal described a similar experience of disappointment.

He was at a Long Beach restaurant with some of his campaign staff, friends and family, watching the returns come in.

“We started off with such great excitement and anticipation that Hillary Clinton would be our next president,” Lowenthal said.

“Early on, I thought we were going to do OK, we were ahead in Pennsylvania — remember we came out of Philadelphia ahead … and we ultimately did win in Virginia, but it was close at that time. Even then, it was a real squeaker.”

Lowenthal still thought Clinton was going to win.

“Then the returns from Pennsylvania — as it got towards western Pennsylvania, I thought ‘Oh my God!’” he remembered. “And then we got through the Midwest and I thought, ‘Oh no!’ These were states we were just counting on. By the time it got to California, I was desperately hoping that we would win those contested states. I think we lost Michigan by just 50,000 votes. I was hoping that we’d win that. It was just a feeling of depression that grew stronger and stronger as the night went on. It was just such a shocker.

“By the time we heard the final results coming in—it was a major depression. I could not believe it. I just didn’t — I had no words to describe it. Of all the things that I anticipated might happen that day — Mr. Trump being president was not one of them. It was just such a shock.”

While Southern California’s Democratic representatives have uniformly opposed Trump’s agenda, none have been quite as vocal and active as Rep. Ted Lieu.

Lieu, who his running for reelection in 2018, formed a political action committee he called the Leadership, Integrity, Engagement, Unity PAC — whose initials spell out his last name.

The committee has worked on defeating Trumpcare, supporting the effort to flip 14 incumbent Republican districts while retaining Democratic incumbents such as Sacramento Reps. Doris Matsui, Pete Aguilar, Raul Ruiz and Scott Peters.

“As the saying goes, ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,’” concluded Lieu in his letter to his supporters. “And now, we have a raging five-alarm fire!”

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