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Bucking Northam, Democrats Threaten Trump Boycott At Commemoration Event

President Trump at a Richmond campaign rally in 2016
President Trump at a Richmond campaign rally in 2016 Craig Carper/WCVE

Democratic lawmakers are planning to boycott a possible appearance by President Donald Trump at an event celebrating the 400th anniversary of Virginia’s legislature later this month.

The move puts them at odds with Governor Ralph Northam, who helped invite Trump to the event, as well as other Democrats who plan on attending regardless of what the president does.

Last year, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam and Republican leaders in the General Assembly invited Trump and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to speak at the commemoration event, according to the event’s organizers, 2019 Commemoration, an organization run by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

In a statement released on Saturday, the group said that Pelosi declined the invitation within the last two weeks and that the White House had made no public announcement about Trump’s plans.

But Democratic lawmakers in the General Assembly reacted swiftly to  a report by the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Friday naming the president as a possible attendee.

In a statement released hours after the article’s publication, the House and Senate Democratic caucuses said Trump doesn’t represent the values that will be celebrated at the event, and urged the event’s organizers to “send him back,” in a reference to  Trump’s racist remarks to four Democratic congresswomen of color.

GOP House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert accused his Democratic colleagues of hypocrisy given the allegations of racism against Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, and sexual assault allegations levied against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.

“Now they’re turning their backs on an event marking 400 years of democracy, before taking time to learn that the leader of their own party was the one who invited the President,” said Gilbert (R-Shenandoah).

The possible boycott puts Democratic lawmakers at odds with other members of their party, including Congresswoman Elaine Luria and Fairfax, who say they’ll still attend.

It remains unclear if the Democratic caucus was aware of Northam’s role in extending an invitation to the president before releasing their statement. A spokesperson for the caucus said their boycott was limited to remarks by Trump rather than the event as a whole.

A spokesperson for the governor said he would speak at an event earlier in the day but didn’t respond to questions on whether he would attend Trump’s speech if the president accepts Northam’s invitation.


Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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