Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she did not want to “use my presence at a state ceremony to normalize Trump’s lawless conduct & subversion of the Constitution,” adding that this was a “deeply personal decision” for each lawmaker to make.
“None of this is normal, and I will not legitimize it,” the progressive congresswoman added.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who will also boycott the address, criticized Trump in a statement, saying he “consistently demonstrates contempt for the American people, contempt for Congress, and contempt for our constitution.” Adding that Trump is “strong-arming a sham impeachment trial” in the Senate, Pressley said: “This presidency is not legitimate.”
At least eight lawmakers planned not to attend the president’s address, including Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.). Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) said he won’t attend a speech by “an impeached ... lawless, shameless, corrupt [and] unapologetically bigoted president — who is still engaging in a coverup.”
The president was impeached by the House in December, accused of withholding military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure it into investigating presidential rival Joe Biden, as well as of refusing to cooperate with the House’s investigation into these events.
On Wednesday, the Senate is expected to acquit Trump in a party-line vote. Senate Republicans voted on Friday against hearing from any of the firsthand witnesses to the president’s conduct, making this the first impeachment trial in U.S. history to feature no witness testimony.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — members of the so-called “Squad” of progressive congresswomen, alongside Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley — both said they’ll be attending Trump’s address Tuesday.
Omar said she’ll be there “not to confer any legitimacy” on Trump’s actions but rather “on behalf of all of those targeted by this President to say, ‘We are greater than hate.’”
Other lawmakers who are attending the State of the Union are continuing the tradition of inviting a guest. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) planned to bring Elder Joseph Paul Jr., who works with formerly incarcerated people on reentry into society.
Democrats have chosen not to attend Trump’s State of the Union addresses in previous years. In 2019 and 2018, several lawmakers skipped out on the address, citing Trump’s lies, as well as in protest of his racism and other actions in office.