For years, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and other progressive congresswomen of color have endured the full brunt of Donald Trump’s xenophobic solicitations.
The president—who instructed Democrats in the Squad to “go back” to “broken and crime infested” foreign countries—has enjoyed the steady support of Republicans who have labeled the Muslim representative a “threat” who wants to “shred” the Constitution, questioned her loyalty to the United States, and even implied she should be killed.
In the aftermath of Wednesday’s domestic terrorist attack, aides and allies say that is why she instinctively knew, even as rioters were still inside the Capitol, that accountability measures needed to be delivered swiftly as the situation became increasingly dire. For Omar, that took the form of a new impeachment plan.
“When you’re the target of really ugly personal attacks based on your race or religion ... and then those same group of people do a broad-based attack on everyone, you may come to the conclusion quicker than others that action needs to be taken,” said Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison in an interview with The Daily Beast. “They basically assaulted the Capitol in opposition to multi-racial democracy. They don’t want it. They don’t believe in it, which explains perfectly why they were waving their Confederate flags.”
Ellison, a fellow Muslim American, has watched in horror as Omar has sustained countless threats while serving in office. At times, the racist rhetoric came from the now-defeated White House leader at the podium.
“Trump told Minnesota, specifically, to rail and spew hatred against Ilhan herself, personally,” Ellison said, referencing a moment when the commander-in-chief falsely charged that Omar “hates our country,” inspiring outrage rooted in Islamophobia. “If you don’t confront it, it’s going to become worse,” he said.
As the violence inside the Capitol escalated, Omar was taken to a secure location with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) due to her high-security risk, according to an aide familiar with the events. It was there, according to the aide, that she started retooling the impeachment articles she had started drawing up in response to Trump’s attempt to pressure Georgia officials to meddle in the election. Yahoo News first reported that Omar made changes to her initial document from a secure location and that she was with top leaders in Congress.
“It was House and Senate leadership, plus Ilhan Omar,” the aide said.
Congressional progressives quickly rallied virtually to elevate her public impeachment declaration. “I am ready to impeach him again,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), a close ally of Omar’s and fellow Squad member, wrote on Twitter. Freshman Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) called the actions from Republican officeholders “gaslighting.”
Omar’s draft came as Judiciary Committee members David Cicilline (D-RI), Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) wrote their own articles the same afternoon. Omar has signed on to those articles, which are expected to be voted on Wednesday on the House floor. The impeachment resolution, the second during Trump’s presidency, charges him with “incitement of insurrection” and includes some language from Omar’s version, according to the aide.
“She has really been a favorite target,” said George Goehl, executive director of People’s Action. “I listen to a lot of right-wing radio and study the right and it’s amazing how consistent that is. It makes so much sense that she was one of the first to get the ball rolling, to not hedge her bets or wonder if this is the right thing or run it through 70 strategic lenses.”
Other House Democrats on the left who have long suffered threats are asking for a range of additional consequences. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)—a fixation of Trump and conservatives who baselessly contend that, eventually, she will turn America into a socialist hell—has elevated her colleagues’ initiatives, while warning on network news that this “will happen again” without drastic changes. Like Omar, Ocasio-Cortez has been a particular obsession of GOP players who often link her ethnicity to her support for increased government involvement to solve inequalities.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), another Squad member entering into her second term, asked the Oversight Committee to thoroughly investigate the nationalist-spurred crimes, while joining newly-elected Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) in rebuking Republicans’ cynical attempts at unity. “I don’t want to unite with those responsible for the insurrection at our nation’s Capitol. I want us to unite in holding them accountable,” Bush wrote on Monday night, to which Pressley replied: “That part.”
Bush, who was elected last November after primarying Rep. Lacy Clay (D-MO), announced that she was writing a bill to “investigate and expel” GOP members who “incited” the attacks. She formally introduced it on Monday afternoon.
After campaigning heavily on police reform, the Missouri progressive identifies as a Black Lives Matter activist. She has defended the need to bring that approach to law enforcement, which became especially relevant after the security breach. “Many have said that what transpired on Wednesday was not America. They are wrong. This is the America that Black people know,” Bush wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Saturday, explaining how parts of her own background informed her perception of the attack.
“To declare that this is not America is to deny the reality that Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate incited this coup by treasonously working to overturn the results of the presidential election,” she wrote.
After Bush stated her desire to expel members through legislative action, activist groups and aligned media figures quickly latched on to the idea of liability for those who helped inspire or aid the deadly riots. Middle Seat, a progressive digital firm backing Democratic insurgents, bought the domain “GOPCoup.com” to gather signatures for Bush’s cause.
“If people go without consequences, what does it look like when we’re trying to advocate for our issues but we’re facing white supremacist violence?” said Nelini Stamp, a director at Working Families Party, which endorsed Bush’s bid in the state’s first congressional district. “It is important that we set the precedent that we must act so that we can organize later.”
While Democrats struggled to narrowly hold on to a majority in the lower chamber in Congress, progressives managed to expand their Squad to six members. In addition to Bush, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) joined the group of close-knit ideologues who often amplify each others’ pleas for policy changes. In the case of the lawlessness at the Capitol, some argue that the decisive responses from members of color encapsulates both the power of and need for more representation within the highest ranks of the party.
“You’ve got to have a diverse group in leadership,” Ellison said. “People who know what it means to be the target of racist, religious bigotry. They’re not going to stop. What happened, happened.”