Trump digs in against Dem congresswomen; they're firing back
WASHINGTON – Unfazed by widespread criticism, President Donald Trump on Monday intensified his incendiary comments about four Democratic congresswomen of color, urging them to get out if they don’t like things going on in America.
They fired back at what they called his “xenophobic bigoted remarks” and said it was time for impeachment.
Late Monday, after Trump defended his calling for the lawmakers to go back to their “broken and crime infested” countries, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said Trump “does not know how to defend his policies and so what he does is attack us personally.”
Trump said condemnation of his comments, including belatedly from some Republicans, “doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”
“The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four “progressives,” but now they are forced to embrace them,” Trump boasted. “That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!”
The president responded to questions at the White House after his Sunday tweet assailing the lawmakers, all of whom are U.S. citizens and three of whom were born here.
He has been roundly criticized by Democrats who labeled his remarks racist and divisive. A smattering of Republicans also have objected, though most leading Republicans have been silent.
Trump, resurrecting language not prevalent in the U.S. for decades, said Monday that if the lawmakers “hate our country,” they “can leave” it.
“If you’re not happy in the U.S., if you’re complaining all the time, you can leave, you can leave right now,” he said. The lawmakers’ criticism has been largely aimed at Trump and his administration’s policies and actions.
It was yet another sign that Trump, who won the presidency in 2016 in part by energizing disaffected voters with incendiary racial rhetoric, has no intention of backing away from that strategy going in 2020.
Trump has faced few consequences for such attacks, which typically earn him cycles of front-page media attention.
Earlier Monday, Trump made clear he had no intention of backing down, asking on Twitter when “the Radical Left Congresswomen” would “apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said.”
“So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!” he wrote.
Asked whether Trump’s comments were racist, Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, defended Trump, telling reporters he had been responding to “very specific” comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia, and was not making a “universal statement.”
But Trump didn’t make that distinction in his tweets. He cited “Congresswomen” — an almost-certain reference to a group of women who have labeled themselves “the squad” that includes Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
At a news conference late Monday, Pressley said Americans should “not take the bait” from Trump and should instead focus on their own agenda, even as the lawmakers called for Democrats to take up impeachment proceedings against the president.
Defending Trump, Short, Pence’s chief of staff, pointed to the president’s choice of Elaine Chao, who was born outside the country, as his transportation secretary.
Chao is one of the few minorities working among the largely white and male aides in high-profile roles in Trump’s administration. She is the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who declined to make any comment on Trump’s attacks.
Omar ignited a bipartisan uproar in Washington several months ago when she suggested that some members of Congress support Israel because of money, while Tlaib riled up a supportive crowd by calling the president a profane name and predicting he would be removed from office.
Trump on Monday singled out Omar, in particular, accusing her of having “hatred” for Israel, and expressing “love” for “enemies like al-Qaida.”
“These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country,” he said.
Omar, in an interview, once laughed about how a college professor had spoken of al-Qaida with an intensity she said was not used to describe “America,” ”England” or “The Army.”
Following a familiar script, Republicans remained largely silent after Trump’s Sunday morning broadsides that caused Democrats to set aside their internal rifts to rise up in a united chorus against him.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wants to “make America white again,” while Ocasio-Cortez said Trump “can’t conceive of an America that includes us.”
“Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States,” she tweeted, adding that, “You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.”
Omar also addressed herself directly to Trump in a tweet, writing: “You are stoking white nationalism (because) you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda.” /gsg