Maxine Waters on Why She Decided ‘to Take the Gloves Off and Go for It’

Congresswoman Maxine Waters has earned the nickname “Auntie Maxine.” Photo: Chelsea Lauren/Getty Images for BET

The moment Maxine Waters told an MSNBC reporter back in January that James Comey, the director of the FBI, had “no credibility,” she positioned herself as a fierce opponent of the new administration. The California congresswoman made her message even plainer when she boycotted Donald Trump’s inauguration (“I don’t honor him, I don’t respect him, and I don’t want to be involved with him,” she said by way of explanation), spoke at the Women’s March on Washington, and began pushing those in Congress to demand an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.

Now, nearly 100 days into Trump’s presidency, Waters has earned the nicknameauntie of the resistance,” and she plans to uphold the title until the president is booted from office — something she says is inevitable, given his connections to what she calls the “Kremlin Klan.” Speaking to the Cut, Waters discussed why she decided to go gloves-off, what Democrats should be doing now, and how she learned what “shade” meant.

On deciding to oppose Donald Trump:

During the campaign, I was appalled at the way that he mocked a disabled journalist. I was appalled at the statements he made about grabbing women in their private parts. I was appalled by the way he treated Hillary Clinton — I was at the debate in St. Louis where he stalked her. He’s a bully, he’s disrespectful of other human beings, and he’s cruel. So all of those things weighed heavily on me and helped formulate my commitment to oppose him.

I didn’t have a plot or a plan or a strategy; I didn’t sit down and say “I’m going to do this.” I knew there were people who would be more cautious and a bit concerned about stepping out too far. [But] I decided to forget about caution. I decided to take the gloves off and to go for it.

On that mysterious impeachment tweet:

I’m highly motivated to do everything that I can to stop this man from serving a full term, let alone two terms. [And] I know that if the work is done and the dots can be connected, it would warrant impeachment. This country cannot tolerate the fact that someone worked with Russia to undermine our democracy. If those facts are articulated and defined in ways people can understand, I [don’t] think people could afford to stand with him — not even our most conservative colleagues in Congress could claim “patriotism” if they are witnessing collusion with Putin. [So] I’m convinced that [impeachment] is very possible as the facts roll out.

On her connection with millennials:

There’s a lot of talk about, “What do we do to attract other millennials? What do we do to get them involved? How can we approach them?” And what I’m discovering is that, instead of doing outreach that doesn’t connect, if you appear to be speaking truth to power, and if you’re willing to fight, and if you’re willing to take the shackles off this political way that we communicate, they connect on their own. They like what they hear, they like what they see, they’re inspired by it, then they get involved.

I want to be the kind of elected official who not only pays attention, but who acts on behalf of people — just average people. Fancy lobbyists get to tell their story, but the average person doesn’t. And now our young people are telling their stories in so many ways, and I’m learning a lot. When they first talked about me putting “shade” on the FBI director, I had to go to my grandkids and say, “What’s shade?”

On what Democrats should be doing now:

I think the Democrats’ role is to be vocal. We should educate [people] and make sure that the information is not just sound bites on television. A lot of young people did not go through these confrontations we’ve had with Russia under past leaders, and some people’s lives just don’t allow them to pay attention. [But] I think that educating them and helping them to think about Russia as a real problem will work.

We [also] have to focus on taking back the House and the Senate — we have to energize folks and elect people who have the best interest of the average person at heart. We’re not going to be able to stop some of these cuts that are being proposed; that time would be better spent letting the American people know that he’s dangerous for this country. Trump [cannot] be in this position for four years — this country cannot take it.

On women’s role in opposing Trump:

Women are energized. [At] the Women’s March they said, in so many different, creative ways, that they were going to fight. That they were not going to allow this president and this administration to trample on women’s rights. Women are prepared to run for office. They’re prepared to show up. Oh yeah, women have big roles to play, and they have stepped up to the plate already.

Maxine Waters on Why She Decided ‘to Take the Gloves Off’