Amid Resignation Calls, Missouri Democrat Apologizes to Trump for Assassination Comment

Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal apologized on Sunday for a Facebook post that hoped for the assassination of President Donald Trump, saying, "I made a mistake."

By Celeste Bott

Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal apologized on Sunday for a Facebook post that hoped for the assassination of President Donald Trump, saying, "I made a mistake."

But the Democrat, who has faced a deafening chorus of critics insisting she should resign, did not indicate any willingness to do so.

At a news conference at Wellspring Church in Ferguson on Sunday, she said she had made a mistake and let others down. She had said much the same last week, but on Sunday she went further, apologizing to the president.

"President Trump, I apologize to you and your family," she said.

She extended that contrition to all Missourians and her colleagues in the state Legislature.

"I am a servant of God, and I am a servant of the people I represent. And I failed them both recently," Chappelle-Nadal said. "I have learned my lesson."

The backlash was swift after an exchange on Facebook on Thursday in which Chappelle-Nadal wrote, "I hope Trump is assassinated!" -- a post she promptly deleted.

Chappelle-Nadal later admitted the remark was wrong, saying that she had succumbed to frustration over events in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month in which a white supremacist protester drove a car through a group of counterprotesters, killing a woman, 32.

Trump, a Republican, later asserted that "both sides" of the protests were to blame for the violence, drawing criticism across the political spectrum.

Plenty of Missouri Democrats have expressed outrage at Trump's reaction. But threatening the president is a federal crime, and her hastily deleted Facebook post has already prompted a Secret Service investigation and could cost Chappelle-Nadal her job, whether she leaves of her own accord or not.

Missouri's highest-ranking elected officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, have demanded that Chappelle-Nadal step down from her position. State Senate leaders have given her an ultimatum: Resign, or be expelled.

The latter option is so rare even Senate Majority Leader Mike Kehoe acknowledged that senators and staff were researching the process. Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Parson, the president of the Missouri Senate, has asked state Attorney General Josh Hawley to review the applicability of a constitutional provision allowing senators to expel colleagues with a two-thirds vote.

Initially floated as action to be taken during the September veto session, Senate administrators told the Post-Dispatch last week that it might not be allowed under the rules. But Gov. Eric Greitens or the Senate could call a special session to do it, they said.

Greitens, a Republican, has already urged the Senate to expel the controversial state senator should she not quit voluntarily.

The part-time Legislature works from January to May, during a typically brief veto session in September and whenever special sessions are called. For Chappelle-Nadal, first elected to the Senate in 2010, the 2018 regular session would be her last because of term limits.

Chappelle-Nadal has been defiant when asked if she'll depart before then. On Sunday she declined to take questions from reporters but indicated her position had not changed.

"I will continue to fight for issues that are really important," she said.

She has maintained that she still has her supporters, circulating a petition website where her defenders can urge her to continue representing her district with online signatures and donations. As she spoke on Sunday, some of those supporters stood behind her wielding a sign that read: "We stand with Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal because she stands with us."

Umar Lee, a local activist who gained notoriety during the Ferguson protests, said there was a great deal of fake outrage over a comment that was quickly deleted.

"A hope is not an action. This is a mountain out of a molehill," Lee said.

Since the incident, Chappelle-Nadal has retweeted messages of solidarity and condemnation. Her supporters have defended her record as a legislator in a district that encompasses Ferguson, praising her response to the unrest there after Michael Brown was killed by a police officer.

"It takes a very big person to admit when you've said something or done something that was wrong. To this day, we have yet to receive an apology from the city of Ferguson for the way that they've treated us," said Fran Griffin, a Ferguson resident who attended the news conference.

A number of her detractors have sent her messages laced with racist epithets, including the N-word, calling her "nappy headed," "a cotton picker," and insisting she deserves to be raped, beaten or as one user put it, "run over by President Trump's Limo. Lol."

Speaking to reporters in Ferguson on Sunday afternoon, Chappelle-Nadal requested that media outlets not publish the location of the news conference ahead of time because she'd been receiving a high volume of death threats.

(c)2017 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.