WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Democratic congresswoman kicked off her term with an expletive-laced vow to impeach US President Donald Trump, triggering Republican outrage and testing party discipline a day after Democrats regained the House.
As a clip of Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib's animated comments circulated widely on social media, Trump on Friday (Jan 4) tartly dismissed the threat of impeachment, while the newly elected Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared loath to reign in the congresswoman's language.
"How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93%?" Trump posted on Twitter.
"They only want to impeach me because they know they can't win in 2020, too much success!"
At an event hours after her swearing-in on Thursday, Tlaib told a cheering crowd of supporters: "People love you. And you win."
"And when your son looks at you and says, 'Momma, look you won, bullies don't win.' And I said, 'Baby, they don't,' because we're gonna go in there and we're gonna impeach the motherf****r."
Salty language by US lawmakers - or presidents, for that matter - is nothing new.
Trump, hardly the paradigm of verbal decency, last year derided African nations as "s***hole" countries, after all.
But the timing and optics of Tlaib's outburst are notable.
Democrats have just seized control of the House of Representatives, after eight years in the minority.
Tlaib, 42, is one in a cadre of ebullient, media-savvy rising stars - the self-described "radical" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is another - who aim to shake up the Washington status quo.
Such progressives will be eager to push back against an administration they believe has abused its authority in the nearly two years since Trump's inauguration.
Doubling down on her outburst, Tlaib - the first Palestinian-American elected to Congress, and one of the first two Muslim women voted into the chamber - tweeted on Friday: "I will always speak truth to power. #unapologeticallyMe."
NO WORSE THAN TRUMP?
As the chamber's new speaker, the 78-year-old Pelosi is challenged with keeping Trump - as well as the more radical elements of her own party - in check.
Pelosi sought to downplay Tlaib's potty mouth.
"I probably have a generational reaction to it. But in any event I'm not in the censorship business," she told a town hall that aired Friday on MSNBC.
"But I don't think it's any worse than what the president has said."
Republicans have bridled at Tlaib's comments, using them to portray Democrats as politically-motivated opponents seeking retribution against Trump rather than to find common ground.
"We watched a new freshman stand up, use this language, get cheered by their base, and we watched a brand new speaker say nothing to her," top House Republican Kevin McCarthy said.
"That action should not stand."
Democrats who support impeachment have argued that Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI director James Comey, and that hush payments to at least two women made by his personal attorney during the presidential race violated campaign finance laws.
As a long-time Trump critic, Tlaib made calls for his impeachment central to her campaign - and was once arrested for heckling the then-candidate during his White House run.
"The time for impeachment proceedings is now," she wrote in a co-authored op-ed published in the Detroit Free Press newspaper the morning of her entry into Congress.
House Democrat Brad Sherman agrees, and on Thursday formally introduced impeachment measures against Trump. They are unlikely to get a vote on the House floor, at least for now.
Even if Democrats believe some of Trump's actions clear the threshold of "high crimes and misdemeanors," Pelosi has downplayed the prospects of impeachment, saying it's "not something that I'm stirring the pot on."
She wants special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian electoral interference - and possible collusion with Trump's campaign - to run its course before Congress decides about taking such a serious step.