Rep. Barbara Lee's town hall last Saturday
was attended by an estimated 1,500 people.
When a question about impeaching President Donald Trump was posed during a town hall last weekend hosted by Rep. Barbara Lee in Oakland, the packed auditorium of an estimated 1,500 constituents rose to their feet in wild applause.
The entire panel on hand to discuss the future of the Affordable Care Care also offered a standing ovation to the suggestion, including Lee, and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. “I knew given all the phone calls I’ve been getting this would be a question I would be getting," Lee quipped.
Bringing articles of impeachment against Trump could take a few years, Lee told the group, as conflicts of interest and other potential instances of wrongdoing accrue, but that House leaders are already working toward the effort. “We’re in discussions. There are lawyers looking into this, building the case,” said Lee. “They haven’t gotten there yet.”
“I think you’ll find members of Congress going toward where the facts lead,” Lee continued. “This issue of impeachment is on the radar of almost every member that I know, but we haven’t got to that point to where we can actually file articles.”
Question over Russian interference in the most recent presidential election require an independent inquiry by Congress, Lee added. “Everyday something new comes out so we’ve got to be very vigilant and watch where these facts are leading, believe you me.” There is clear evidence Russia interfered in the election to favor Trump, according to intelligence officials, said Lee. “That’s the public report and we need to take it further and have this independent investigation.”
While a number of congressmembers across the country have faced ferocious anger at town halls recently over the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Lee’s East Bay constituents gave her numerous rousing ovations more befitting a rock star than veteran of almost two decades in congress.
The two-hour town hall even featured an opening act including a song from the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. The packed house, though, didn’t need a warm up act and was certainly jazzed for the town hall, with lines of attendees waiting to enter the auditorium. And once Lee addressed the throng, she did nothing but whip them into a frenzy.
“Thank you for rising up and being part of the resistance movement,” said Lee. "First of all, we’re not going to let them take away health care for 30 million people.” Protest marches, letter-writing campaigns and phone calls to public officials have secured some notable victories, said Lee, including the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, the failed nomination of Andrew Pudzer for labor secretary and the blocking by courts of Trump’s Muslim travel ban. “This is just the beginning,” said Lee. “I’m going to make sure the voice of my district is heard because so goes the East Bay, so goes the state, and so goes the rest of the country.”
Lee also challenged Trump’s threat to defund sanctuary cities in California. Lee’s 13th Congressional District includes four sanctuary cities and could include a fifth, if San Leandro approves its own resolution this Tuesday night. “This administration is not going to bully our community by the threat of cutting off funds to our sanctuary cities,” she said. “They may try, but we’re going to resist every effort.” If Trump seeks to make good on his threat to withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities, a lawsuit will likely be filed to block the move, said Lee.
The overall fear created by the Trump administration’s rhetoric against immigrants is causing a chilling effect on entire communities, but especially the young, said Lee. “We’ve got to, in addition, to fighting the Trump anti-American agenda, we need to wrap our arms around these families in the community and do everything we can do to let them know we’re not going to let [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] destroy their lives.”
Lee, however, did face one upset constituent who interrupted the town hall to charge her with paying more attention to immigrants than to the African Americans. Immigrants and refugees “wind up with more rights than any black person,” said the constituent. But Lee attempted to diffuse the situation, saying, “As an African American woman who has been fighting all my life for civil and human rights, I understand what you’re saying.”