After winning by a relatively close margin in a Republican-gerrymandered district, Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Va., University students’ representative in the House, has done nothing but harm the interests and welfare of his constituents. He voted against the Equality Act, which would enshrine LGBTQ rights in federal anti-discrimination law. He voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which works in mutliple ways to support and protect survivors of harassment and assault. He voted against improving the abysmal living conditions for undocumented migrants in border patrol custody. And most recently, he has chosen to ignore the incriminating evidence mounting against President Donald Trump and has decided instead to denounce the House’s legitimate impeachment inquiry as a political stunt.
Riggleman claims that he believes in holding the Executive Branch accountable, regardless of who sits in the Oval Office, but his complete denouncement of the impeachment inquiry commenced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and the House Democrats proves the opposite. Riggleman believes that Trump did not engage in any illegal or unethical behavior, even though there is an abundance of evidence found in the whistleblower complaint and the transcript of his phone call with Ukranian President Volodmyr Zelensky. It doesn’t get any clearer than when Trump says to Zelensky, “I would like you to do us a favor” and “you could look into [Hunter Biden].” When Riggleman tells his own constituents that there is no smoking gun, he is simply lying. The bottom line is that there is plenty of evidence for concern about the president going against democratic ideals, yet Riggleman is dismissing them without even considering the severity of this crisis.
And let’s be clear about this level of severity. In this call with Zelensky, Trump leveraged his presidential powers in order to persuade a foreign nation to investigate a political opponent. And since the fallout, he has publicly done the same thing again, encouraging China to also investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. Such actions are a clear violation of federal election law, which states that it is illegal for “a person to solicit, accept, or receive [any contribution of money or other thing of value] from a foreign national.” Trump’s statements have even prompted Ellen Weintraub, the Chair of the Federal Elections Commission, to take to Twitter to remind both Trump and the American public about the existence and purpose of these laws. All in all, the available evidence along with this response indicates that we are operating in very dangerous territory.
Riggleman strongly asserts that Congress has a responsibility to examine the facts and not act on bias, yet this is exactly what he is engaging in when he outright denounces that Trump had any nefarious communications with Ukraine. As someone who wishes to bring “common sense back to Washington,” it is very nonsensical to ignore a possible act of treason committed by the president. He has denounced the investigation as “frustrating,” failing to grasp the reality that maintaining a check on the president and protecting the American people with a comprehensive investigation may naturally entail some frustration. But Riggleman knows what he is doing. In reality, such statements are a guise, an attempt to cover up his own real desire to remain within Trump’s good graces, receive the support of his core base and have a better shot at remaining in office.
Even in light of such partisan antics, we still must hold him to a high standard. The University Democrats demand that Riggleman recognize the severity of this crisis in the Oval Office and the importance of impeachment as a check on a reckless executive branch. Riggleman has already failed us as a member of Congress with his voting record, but respecting democracy should not be a partisan issue. Riggleman’s refusal to acknowledge the possibility of wrongdoing by Trump further reveals his blinders when it comes to the president and the Republican Party, which is something that every single American should be concerned with. Riggleman, as students that reside within your congressional district, we expect a certain level of conduct and commitment to your position as a representative — unfortunately, this is something you have forsaken in your reckless abandonment of our democratic institutions. We deserve better.
The University Democrats are a Contracted Independent Organization at the University of Virginia.