Delaware Democrats blast Trump: Coons, Blunt Rochester say the president’s comments are racist

Senator Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester standing during the playing of the National Anthem Monday at Delaware State University.. Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh

DOVER — During a speech honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Monday in Dover, Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester described recent actions by President Trump as “overt” racism.

While she did not mention the president by name, she referred to tweets. President Trump has used his Twitter account throughout his presidency to offer his opinion on many topics, often with little or no filter, and it was clear what Rep. Blunt Rochester, a Democrat who serves as Delaware’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives, was referring to.

Her speech at Delaware State University focused on Dr. King’s battle for equality, and she compared the fight against slavery and segregation to opposing the Trump administration.

Delaware’s junior senator was slightly more reticent than Rep. Blunt Rochester, shying away from calling the president a racist and from questioning his mental health, but he said some of President Trump’s comments are “implicitly racist.”

“I think we should judge his actions and it seems to me, sadly, across a series of events and incidents, he continues to wink at, or to hint at or to wave at some of the worst in American history,” Democratic Sen. Chris Coons said in an interview after his speech at the MLK celebration, held by the Inner City Cultural League. “By somehow suggesting that people from countries like Haiti or Liberia or Honduras aren’t welcome here, I think he speaks not to the best of our country’s character.”

Media outlets widely reported last week that the president referred to many Caribbean, Central American and African nations as “shithole countries,” leading to a firestorm of criticism.

President Trump tweeted Friday he used “tough” language but not what was reported. Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said the reports were accurate, and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham criticized the president for his words but did not confirm or deny the exact phrasing. Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas in a joint statement said they “do not recall the president saying these comments specifically.”

Sen. Coons, a frequent critic of the president — although he has stopped short of saying he does not belong in the Oval Office — appeared frustrated Monday as he decried the president’s opposition to a deal that would prevent approximately 800,000 individuals living illegally in the country from being deported.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program started under President Barack Obama, enabled many people who illegally came to the United States as children to remain in the United States. It was rescinded by the Trump administration in September, and although lawmakers have been working to reach a compromise that would avert deportation, efforts have failed thus far.

The president tweeted Sunday, “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military.” He tweeted Friday he rejected the deal because it “was a big step backwards.”

The “shithole” comment, allegedly made by the president during a meeting with legislators about a potential DACA deal, helped torpedo hopes for a bipartisan solution, Sen. Coons said.

“It harms our reputation overseas, and clearly it interfered with his stated goal of trying to find a responsible, bipartisan compromise on DACA,” he said. “I have no earthly idea why he would have chosen to do this at this time.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spoken against deporting hundreds of thousands of people, but not every Republican favors a compromise.
About 75 individuals benefiting from DACA attend Delaware State University, according to DSU.

In addition to a DACA deal, Congress is also seeking to prevent a government shutdown. Funding expires Friday, meaning that if Republicans and Democrats cannot pass a continuing resolution by then, the federal government will close.

“Nobody wants a government shutdown, but it seems to me we are barreling toward a confrontation on Friday,” Sen. Coons said.

The most recent shutdown came in October 2013, and the last one that occurred when one party controlled both Congress and the White House came in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter.

Sen. Coons said he would withhold his vote for continued funding unless there is “a real resolution” to DACA and other issues.

The senator tried to keep a positive tone throughout the interview and in his earlier speech in honor of Martin Luther King, but he seemed disheartened at points and picked his words carefully when asked if he thought the president is racist.

A book released last week by journalist Michael Wolff painted a negative picture of President Trump and his administration and led to questions from some quarters about the president’s mental health. President Trump disputed allegations he is mentally unfit for office, tweeting Jan. 6 he is “a very stable genius.”

Sen. Coons avoided sharing whether he believes the president is competent, saying “what matters is whether or not (Congress) can move forward” on the budget, immigration and other topics.

Currently, lawmakers are “very far away” from normalcy and progress, he said.

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