Lawmakers Trump profanity sparks furore

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-46764052

US House Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) participates in a ceremonial swearing-in from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) at the start of the 116th Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, January 3, 2019Image copyright
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Speaker Nancy Pelosi swears-in new representative Rashida Tlaib

US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi Speaker has shrugged off a new lawmaker’s use of a profane epithet to assail President Donald Trump.

Democrat Rashida Tlaib courted controversy when she used explicit language while calling for the president’s impeachment.

Ms Pelosi on Thursday said while she would not use such language, it was no worse than things Mr Trump has said.

The controversy comes amid renewed talk of impeachment among lawmakers.

The Republican president called her comments “highly disrespectful” to the US in a news conference on Friday.

“I thought her comments were disgraceful. This is a person I don’t know, I assume she’s new,” he told reporters.

“I think she dishonoured herself and dishonoured her family using language like that in front of her son and whoever else was there.”

When asked about her call for impeachment, Mr Trump responded: “You can’t impeach somebody that’s doing a great job that’s the way I view it.”

Earlier on Friday, he tweeted that his political enemies only want to remove him from office because he is “the most successful”.

What did Ms Tlaib say?

Michigan’s Ms Tlaib made the remark to supporters at a reception hours after she was sworn in on Thursday as one of the first two Muslim women members of Congress.

“People love you and you win,” she said. “And when your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t.'”

She added that they would impeach Mr Trump, using a profane term to describe him.

Ms Tlaib had also co-authored an opinion piece calling for impeachment that was published in the Detroit Free Press earlier on Thursday.

On Friday, she was unapologetic about the furore over her remark.

The new congresswoman took her oath of office using a family Koran while wearing a traditional garment stitched by her Palestinian-born mother.

Palestinian dress worn in new US Congress

What did Pelosi say?

Speaking at an MSNBC town hall on Friday, Ms Pelosi said while she may have a “generational reaction” to the language, she is “not in the censorship business”.

“I don’t like that language, I wouldn’t use that language, but I wouldn’t establish any language standards for my colleagues.

“But I don’t think it’s anything worse than what the president has said.”

On impeachment, Ms Pelosi has been cautious, saying Democrats must “wait and see” what happens with special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election.

Mr Trump told reporters on Friday Ms Pelosi assured him in budget negotiations that House Democrats were not looking to impeach him.

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Media captionWhat does it take to impeach a president?

What did other Democrats say?

A number of Democratic congressmen rebuked the new lawmaker.

Civil rights icon John Lewis said Ms Tlaib’s comments were “inappropriate” and “distracting”. The Georgia congressman also said talk of impeachment was “a little premature”.

Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri said: “What she said yesterday was wrong. Wrong is wrong.”

Jerry Nadler of New York told CNN: “I don’t really like that kind of language, but more to the point it is too early to talk about [impeachment] intelligently.”

But Ms Tlaib is not the only hardline Democrat to call for Mr Trump’s removal from office.

Brad Sherman of California and Al Green of Texas on Thursday reintroduced articles of impeachment against the president.

Mr Sherman responded to claims that impeachment talks were distracting from the shutdown battle by saying: “Does it compete for attention? Yes. So do the Lakers’ games,” the Associated Press reported.

As for Ms Tlaib’s controversial language, much like Ms Pelosi, California congresswoman Maxine Waters said Mr Trump was responsible for starting all the incivility.

“He’s opened up a new way of talking, a new way of addressing these issues in ways that we never heard before,” Ms Waters said, according to The Hill.

“That gives others the permission to speak passionately about it in the same manner that he has done.”

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Media captionFive historic moments as new US Congress opens

Itching for a fight

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

The newly elected Democrats in the House of Representatives don’t look like the membership of past Congresses. It appears they won’t sound like them, either.

While the party elders, from Nancy Pelosi on down, are preaching restraint and patience with their newly gained power, the rank and file may have different ideas. They are itching for a fight, and they’re more than willing to let everyone know.

Rashida Tlaib, with her obscenity laced call for the president’s impeachment Thursday night, only drives that point home.

Ms Pelosi has earned a reputation as a skilled manager and tactician, but she must now walk a fine line in expressing disapproval of Ms Tlaib’s remarks – which could complicate ongoing negotiations with Republicans over the budget – while acknowledging the power of the sentiments that they reflect. This will only be the first test of her ability to bridge the generational, strategic and stylistic divides within her party.

The reality, however, is that the civility ship has long since sailed in American politics. Donald Trump did not win the presidency by following the rules and norms of discourse, and the new Democrats appear more than ready to join the fray on his terms, whether Ms Pelosi wants them to or not.

How did Republicans react?

Republicans were quick to condemn the remarks.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Ms Pelosi ought to make clear to Ms Tlaib that such language is unacceptable.

“I think this is a role as a leader and a speaker to have a conversation with this member,” he told reporters on Friday.

“Are the House majority going to be serious about anything?”


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