House Democrats are introducing a formal resolution to denounce President Donald Trump for saying that “both sides” are to blame for a violent encounter between white supremacists and neo-Nazis and the activists who showed up to protest them.
While the censure is unlikely to see traction in the GOP-led House, it serves as a rebuke to Trump and mirrors some of the Republican criticism the president has faced for his remarks.
“A president of the United States cannot support neo-Nazis. It’s just beyond the pale,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “I hope Republicans who have expressed outrage with what he said put their money where their mouth is.”
Just three Democrats have signed onto the measure, but Nadler says he expects more to follow.
With this tactic, Democrats are taking a page from Republicans who frequently filed censure resolutions against President Barack Obama and members of his administration. Most died on the vine, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives in 2012 voted to censure then-Attorney General Eric Holder for his role in the botched Fast and Furious gun-running operation into Mexico.
A number of lawmakers also introduced censures against Bill Clinton over his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and resolutions were filed against George W. Bush for authorizing a no-warrant domestic surveillance program.
One president was formally censured: President Andrew Jackson in 1834 was admonished by the Senate for refusing to turn over documents that lawmakers had requested.
The current resolution calls for lawmakers to “censure and condemn” Trump for what it calls an “inadequate” response to the violence on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
The American people expect their leaders to condemn white supremacy in unambiguous terms
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
It cites what it calls Trump’s “failure to immediately and specifically name and condemn the white supremacist groups responsible for actions of domestic terrorism” and accuses him of “re-asserting that ‘both sides’ were to blame” for the violence.
Trump drew sharp condemnation on Saturday for blaming “many sides” for the violence that resulted in the death of a woman protesting the rallying white supremacists. Under fire from Republicans and Democrats, Trump read a statement on Monday that specifically denounced by name the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. But on Tuesday, he returned to his original message, condemning hate more generally and saying both sides share blame for the violence.
“President Trump not only failed at condemning white supremacists and neo-Nazis, he stood up for them – for that he must be censured,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash. “The president’s conduct is un-American and it must stop.”
Republicans have condemned Trump’s remarks, with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., telling the president that “your words are dividing Americans, not healing them.”
But Republicans are unlikely to sign a resolution that accuses Trump of surrounding himself with advisers “who have long histories of promoting white nationalist, alt-Right, racist and anti-Semitic principles and policies.”
It calls on Trump to fire advisers it says have ties to white supremacist movements, citing Steve Bannon, the former leader of conservative Breitbart News website, and Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to Trump who has ties to anti-Semitic, right-wing groups in Hungary.
Bannon once described Breitbart as "the platform for the alt-right,” though both have denied any ties to extremist groups.
Jayapal has also introduced a resolution urging Trump to condemn white nationalists and fire any advisers with ties. That effort has 47 sponsors, her office said.
Conservatives called on Trump to keep Bannon, calling him “the last best link” to his conservative base.