How Activists are Forcing Democrats To Stand Up To President Trump

January 31st 2017

Kyle Jaeger

Liberal activists are celebrating after Senate Democrats delayed a committee vote on President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R), on Tuesday. They attribute the forceful Democratic opposition to Sessions, in part, to activist efforts in the days leading up to the vote.


The committee was expected to confirm Sessions, but Democrats used a procedural tactic to postpone the vote until Wednesday, invoking what's called the "two-hours rule." After committee members were given a break in order to vote on Trump's transportation secretary nominee, Elaine Chao, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) applied to rule, which prohibits committee meetings from commencing or recommencing more than two hours after the start of the day.

Sessions is still likely to be confirmed for the role, but Tuesday's procedural move by Democrats is a thorn in the side of Trump and Senate Republicans. 

Though numerous Democratic lawmakers have spoken out against Sessions, activists worried that California Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) — the current ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee — would vote "yes" given her recent track record of supporting all five Trump nominees that she's voted on this year, as well as her relative silence on Sessions until Tuesday. In anticipation of the committee meeting, activist groups scheduled demonstrations at Feinstein's California offices and even outside her home in the San Francisco area.

"I believe Mr. Trump is a terrific gift to progressives," Michael Petrelis, a community activist based in San Francisco who co-organized Sunday's protest outside Feinstein's house, told ATTN:. "As horrible as his policies are, the galvanizing of democracy activists is an incredible thing to be witnessing."

Petrelis said he was surprised by the turnout of 200 people outside Feinstein's home on Sunday, which took place as about 2,000 people descended upon San Francisco International Airport to protest Trump's executive order on immigration.

"In the context of impromptu organizing, we were not sure if we would get even 20 people to actually show up — because we thought so many were going to the airport protests," Petrelis said. And as far as the effect of the protest on Feinstein's vote Tuesday, he felt the effort "influenced her to be more aggressive today opposing Trump."

Feinstein was assertive in her criticisms of Sessions during Monday's committee hearing, and questioned the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order restricting the entry residents from seven Muslim majority countries in the United States. She applauded former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who defied the president’s order on the basis of its legality in a letter Monday, and said she had “no confidence that Senator Sessions” would be able to maintain an independent relationship from the White House if confirmed.

Sen. Feinstein's office did not respond to ATTN:'s request for comment.

In addition to protests outside Feinstein's home, about 50 lawyers showed up at her San Francisco office on Monday, urging her to vote "no" on Sessions. Dozens more protested outside her offices in Santa Monica and Westwood, California, The Los Angeles Times reported.