U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9) said Thursday that he will introduce articles of impeachment against President Trump because of Trump’s comments following violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday.
“Instead of unequivocally condemning hateful actions by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Klansmen following a national tragedy, the President said ‘there were very fine people on both sides.’ There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen,” said Cohen, who is Jewish, in a statement.
A progressive leftist whose congressional district includes Memphis, Cohen is a ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.
The clashes in Charlottesville were between white supremacist demonstrators and leftist radical counterprotesters. A woman was killed and around 20 injured when a man identified as a white supremacist drove his vehicle into a crowd. There also was fighting in which both white supremacists and counterprotesters were “swinging sticks, punching and spraying chemicals,” according to the Washington Post. Bottles and rocks were also thrown back. There were injuries on both sides.
On Saturday, Trump condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” At a press conference Tuesday, Trump said he waited until Monday to condemn specific groups because he wanted more time to get the facts. On Monday, Trump said, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Trump also said Monday that the Department of Justice had opened a civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack. “To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable,” Trump said. “Justice will be delivered.”
At Tuesday’s press conference, Trump defended his statement Saturday faulting more than one side for the violence. He also said there “were very fine people on both sides” there Saturday that were not affiliated with radical groups.
“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said.
Here is the full text of Cohen’s press release issued Thursday:
I have expressed great concerns about President Trump’s ability to lead our country in the Resolution of No Confidence (H.Res. 456) that I introduced in July with 29 of my colleagues; however, after the President’s comments on Saturday, August 12 and again on Tuesday, August 15 in response to the horrific events in Charlottesville, I believe the President should be impeached and removed from office. Instead of unequivocally condemning hateful actions by neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Klansmen following a national tragedy, the President said ‘there were very fine people on both sides.’ There are no good Nazis. There are no good Klansmen.
“We fought a World War to defeat Nazis, and a Civil War to defeat the Confederacy. In reaction to the downfall of the Confederacy, and the subsequent passage of the Reconstruction Amendments to our constitution, the KKK embarked on a dastardly campaign to terrorize and intimidate African Americans from exercising their newly acquired civil rights. Subsequent incarnations of the Klan continued to terrorize African Americans with lynchings and civil rights murders such as the assassination of Medgar Evers and the killings of Schwerner, Chaney, Goodman and other civil rights workers.
When I watched the videos from the protests in Charlottesville, it reminded me of the videos I’ve seen of Kristallnacht in 1938 in Nazi Germany. It appeared that the Charlottesville protesters were chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’ and ‘blood and soil,’ an infamous Nazi slogan, as they marched with torches that conjured up images of Klan rallies. None of the marchers spewing such verbiage could be considered ‘very fine people’ as the President suggested. And it certainly appeared the participants were in lock-step. Some of the white nationalist protesters were interviewed by the media, such as Sean Patrick Nielsen. He said one of his three reasons for being there was ‘killing Jews.’ Another was Christopher Cantwell, one of the white nationalist leaders, who said he couldn’t watch ‘that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl’ and said he hoped ‘somebody like Donald Trump, but who does not give his daughter to a Jew,’ would lead this country. As a Jew and as an American and as a representative of an African American district, I am revolted by the fact that the President of the United States couldn’t stand up and unequivocally condemn Nazis who want to kill Jews and whose predecessors murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, and could not unequivocally condemn Klansmen whose organization is dedicated to terrorizing African Americans.
President Trump has failed the presidential test of moral leadership. No moral president would ever shy away from outright condemning hate, intolerance and bigotry. No moral president would ever question the values of Americans protesting in opposition of such actions, one of whom was murdered by one of the white nationalists. Senator John McCain rightfully tweeted this week that there was ‘no moral equivalency between racists and Americans standing up to defy hate.’ Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists.” President Trump has shown time and time again that he lacks the ethical and moral rectitude to be President of the United States. Not only has he potentially obstructed justice and potentially violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, but he has also shown that he is incapable or unwilling to protect Americans from enemies, foreign and domestic. Neo-Nazis and the KKK are domestic terrorists. If the President can’t recognize the difference between these domestic terrorists and the people who oppose their anti-American attitudes, then he cannot defend us.
Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who was an outspoken critic of Adolph Hitler, said:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Here is a video of Trump’s press conference on Tuesday: