“Anger can cause all sorts of changes,” Rep. Ted Lieu told the Los Angeles Blade on April 4 when asked why the usually staid lawyer, Air Force Reserve Colonel and computer science geek has let loose trolling President Trump on Twitter.
It’s an anger rooted in a profound sense of betrayal. After the election, Lieu, a longtime LGBT ally who represents LA’s Westside, embraced America’s greatness as demonstrated through a “peaceful transfer of power” and urged supporters to give Trump “a chance to govern.” By the beginning of January, he changed his mind.
“I concluded I was wrong,” Lieu said. “I concluded that Donald Trump is so different that he is a danger to the Republic because he is attacking institutions of our democracy such as the First Amendment and the press—calling it ‘fake news.’ He’s going after our judiciary, calling them ‘so-called judges.’ He is suppressing internal dissent. His main adviser is Steve Bannon, who wants to deconstruct the administrative state. And Donald Trump lies pathologically – and then the public can’t tell the difference between what is truth and what is fiction. That leads us down the road to authoritarianism. And I decided that the most patriotic thing I could do is to resist our president.”
@realDonaldTrump: You truly are an evil man. Your job is to help Americans. Not intentionally try to destroy their lives,” @tedlieu tweeted March 25 in response to Trump’s tweet about the GOP’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Lieu’s prolific tweets trolling Trump have made him a political star. But behind the well-crafted words is a shaken belief that America really is in danger with the administration’s responses to Russian intervention, the use of chemical weapons in Syria and North Korea saber-rattling. Additionally, he is concerned about the erosion of democratic principles throughout government—impacting real people’s lives, including those in the LGBT community.
Lieu signed onto a letter organized by Rep. Adam Schiff with Arizona Rep Raúl M. Grijalva and out Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin sent to U.S. Census Bureau Director John Thompson and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney demanding to know why the federal government finds “no federal data need” to include LGBT questions on the next Census survey.
“It really highlights what this administration is doing in terms of trying to take out of public discourse what we know to be true: there are gay people!” Lieu said. “They’re trying to simply effect how the public views reality. And it’s very troubling that this administration wants to erase what makes America great, which is our incredible diversity.”
Will that attitude promoting LGBT erasure become policy and bleed into reporting hate crimes? The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino reported that hate crimes in the city of Los Angeles went up 15 percent in 2016, with a “significant spike” (25 percent) in attacks against the LGBT community, according to the Daily News April 5. Additionally, “hate crimes against transgender persons jumped from 2 in 2015 to 8 in 2016,” according to the LAPD data.”
“Perhaps most disturbing is the surge in the most violent type of attacks, which are aggravated assaults,” said Brian Levin, the center’s director. “Whether it’s the increase in aggravated assaults or criminal threats, it appears that assailants are emboldened.”
Lieu said he is “concerned” that the FBI may also slough off on collecting and reporting LGBT hate crime data.
Lieu’s “resistance” is not limited to Twitter. If the House and Senate investigations show “there was collusion with Russia and Donald Trump knew about it—that would be an impeachable offense,” said Lieu. On March 5, he sent a letter to acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente requesting the appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate any Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
“Because you serve at the pleasure of the President, it is our belief that you have a conflict of interest and cannot exercise true independence into an investigation that may implicate the President. That is one of several reasons we request that you appoint a Special Counsel to investigate any collusion with Russia,” the letter reads. “At stake is the legitimacy of the Presidency and whether high crimes occurred.”
Lieu’s concerns extend to the core American principle of upholding human rights, especially in the face of reports of a roundup of gay men and murder of at least three gays in Chechnya.
“What’s happening at the State Department is very alarming,” Lieu said. “The State Department is really the first line of making sure that America does not engage in unnecessary conflicts and wars…. And by making drastic cuts to the State Department while advocating for huge increases in the military, it shows that President Trump has a warmonger mentality where he wants to solve every problem with military force. And that is exactly the wrong way to approach our changing world order.”
Nor is it logical. “I’m very troubled by Donald Trump’s stance on human rights,” said Lieu. “He recently green-lighted a sale of weapons to Bahrain that the Obama administration did not do because they were concerned about Bahrain’s human rights record—which is also very anti-LGBT. The Trump administration is sending a message that they are going to de-couple human rights from weapon sales. I think that’s a very grave mistake.”
Asked about the irony of candidate Trump campaigning for LGBT votes by referencing “radical Islamic terrorists” beheading gays under Sharia Law—and the fact that Bahrain is governed under Sharia Law—Lieu said: “You’re asking me to state that what this administration does is logical and I can’t say that.”
There are many ways to resist. Attending protests rallies “is significant,” he said, noting how the Jan. 21 women’s marches showed that “the populist movement opposing Donald Trump was larger than his relatively small populist movement.”
Lieu will hold Town Hall meetings in Santa Monica on April 20 and Redondo Beach on April 24. Check his website for updates.