Initially, I was inclined to attend the inauguration of the 45th president of our great nation. Like most Americans, I have viewed presidential inaugurations as a ceremonial rite of passage, and representing the people of the 9th Congressional District of New York at the transition in the governance of our nation was understood as a tradition.
Unfortunately, I cannot honor this inclination when the normal democratic process has so clearly been undermined. To state the matter simply, the 2016 presidential election lacks integrity. There remains an overriding factor: the deliberate attack by the Russian government on the most sacred exercise of our political process, the election of the president of the United States. With my colleague, Congressman John Lewis, I have very real concerns about the legitimacy of the next president of the United States. I believe that we all have an obligation to the American people to have the United States intelligence community and an independent, bipartisan commission thoroughly investigate the hostile intrusion by the Russian government into American politics. As a member of Congress, I have received briefings from intelligence officials about the highly sophisticated and unprecedented Russian propaganda campaign and massive cyberattack—done at the behest of the leadership of the Russian government and executed by governmentally sanctioned intelligence agencies and their affiliates—intended to disrupt the presidential election. The success of the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta and the possibility that additional information could compromise and undermine the incoming administration presents a very serious threat to our democracy. We must engage in a thorough investigation to know the truth about the 2016 presidential election, wherever this investigation may lead us.
In addition, I am deeply concerned about the threat Donald Trump presents to the community I am honored to represent. In his victory speech, Trump promised to unite us as a president for all Americans. But his actions since then reveal that the promise he made was merely words empty of any truth. In the wake of the election, our nation experienced a spike in hate crimes, yet there was no denouncing of this activity by Trump, not even a tweet. The appointments of individuals who have devoted their careers to denying the civil rights of and creating a false, demeaning narrative about African-Americans, Latinos, women, Muslims and immigrants, as with Senator Sessions as attorney general and Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist, demonstrate that Trump plans to try to restore some of the worst chapters from our nation’s history. But we will not turn back. Standing alongside me are millions of Americans who are extremely concerned that Trump and members of his administration are hostile to our communities and, indeed, to our very humanity. Trump’s recent insults directed at Congressman Lewis, who risked his life and was brutally attacked and nearly killed marching in Selma, Ala., for the right to vote, are part of a pattern of divisiveness that should not have any audience in our civil society. Anyone who hoped that the magnitude of the office of president of the United States would change the man who cruelly insulted Senator McCain’s wartime record or Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan has assuredly been disappointed in Trump’s performance thus far. Today, as we honor the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., it is in his spirit that I formally announce that I cannot in good faith attend the inauguration of a president who threatens the people I represent and the values that we hold dear. Instead, I’ll be in Brooklyn with my constituents.
Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, the Committee on Ethics and the Committee on Small Business in the House of Representatives.