Dems call freshman's impeachment remarks 'inappropriate'

House Democrats on Friday pushed back on one of their newest colleagues, who attacked President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers release defense bill with parental leave-for-Space-Force deal House Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Houston police chief excoriates McConnell, Cornyn and Cruz on gun violence MORE the previous day by vowing to “impeach the motherf---er.”

The jarring remarks by liberal freshman Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — GOP, Democrats square off at final impeachment hearing Live coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE (D-Mich.) put Democrats on the defensive less than 24 hours after they took control of the House, putting a spotlight on the possible impeachment of Trump instead of Democratic efforts to end the government shutdown and the party's legislative priorities.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I have never said that in a public setting. The choice of words is inappropriate,” longtime Rep. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (D-Mo.), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told The Hill. “We should conduct oversight, which is our responsibility, vigorous oversight, because it’s been lacking the last two years. And I think that we should also wait for special counsel [Robert] Mueller’s report to Congress so we can determine what we need to do.”

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsImpeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Tucker Carlson calls Trump 'full-blown BS artist' in segment defending him from media coverage MORE (D-Md.), who will lead many of Democrats’ investigations into the Trump administration, also called Tlaib’s comments “inappropriate.”

“One of the things that I've said about my committee, I've said that we will reclaim civility," Cummings told reporters in the Capitol. "You cannot accomplish very much of anything unless you have civility and show respect for your colleagues. And I think those kind of comments do not take us in the right direction.”

Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoTrump officials defend use of fake university to lure foreign students ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Lawmakers press for ICE reforms after fake school report MORE (D-Ariz.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, was more succinct: “Everyone should stop this impeachment talk until Mueller comes out with his report.”

GOP leaders quickly pounced on Tlaib’s comments.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran Cruz, Graham and Cheney call on Trump to end all nuclear waivers for Iran Pompeo: US ending sanctions waiver for site where Iran resumed uranium enrichment MORE (R-Wyo.) lamented at a press conference that the remarks demonstrated “a real ramp up in rhetoric and name-calling and the kinds of politicization and partisanship that the American people are sick and tired of."

ADVERTISEMENT

Another freshman firebrand, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezTrump tops list of most tweeted about politicians in 2019 Buttigieg campaign says 2000 people attended Iowa rally Trump keeps Obama immigration program, and Democrats blast him MORE (D.N.Y.), had been getting the lion’s share of media attention since she stormed onto the scene last summer after upsetting then-Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) in a primary election.

But Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women and the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, set off a media frenzy after she was recorded on video at a MoveOn rally near Capitol Hill on Thursday night.

“When your son looks at you and says, ‘Momma, look you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t.’ Because we’re going to go in there and impeach the motherf---er,” Tlaib said as the crowd erupted into cheers.

After the backlash, Tlaib doubled down on her remarks, issuing a statement reiterating her call for Trump to be impeached immediately.

“Congresswoman Tlaib was elected to shake up Washington, not continue the status quo. Donald Trump is completely unfit to serve as president. The Congresswoman absolutely believes he needs to be impeached. She ran and won by making this very clear to the voters in her district,” Tlaib’s office said. “Donald Trump’s actions have harmed the 13th Congressional District and this country, and Congresswoman Tlaib will not stay quiet while this happens.”

On Friday she tweeted: "I will always speak truth to power. #unapologeticallyMe.” 

But after a Friday photo op with House Democratic women outside the Capitol, Tlaib refused to comment as a gaggle of reporters followed her with recorders and video cameras.

The Democratic divide over Tlaib’s comments highlight the challenges for Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse Democrats expected to unveil articles of impeachment Tuesday Impeachment witness to meet with Senate GOP Tuesday Press: Pelosi strikes back, hatred is a sin MORE (D-Calif.) as she seeks to balance demands from her party’s liberal base agitating for a confrontation with Trump with campaign promises that the new Democratic majority would focus on bread-and-butter issues while the Mueller probe continues.

At an MSNBC town hall on Friday, Pelosi tried to distance herself from Tlaib’s remarks.

“I'm not in the censorship business. I don't like that language, I wouldn't use that language, but I wouldn't establish language standards for my colleagues,” Pelosi said.

But she also said Tlaib's comment was "nothing worse than what the president has said."

Other Democrats pointed to past inflammatory comments made by Trump, like criticizing immigration from “shithole” countries. They also blamed Trump for establishing a precedent of incivility.

“He's opened up a new way of talking, a new way of addressing these issues in ways that we never heard before. And so I think what that does is that gives others the permission to speak passionately about it in the same manner that he has done,” said House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDemocrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week What are not criteria for impeachment? Fed's top regulator takes heat from both parties MORE (D-Calif.), who has called for Trump’s impeachment.

One House Democrat this week moved to ensure articles of impeachment were introduced with the new Congress.

Rep. Brad ShermanBradley (Brad) James ShermanThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — GOP, Democrats square off at final impeachment hearing Live coverage: Democrats, Republicans seek to win PR battle in final House impeachment hearing Mnuchin expresses concerns about proposed taxes on financial trades MORE (D-Calif.) reintroduced his articles of impeachment against Trump on Thursday, which he first unveiled in 2017. Sherman downplayed his move, which took place before Tlaib's remarks, as simply maintaining the “status quo.”

“The ball is where it was last month,” Sherman told reporters.

Rep. Alan LowenthalAlan Stuart LowenthalHouse moves ahead on long-stalled resolution supporting two states for Israelis and Palestinians This week: Impeachment inquiry moves to Judiciary Committee Pelosi calls for Congress to pass resolution supporting two-state solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict MORE (D-Calif.), another member of the Progressive Caucus, said he understood Tlaib’s passion but believes she will learn how to better communicate her message.

“Would I have chosen to do that? No, but it was what a lot of people feel, and especially the people who elected her. That’s what they feel and that’s why they won. But now that she’s here, is that the most effective first step to move things along? Will people focus on that statement rather than who she is? They are already,” Lowenthal told The Hill just off the House floor.

“We have a whole new group of people who bring freshness and ideas and wanting to change, and now they are running into the reality that they are being taped,” he added. “She’ll learn; she made a mistake probably to do that.”

Juliegrace Brufke contributed.