House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerKey races to watch in Tuesday’s primariesOvernight Defense: Democrats expand probe into State IG’s firing | House schedules late June votes with defense bill on deck | New Navy secretary sworn inHouse scheduled to return for votes in late JuneMORE (D-Md.) on Tuesday hammered President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts ‘Fox News Sunday’ invitation to debate, Tuberville declinesPriest among those police cleared from St. John’s Church patio for Trump visitTrump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with policeMORE for having police clear peaceful protesters near the White House, saying the tactic is the mark of an authoritarian leader and one deserving a censure by Congress.
“It is certainly an action worthy and appropriate to censure and to criticize,” Hoyer told reporters on a press call. “The president stokes violence, he stokes anger, he stokes division. It was terrible action for him to take.”
Hoyer emphasized that Democratic leaders have not yet discussed a specific response to the events of Monday night, when federal law enforcers removed a crowd around St. John’s Episcopal Church, just north of the White House, with the use of tear gas, batons and flash grenades.
But Hoyer floated an array of actions the Democrats might take, vowing that House committees will be investigating the episode to learn which law enforcement agencies were involved and whether the order came from Trump himself.
“The committees ought to be looking at all of those aspects,” he said. “Whether or not we want to have a resolution of censure we haven’t discussed.”
It’s not the first time Democrats have weighed questions of whether to censure Trump. In 2017, after Trump’s equivocal response to white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, Va., leaders of the Judiciary Committee had introduced a censure resolution decrying his position.
Several months later, Trump referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries,” prompting another censure resolution from leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Neither bill got a vote in a House chamber that was then controlled by Trump’s Republican allies.
This time might be different. The death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police has sparked outrage around the country, setting off protests in cities large and small and launching yet another national discussion about the culture of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
Amid the wave of protests, Trump has adopted a combative approach, suggesting violent demonstrators should be shot while criticizing certain governors almost all of them Democrats for going too soft on the “anarchists” in their streets.
On Monday night, from the Rose Garden, Trump threatened to deploy the U.S. military to put down violent demonstrators. Moments later, the area around St. Johns was cleared to allow Trump to make a rare visit to the historic church, a Bible in hand, for a photo-op shortly before a 7 p.m. curfew in Washington took effect. The law enforcers advanced on the crowd without warning, using tear gas, smoke grenades, shields and batons to clear the way.
“It was an act that indicated the total lack of understanding and empathy with the anger and frustration and cry for justice that was being put out, simply to facilitate a photo-op obviously designed for political purposes,” Hoyer charged.
The Maryland Democrat also floated a theory behind Trump’s church visit. The famously image-conscious president, Hoyer said, was embarrassed when he was rushed to a White House bunker on Friday, when nearby protests turned violent.
“He had to show which is why he took this action that he was not cowering in a corner,” Hoyer said. “However, what he was doing was cowering behind federal police that he ordered to disperse a crowd that was exercising its constitutional duty, and they did so in a way that created violence, not reduce violence.”
Democrats are busy working on a legislative response to the Floyd killing, an effort being led by members of the CBC, which is currently chaired by Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassDemocrats call for Congress to take action following death of George FloydBlack Caucus member unveils bill to create commission addressing legacy of slaveryHouse Democrats unveil measure to condemn police brutalityMORE (D-Calif.).
Hoyer said lawmakers have submitted roughly 50 proposals designed to prevent similar tragedies in the future measures ranging from a federal prohibition on police “chokeholds” to new training standards to discourage racial profiling.
Although the House is not scheduled to return to Washington for votes before June 30, Hoyer said Democratic leaders will call the House back earlier if the CBC’s criminal justice reforms are ready for the floor.
“This is a matter of great urgency, and we expect to act as soon as possible,” he said.