Ted Lieu: Trump doesn’t respect the American right to protest
© Greg Nash

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.) accused President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE on Thursday of not respecting Americans' First Amendment right to protest.

In an op-ed for NBC News, Lieu references his own history of service in the Air Force before explaining that Trump's comments about Democrats not applauding during his State of the Union address reflected his disrespect for the Constitution.

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"President Trump’s suggestion that it was treason not to applaud him during his recent State of the Union address makes it clear that Trump fundamentally doesn’t understand what it means to be an American, let alone a patriotic one," Lieu writes.

"I served our country for the same reason I didn’t clap during parts of the president’s speech: Because I love our country," he added. "When I hear President Trump suggest policy ideas that run counter to American ideals, I speak out. In the same vein, when my constituents disagree with me, I welcome and champion their right to speak out."

The California Democrat's comments come after the president said in a speech on Monday that Democrats acted "treasonous" during his second State of the Union address last week.

"Can we call that treason? Why not?" Trump said. "They certainly didn't seem to love our country very much."

Lieu, a top critic of the president, went on to accuse Trump of attacking America's "founding principles," and rebuking the president for treating the country like an "authoritarian regime."

"When President Trump attacks the media and his political opponents for criticizing him, he’s attacking our founding principles," Lieu says. "Instead of engaging in rational discourse, he is demanding the kind of unquestioning devotion to which no president is entitled. We are not and will never be an authoritarian regime."

Trump faced criticism from Democrats and Republicans over his comments, including from former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBooker holds 'Get Out the Vote' event in South Carolina as presidential speculation builds Biden, Jackson receive Freedom Awards from National Civil Rights Museum The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns MORE who called Trump a "joke" in an interview.

A White House spokesman later clarified the president's remarks, saying Trump was being “tongue-in-cheek” in his speech.