Congressional Democrats from Maryland harshly condemned President Trump Friday for using a vulgar term to describe Haiti and the nations of Africa, and former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R), the first African-American to capture statewide election here, said “it’s incontrovertible” that the president is a racist.
Trump’s comments, made in an Oval Office meeting on immigration Thursday with congressional leaders from both parties, are making international headlines and threaten to make even more difficult efforts to keep the federal government funded beyond Jan. 19.
In an interview with Maryland Matters, Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D), called the comments “vulgar and racist.”
House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D) told a meeting of municipal and business leaders in Prince George’s County Friday, “President Trump’s comments are racist and shameful. They do not reflect our nation’s values and the president must apologize.”
Government funding expires next week, and Democrats, whose votes are needed in the Senate, are holding out for immigration protections, particularly for young people brought to the U.S. by their parents, in exchange for their support.
Asked if the president’s comments make negotiations “more complicated,” Hoyer told a reporter, “Yes.” In the roundtable discussion with local leaders, he said, “These comments clearly expose his true feelings about immigrants and make it extremely questionable whether he will work in an honest way on legislation to protect Dreamers or if he will hold them hostage in an attempt to impose racist policies.”
Brown said it would be a mistake for Democrats to wait for GOP leaders in Congress to move an immigration bill.
“You’ve got to use every vehicle available, and the next vehicle available is government funding,” he said. “We’ve got a [continuing resolution] that expires on the 19th,and you can’t allow them to do what they did to [Maine] Sen. [Susan] Collins, where they said, ‘oh yeah, we’ll take care of the Affordable Care Act stuff,’ and then they didn’t.”
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), asked whether Trump was expressing a direct preference for immigrants of European ancestry, said, “That is the way any reasonable person would interpret the comments. He essentially said we want more people from places like Norway and we don’t want people from places like Africa.”
The son of a career diplomat, Van Hollen added, “This is incredibly damaging to the United States. I hope we’ll have a chorus of people joining together — Republicans and Democrats in Congress — to say this is unacceptable.”
Jacque Clark, spokeswoman for Maryland’s only Republican in Congress, Rep. Andy Harris, emailed a statement about the president’s “alleged comments.” “I wasn’t in the room and I don’t know what was or wasn’t said,” Harris said in the statement, “but I would hope that any president would minimize his or her use of profanity.”
Steele, who served with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) from 2003 until 2007, told an interviewer during an MSNBC panel discussion (http://www.msnbc.com/hallie-jackson/watch/former-rnc-chairman-michael-steele-believes-trump-is-racist-1135579203865) that Trump is racist. “The evidence is incontrovertible, it’s right there.”
“A lot of people” don’t like the demographic changes taking place in the U.S., said Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman. “When they talk about [how] they want their country back, they’re talking about a country that was very safely white.”
Separately, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) also condemned Trump’s statement.
“The president’s remarks are beyond unacceptable, beneath the office, and unrepresentative of the American people,” he said in a statement.
Most other Republicans have tried to avoid commenting on the president’s remarks. Brown, son of a Jamaican father and a Swiss mother said, “It’s appalling that you don’t have a groundswell of condemnation from Republicans in response to the president’s vulgar and racist remarks.”
“Dr. King was absolutely right,” Van Hollen said, “If good people look the other way or ignore it.. and don’t do what’s right, that harms the core essence of our country.”