Rep. Maxine Waters says what many are afraid to say about Donald Trump, continually calling him out for corruption and unfitness for office, and lobbying for his impeachment. She's now the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, so she has the power to subpoena Trump's bank records and take a good hard look at his finances — and she's promised to do just that.
With the Democrats now in control of the House and new, progressive colleagues who are just as enthusiastic to take Trump to task, the California Democrat is getting to work. And now that millennial media has "discovered" her (oh please, she's been there all along) and dubbed her Auntie Maxine — all thanks to that "reclaiming my time" meme — she is calling for the younger generation to follow in her footsteps. "I can't be here forever! You've got to come do this stuff, okay?"
In an exclusive interview with Refinery29 as part of her Millennial Media Row event on Tuesday Night, the veteran lawmaker talked about the effects of the government shutdown and the road ahead: not just taking down Trump, but addressing issues that matter to millennials, like student debt.
You've said that you've never seen somebody as "disgusting and disrespectful" as Donald Trump. What do you think his rise says about white male privilege in this country, especially the epidemic of violence against women?
"I think there are a lot of folks in certain areas who are unhappy about their plight. Maybe they live in a little town or community where the businesses closed down, the jobs are not there, and Donald Trump is helping them to think it's somebody else's fault. 'It's those people's fault. Look at all those Black NFL players, making all that money, those SOBs.' I think he's creating the kind of dog-whistling that helps them to think that it's not their fault; it's those 'undeserving' people, those Black people, those Latinos, those people coming across the border. He's dividing this country, and it's extremely dangerous, and we need to impeach him."
As the chair of the Financial Services Committee, you have the power to subpoena Donald Trump's bank documents. Where are we in that process?
"In addition to many of the central issues we have to deal with, like housing and predatory lending, we also have the power to subpoena and to investigate. I'm particularly interested in the sanctions area of that, and I'm working with the other chairpersons — of the Judiciary Committee, the Intelligence Committee, the Ways and Means Committee — and the Ways and Means, they're going to be looking at tax returns. Mr. Adam Schiff [Intelligence Committee Chair] is going to be looking at collusion and obstruction of justice. We are going to call Donald Trump to task. We're going to investigate. And we're going to use the power that we now have to make sure that the American people understand how dangerous this president is."
I think there are a lot of folks who are unhappy about their plight. Donald Trump is helping them to think it's somebody else's fault.
Rep. Maxine Waters
Are you excited to have progressives on your committee like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib? What impact do you think they'll make?
"Absolutely. They're going to be asking the hard questions when these bankers and secretaries come before our committee, and that's needed. We need to take off the gloves. We need to not worry about whether people think we're being nice. We need to be smart, we need to ask tough questions, and we need to take that information and do something with it to change the direction of this country."
Student debt is one of the top issues our generation is concerned about. How do you plan to address it?
"The area that has responsibility for that is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. That's the bureau that they've tried to dismantle. The Republicans hate the CFPB, and when Mr. [Richard] Cordray, who was the director, left [in 2017], they sent Mr. [Mick] Mulvaney over, who was at the Office of Management and Budget, the president sent him to basically undermine the CFPB. ... So we're going to fight to maintain that bureau, to strengthen it, and not allow them to undermine it in such a way that they can't do their job. We know that student debt is causing young people not to be able to buy a house, not to be able to have a quality of life that they deserve after they've gone to school, and we know that America promised them more than that. You know, the lesson was, 'You'll do good, you'll go to school, you'll get some good grades, you'll graduate from college, and then you can go and have a good career.' And a lot of millennials are finding out that is not true."
We know that student debt is causing young people not to be able to buy a house, not to be able to have a quality of life that they deserve, and we know that America promised them more than that.
Rep. Maxine Waters
The partial government shutdown had a long-lasting impact on hundreds of thousands of workers and their families. How do you think it affected Black women specifically?
"The shutdown that was created by the president of the United States had a terrible impact on communities and areas all over this country, and I think it was particularly harmful to Black women. Black women living paycheck-to-paycheck really didn't have anywhere to turn. And then you had [Trump's Commerce Secretary] Wilbur Ross sitting up there, talking about, 'Why don't you just go get a loan?' He's out of touch. They're out of touch. They don't really care. The president is accustomed to bluffing, intimidating. He doesn't care about working people. But he got a lesson this time in what power is all about, and Nancy Pelosi was able to bring him to his knees."
What is your advice to young Black women who want to affect change, but sometimes feel powerless?
"I need to commend young, Black women and millennials for creating the discussion that has been created. Prior to, say, Bernie Sanders' campaign, there was no real discussion going on about millennials and what was happening in their lives. But young women have come alive and Black women have certainly come alive — running for office, talking to elected officials, having ideas about what kind of change we should have and not hesitating to tell it like it is. [And] because alternative media has been created, now they have a voice to talk about what they think and what they feel and to be connected to folks like me who are elected officials, who have been sitting around looking at CNN for too long."
Which women do you think should be on our radar right now?
"I'm really excited about Stacey Abrams, [who is delivering the State of the Union response next week]. She ran a hell of a good campaign, she is very smart, and she got people turned out to vote. They stole that election from her. But she won't give up. She's a fighter, and she's going to keep going. In addition to that, we've got young Black women coming into Congress, like Ayanna Pressley coming out of Boston...so young Black women are understanding that they, too, can not only be elected to office, they can lead this country. And I'm very pleased, so I don't want anybody to be discouraged, I don't want anybody to think, I can't do that. You can. You can do whatever you want to do. I want you to have the confidence and the understanding that you deserve success and you deserve to lead. I can't be here forever! You've got to come do this stuff, okay?"