“The resolution before you tonight is not one that would be appropriate to introduce in normal times,” said Representative Aaron Regunberg, “but as many of you know, I, and a whole lot of people in this country feel very strongly that these are not normal times.”
Regunberg (Democrat, District 4, Providence) was introducing H5545, a non-binding resolution “encouraging government officials and citizens to consider the constitutionality and morality of laws and orders emerging from the Trump administration before carrying out such laws and orders.” The resolution is rooted in the Nuremberg principles, specifically principle 4, which declares the individual morally responsible for their behaviors even if they were just following the orders of a superior.
The resolution outlines the ways in which the Donald Trump presidency is “exceedingly dangerous” said Regunberg, “We have a president who has consistently threatened the independence of the judiciary, who is currently under investigation for possible collusion with Russia regarding election interference, whose use of racism in the last election led to his official endorsement by the KKK, and led to a spike in the number of hate crimes committed in the country. That’s really scary to me.”
The Republicans on the committee, Blake Fillipi (Republican, District 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) and Justin Price (Republican, District 39, Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton) took issue with the resolution. Fillipi, an attorney, led the charge like it was a cross examination. Fillipi charged that g specific parts of the resolution stated as fact some allegations that have yet to be proven. For instance, in the third WHEREAS clause (you can read the full resolution below), the resolution states, “Voter suppression measures in North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states may have been a determining factor in the electoral college victory of Donald J. Trump.” Fillipi questioned whether or not there was in fact voter suppression in North Carolina, Florida and Wisconsin.
Regunberg pointed to the onerous voter ID laws in those states, but Fillipi seemed unconvinced.
Fillipi also questioned the validity of the resolution’s claim that the “business conflicts of the Trump Organization are a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and create unknown obligations of Donald J. Trump to the governments of Russia, China, and others.”
Representative Price concurred with Fillipi, saying the resolution makes “unsubstantiated claims” against the president. “I don’t think [the resolution is] good,” said Price, “I think it’s dangerous and could be embarrassing to our state.”
Representative Camille Vella Wilkinson (Democrat, District 21, Warwick), a retired military officer, took issue with the part of the resolution that, “urges all service members and officers in the military and national guard to refuse to engage in violent repression of US citizens and residents engaged in peaceful demonstrations, protests, dissent, and other exercises of First Amendment rights.”
Encouraging the military to refuse orders potentially puts individual members of the military into Fort Leavenworth, said Vella Wilkinson. “He or she would be the subject of a court martial.
“You have to keep in mind, sir, that whether or not you like the president, the president is the commander-in-chief of the military,” said Vella Wilkinson, “When a person puts on the uniform, they temporarily have their civil rights suspended. So they’re not in a position where they can just decide to go along their political or moral teachings. They have to follow orders.”
Representative David Coughlin (Democrat, District 60, Pawtucket) concurred with Representative Fillipi that more proof is needed in the WHEREAS portions of the resolution before he would feel comfortable supporting the RESOLVED portions.
The resolution was considered rather late in the evening, towards the end of the House Judiciary Committee meeting. Still, eight people waited over four hours to speak in favor of the resolution. No one spoke against the resolution except for Fillipi, Price and Coughlin.
Rachel is a retired nurse and a concerned citizen. Her testimony was moving: heartfelt and beautiful.
“When President Trump attacks journalists, calling them the enemy of the people, he sets an example in which the voice of dissent is an enemy that should be silenced. I am determined to fight for the democratic principles that I hold dear.”
Bryan Cahall is a poet and composer from Pawtucket, as becomes obvious when you hear his testimony. When Cahall compared Trump rallies to circuses, Representative Price interrupted, asking, “Are we on the resolution or are we name calling?” (7m11s)
“When Trump calls journalists ‘the enemies of the people’ he is evoking Joseph Stalin,” said Cahall, “When Bannon writes and Trump reads ‘America first’ he is invoking a pro-Nazi organization from over 80 years ago…”
Jane Tucker, of Indivisible RI, sees the resolution as a way to reassure “our children and all the vulnerable people of our state that we’re behind them.
“Even if we are able to block these deportation orders and immigration bans this culture of fear is very real in our state. It’s very present,” said Tucker, “And it’s very concerning for me, for our children that are living here.”
