WASHINGTON — As next Friday’s presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump draws closer, speculation over who won’t be in attendance has become as much a talking point as the event itself, with more than 50 members of Congress already saying they’ll skip the ceremony.
In the Maryland congressional delegation, Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Upper Marlboro, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Kensington, have decided that they won’t go to Trump’s swearing-in on Friday.
Another Maryland lawmaker, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, has said he is undecided.
Raskin had initially planned on attending in order to show respect for tradition and the democratic process, but in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, he indicated that he’d had a change of heart.
“These are not normal times and I cannot pretend as if they are,” the congressman said. “The moral and political legitimacy of this presidency are in the gravest doubt. I cannot get over Trump’s refusal to deal seriously with the constitutional problems caused by his business entanglements with foreign governments and corporations.”
Raskin added: “I cannot get past his stubborn denial of the enormity of Russia’s efforts to sabotage and undermine our presidential election (regardless of the victor). I cannot stomach his relentless trafficking in bigotry, misogyny and fear. And I am outraged and confounded by his continuing provocations against civil rights heroes, such as my colleague the great Congressman John Lewis, union leaders and other individual citizens.”
Brown announced his decision on Twitter and in a Facebook post Monday afternoon after Trump posted several tweets attacking Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., for comments Lewis made stating that he did not consider Trump’s presidency to be “legitimate” because of potential Russian involvement in the election.
After weeks of growing concern from politicians of both parties over the president-elect’s behavior — from his dismissal of allegations of Russian interference in the election to his team’s unconventional selection and handling of cabinet appointees — several Democrats in Congress have announced their plans to boycott the ceremony in recent days. But the number escalated quickly following Trump’s attack on Lewis Saturday.
Lewis was a well-known leader in the civil rights movement who was instrumental in ending legal racial segregation in the United States. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and many other awards for his commitment to ensuring civil rights equality.
Brown stated on Facebook that Trump’s recent verbal attack on Lewis demanded his absence from the inauguration.
“President-elect Trump, you have the undeniable right to take issue and disagree with John Lewis’ opinion,” Brown wrote. “But Mr. Trump, you need to think carefully about disparaging a Civil Rights icon such as John Lewis, let alone anyone exercising their freedom of expression that many of us have fought for.”
While Brown will not be in attendance, most of the rest of the Maryland delegation will be.
The presence of Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, was never in doubt. As the only Republican serving historically Democratic Maryland in Congress, Harris is a noted Trump supporter and has recently been in talks with the president-elect over a possible appointment as head of the National Institutes of Health.
Democratic Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, as well as Democratic Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Steny Hoyer and John Delaney all have said that they’ll attend Trump’s inauguration.
Not that there aren’t serious reservations among those Democrats.
Van Hollen spokeswoman Bridgett Frey said the senator “has deep concerns about President-elect Trump and the divisive campaign he ran.”
“While he will join his Senate colleagues at Friday’s inauguration as part the peaceful transfer of power, Senator Van Hollen has already been on the front lines of the fight to stop Donald Trump from turning back the clock on progress in America, including leading a rally of over 2,000 Marylanders this weekend to save our health care,” Frey said.
Maryland’s Democratic congressmen haven’t been shy in expressing their misgivings about Trump in the past. Cardin is part of a group of Democratic senators working on a bill that would require Trump to put all his business assets into an actual blind trust, while Van Hollen has been vocal in his opposition to the opening of the controversial Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Both Cardin and Cummings are part of a joint effort by Democrats in the Senate and House to pass a bill that would establish a nonpartisan commission to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.