Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) strengthened his push to dethrone Donald Trump of the GOP nomination for president Monday when he and two other “horrified” members of Congress sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan telling him to pick a new candidate.
On the final day of the Democratic National Convention last week, Lieu spoke immediately after Gold Star parents of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan – Khizr and Ghazala – who recounted how their son was killed in 2004 by a car bomb in Iraq. Khizr Khan continued with an attack on Trump by challenging his morals, questioning his knowledge of the U.S. Constitution and suggesting that if it were up to Trump, his son wouldn’t have been in the United States.
Trump responded the next day.
“[Khan] was, you know, very emotional. And probably looked like – a nice guy to me,” Trump said. “His wife, if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably – maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me, but plenty of people have written that. She was extremely quiet and looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that.”
Like Lieu, Congressmen Seth Moulton (D-MA) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) are also veterans who previously served on active duty, and said in the joint letter sent to Ryan on Monday that Trump hit a “new low” with “slander” and disrespect for the parents of the Muslim soldier who saved many other soldiers’ lives when he died.
“Your continued endorsement of Mr. Trump’s hateful, bigoted and sexist vision threatens the integrity of the House of Representatives in which we serve,” the lawmakers wrote to Ryan. “When we served on active duty, it was crystal clear to us that what makes our military great is that no one cares what color you are, whom you love or what religion you practice. All that matters is whether or not you can perform your duty to our nation with excellence.”
Lieu, a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, has been critical of the GOP nominee, including last week at the Democratic National Convention when he talked about why Trump is a danger to national security and unfit to be commander in chief. Lieu’s address included a full-throated endorsement for Hillary Clinton to be the next commander in chief and 45th President of the United States.
But since the final balloon landed and the delegates gaveled out of Clinton’s convention, Lieu started calling for the GOP party to withdraw their endorsement of Trump.
Lieu first responded Saturday to Trump’s comments and his “dark, dark soul” and challenged Ryan for sticking with him.
Lieu said having served in the House with Ryan, that he knows the Republican representative does not share Trump’s hatred, racism, or sexism, and called for him to withdraw his endorsement.
On Sunday, Lieu said again that Trump is unfit to be the commander in chief and called for Ryan to pull the nomination after the nominee’s comments about Ukraine and Russia. Trump said in an interview with ABC that Russian President Vladimir Putin would not invade its neighbor Ukraine, despite the fact that Russia took control of the region of Crimea in 2014.
“When you ignore facts in the sensitive area of national security, people will die. The Republican nominee’s strange attraction to Vladimir Putin is also cause for concern. Playing footsie with Russia and supporting one of America’s enemies is unbecoming and dangerous for anyone seeking to become our commander in chief,” Lieu said Sunday in a statement.
“The attack on the Gold Start mother…” Lieu said Tuesday, still dumbfounded. “That’s way beyond any acceptable lines of human behavior.”
On Tuesday, Lieu explained why he thinks Trump is dangerous. He said voters are not just electing a president in November. If a president wants to propose a “stupid law, like deporting Muslims,” Congress or the courts can strike it down. But acting as commander in chief doesn’t have those same checks and balances.
“A president can launch an airstrike or God forbid nuclear weapons without a vote from Congress if they think it’s necessary for the defense of America,” Lieu said.
Lieu said he could understand if Ryan was remaining stubborn with his endorsement after two or three remarks from Trump during his campaign. But with a “pattern of remarks that divide us and praise our enemies” or denounce veterans, Lieu said Ryan has to draw the line.
Lieu said he has not heard from Ryan or his office, and as of press time, Ryan had not revoked his endorsement.
“Rather than engage in a back-and-forth, the Speaker is going to remain focused entirely on ensuring we deliver strong Republican majorities this fall,” said Zack Roday, a spokesman for Ryan, in an email to Beverly Press.
Ryan’s communications team has denounced Trump’s remarks, but Lieu said Ryan needs to do more to denounce Trump’s whole vision that is “based on division and bigotry.”
Lieu said he has not heard from Trump’s office either.
On Monday, New York Representative Richard Hanna became the first Republican member of the House to say he will vote for Clinton. Lieu said he expects more lawmakers and moderate elected officials to follow.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama joined Lieu in describing Trump as unfit to serve as president, and when GOP leaders only denounce Trump’s comments and not the campaign, Obama said it rings hollow.
“He keeps on proving [that he is unfit,]” Obama said in a press conference. “The question [GOP leaders] have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say, in very strong terms, that what he does is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party that this is your standard bearer.”
Obama explained that on policy issues, he may have disagreed with former opponents Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain, but he never thought that they couldn’t do the job, he said.
“Had they won, I would have been disappointed, but I would’ve said to all Americans, this is our president,” Obama said.
Lieu echoed Obama on Tuesday and said he never once said McCain or Romney were not qualified to be commander in chief.
“This is a very different case,” Lieu said.
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