“This resolution should not have been had to be written,” said Jonathan Jacobs, “but it did, because we need to remind ourselves that we, as Rhode Islanders, are obligated to uphold our commitment to protect the civil rights, the human rights and the hope of our Rhode Island family.”
Climate activist Tim DeChristopher argued that the Nuremberg principles were written as a protection for military member’s “innate moral autonomy.”
DeChristopher referenced the part of the resolution that “urges all regulatory officials to avoid suppressing necessary information or providing false information to the American people regarding science, economic data, demographic data, or any other facts necessary to the functioning of a fully informed citizenry.”
“Just this past week,” said DeChristopher, “the Office of Energy and Climate Change within the Department of Energy was told they’re not allowed to use the words ‘climate change’ any more. They’re not allowed to use the word ‘sea level rise.’ They’re not allowed to use the words ‘carbon emission.’ They are being told to withhold and lie to the public, lie to all of you, about an issue of existential importance… We know what the agenda is. We know who the scapegoats are. We know who is being targeted.”
Gregory Waksmulski‘s testimony so upset Representative Price that he interrupted a second time, saying, “I can’t stand this anymore.”
“Okay, then leave,” said House Judiciary Chair Cale Keable (Democrat, District 47, Burrillville, Glocester). “There’s no obligation to be here. You’ve got ten citizens that want to talk, they’re talking about a resolution…”
“Sorry,” said Price, as he left the room.
“I love democracy,” said Waksmulski, continuing his testimony, “I’m learning so much about our representatives.”
Randall Rose was the last speaker. “The important part of the resolution is that it encourages people to uphold our constitutional values… I would support this resolution as a useful reminder no matter who was president, but I think it’s particularly needed now.”
Here’s the full text of the resolution:
ENCOURAGING GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS AND CITIZENS TO CONSIDER THE CONSTITUTIONALITY AND MORALITY OF LAWS AND ORDERS EMERGING FROM THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION BEFORE CARRYING OUT SUCH LAWS AND ORDERS
WHEREAS, The moral principles, democratic institutions, and rule of law of the United States of America are only preserved through the vigilance of the people against threats to liberty, fairness, integrity, independence, and transparency; and
WHEREAS, President Donald J. Trump lost the national popular vote by nearly three
million votes; and
WHEREAS, Voter suppression measures in North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, and other states may have been a determining factor in the electoral college victory of Donald J. Trump; and
WHEREAS, The electoral interference of Russia may have been a determining factor in the electoral college victory of Donald J. Trump; and
WHEREAS, The electoral interference of FBI Director James Comey may have been a
determining factor in the electoral college victory of Donald J. Trump; and
WHEREAS, The business conflicts of the Trump Organization are a clear violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution and create unknown obligations of Donald J. Trump to the governments of Russia, China, and others; and
WHEREAS, President Donald J. Trump refuses to disclose his financial obligations and liabilities through the release of his tax returns as has been the norm for modern presidents; and
WHEREAS, The Trump regime continues to use the Office of the Presidency to illegally promote the private profit of the Trump brands and intimidate private companies; and
WHEREAS, President Donald J. Trump continues to disregard the constitutional separation of powers and threatens the independence of the judiciary branch; now, therefore be it
RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby urges all government officials and citizens who are tasked with enforcing the laws and edicts of the Trump regime to carefully consider the legitimacy, constitutionality and morality of those laws and edicts before enforcing them; and be it further
RESOLVED, That this House urges all service members and officers in the military and national guard to refuse to engage in violent repression of US citizens and residents engaged in peaceful demonstrations, protests, dissent, and other exercises of First Amendment rights; and be it further
RESOLVED, That this House urges border and immigration officials to refuse to implement unconstitutional discrimination based on religion or ethnicity; and be it further
RESOLVED, That this House urges all regulatory officials to avoid suppressing necessary information or providing false information to the American people regarding science, economic data, demographic data, or any other facts necessary to the functioning of a fully informed citizenry; and be it further
RESOLVED, That this House urges national security and judiciary officials to hold the Trump regime accountable to previously established legal standards; and be it further
RESOLVED, That this House calls upon all citizens serving on jury duty to use the temporary powers granted to them to protect their fellow citizens from draconian repressions based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, class, or political expression. The house moreover recognizes that the moral responsibility of upholding the fundamental principles, rights, and protections of our nation is a responsibility shared by all people in our society; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and hereby is authorized and directed to transmit duly certified copies of this resolution to the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation.