Rep. Keith Ellison has been ramping up his aggressive campaign to chair the Democratic National Committee. After he was dealt a few setbacks — getting labeled an “anti-Semite” by Haim Saban, seeing former VP Joe Biden’s endorsement go to Tom Perez — he has been emboldened over the past week in the face of President Donald Trump’s most controversial action yet: the ban on immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries.
Or as Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress, calls it: the “Muslim ban.”
During a new interview with Matthew Segal, co-founder of the social news platform ATTN:, Ellison said he thinks using the term “travel ban” is nothing but a “euphemism” for something much uglier. “It’s a Muslim ban,” Ellison said, pointing to Trump’s use of those words during the Republican primary. “He’s all shy about calling it a Muslim ban now, but we call it that because he started it.”
But at the same time, Ellison said he does not view the ban through the prism of being a Muslim as much as he does through the lense of being an American. “Do I feel it personally? I’ll admit, yes I do,” he said. “But mostly, it’s like, this is the United States, and we don’t tell people what to believe.” Discussing the possibility that Trump could create a Muslim database, Ellison wondered if it would include his 20-year-old daughter.
Ellison went on to say that he has faith that the court system will continue to strike down Trump’s ban, because it is “fundamentally un-American and violates our core morals and legal system.” He praised the conservative judges who have been ruling against the Republican president for “having some fidelity to the rule of law.”
The congressman’s harshest rhetoric came in response to a series of tweets President Trump posted that indicated he would blame the “so-called judge” and the courts in general if a terror attack happens. “This is the typical behavior of a dictator,” Ellison said. “What they do is try to carve into a group of people’s rights and they do it by saying, ‘I’m here to protect you and only I can protect you.’ And then if anything goes wrong, they exploit it to say, ‘See? You should have given up your rights so that I could protect you.’”
Asked which Trump cabinet appointee worries him most on the issue of civil rights, Ellison did not hesitate to say, “Without a doubt, Jeff Sessions,” adding, "We should fight him tooth and nail.”
“He was so racist, he couldn't even be confirmed as a federal judge back in the 1980s," he added of Sessions, predicting that he will “make things even worse” between police and communities.
As for the future of the Democratic Party, Ellison said that it needs to reclaim its place as “the party of working people,” focusing on unions and fair trade and speaking directly to those constituents in a way that was perhaps done better by Bernie Sanders, who has endorsed him for DNC chair, than it was by the Hillary Clinton campaign. “That way, we come back big time,” he concluded.