Donald Trump was in Washington, D.C., on the Wednesday evening before his inauguration, but his specter loomed large in New York City, particularly on the Upper West Side, where U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler gathered with constituents to discuss Democrats’ plans for blocking the agenda of the Republican Party, which now controls the executive branch and both houses of Congress.
“We cannot stop fighting for our values and raising our voices in protest,” Nadler said to a packed room at Goddard Riverside Community Center, where he spent more than an hour with constituents answering questions about Trump’s potential impact on issues including health care, education, social security, affordable housing, and foreign policy.
The variety of questions asked reflected no single overriding topic of concern, but a broad-based anxiety among those in attendance about all facets of the incoming administration. More than any one issue, attendee Margie Staker explained, “I would say: what am I not worried about?”
Though many in the crowd seemed to be in search of reassurance, Nadler’s responses tended more toward diagnosis than prescription. He criticized Trump’s “extremist” cabinet nominees, but acknowledged that Senate Republicans will likely succeed in confirming most or all of them. The New York representative laid out a case for Trump’s impeachment — “He’s gonna be a walking constitutional violation from the moment he’s taken the oath of office,” Nadler said, citing conflicts of interest posed by Trump’s failure to divest of his business interests. But he said that the Republican-led House would be “very reluctant” to initiate proceedings against a president of their own party, admitting that he didn’t know if he’d even consider Vice President Mike Pence an upgrade in the Oval Office.
“The battle will not be easy because we have a Republican-controlled House and Senate, and now White House, and we have already seen how shockingly emboldened conservatives and Republicans in Congress have become,” Nadler said.
According to Nadler, Democrats must search for opportunities to work with Republicans to address Trump’s potential conflicts of interest and constitutional violations. “There’s a very small glimmer of hope that we may, in some instances, be able to work across the aisle,” he said, noting that several Republican lawmakers share Democrats’ concerns about alleged links between members of the Trump administration and the Russian government.
“I always find him to be very realistic,” attendee Connie Gemson said after the event. “I think he has a long-term view of what changes can be made and what we can do politically.”
In prepared remarks, Nadler, whose heavily Democratic district includes much of Manhattan’s West Side, downtown, and parts of Brooklyn, criticized Trump for his “divisive campaign rhetoric,” “subservience” to the Russian government, and “overwhelming disdain for the rule of law.”
The loudest applause of the evening came when Nadler expressed support for his colleague Rep. John Lewis, whom Trump criticized last week after the Georgia congressman questioned his legitimacy as president. Nadler drew more cheers when he said that he would not attend Trump’s inauguration, reiterating an announcement he made earlier in the week.
Though the issues Nadler addressed were diverse and a number of attendees were left with their hands raised at the end of the session, one overriding theme of the evening was an eagerness among Democrats to organize in opposition to Trump — efforts Nadler said his office is already working to support.
“I’d expect it in New York City that there’s people who get together and agitate,” Staker said.