Top Dem: I won’t shake Trump’s hand

A senior House Democrat well known for securing a prime center aisle seat to shake the president’s hand at joint sessions of Congress announced Tuesday he won’t follow the tradition for President Trump.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said in a House floor speech early Tuesday afternoon that he won’t be making the bipartisan gesture when Trump walks down the center aisle toward the dais to deliver his speech.

It’ll be the first time in Engel’s 29 years serving in the House that he won’t stake out a coveted center aisle seat.

{mosads}But Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said his objections to Trump aren’t just about partisan objections.

“Unfortunately, since January 20th, the new administration has shown no interest in working with the Congress on both sides to tackle problems, including Russia’s unlawful interference in last year’s election.

“That’s why I’ve decided not to stand on the aisle of the House chamber to shake the president’s hand during this joint session of Congress, as I have done in the past through Democratic and Republican administrations alike.”

Engel cited Trump’s attacks on the media — which the president called “the enemy of the American people” — and his complimentary attitude toward Russian President Vladimir Putin, who intelligence agencies believe ordered the hacking meant to influence the presidential election. 

“This isn’t part of our normal political discourse. This goes beyond ideological and political differences. The president needs to work with all people and therefore I will listen to what he has to say today, but I will not greet him and shake his hand,” Engel concluded.

Engel’s decision not to shake Trump’s hand is the latest demonstration of how much the new president has exacerbated already strained partisan tensions.

At least one Democrat will be skipping Trump’s address entirely. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, said she’s boycotting the speech, as she did for Trump’s inauguration.

More than 60 House Democrats boycotted Trump’s inauguration, but most are choosing to attend his joint address to Congress and invite guests they’re hoping will send a message to the president. At least a dozen Democrats, for instance, are bringing as their guests young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children who face an uncertain future under Trump’s administration, which hasn’t decided yet whether to rescind an Obama-era program shielding them from deportation.

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