Trump digs in amid cen­sure of racist tweets about law­mak­ers

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — In­ject­ing race into his crit­i­cism of lib­eral Democrats, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said four con­gress­women of color should go back to the “bro­ken and crime in­fested” coun­tries they came from, ig­nor­ing the fact that all of the women are Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and three were born in the U.S. His at­tack drew a sear­ing con­dem­na­tion from Democrats who la­beled the re­marks racist and breath­tak­ingly di­vi­sive.

Even as White House of­fi­cials moved Mon­day to de­fend his in­cen­di­ary week­end tweets, Trump re­fused to apol­o­gize and asked 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.

Trump had starkly in­jected race into his crit­i­cism of lib­eral Democrats over the week­end, draw­ing sear­ing con­dem­na­tion from Democrats who la­beled the re­marks racist and breath­tak­ingly di­vi­sive.

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 not mak­ing a “uni­ver­sal state­ment.”

But Trump didn’t make that dis­tinc­tion in his Mon­day tweets. He cited “Con­gress­women” — an al­most-cer­tain ref­er­ence to a group of women known as “the squad” that in­cludes Omar, Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-cortez of New

York, Ayanna Press­ley of Mas­sachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michi­gan.

“I don’t think that the pres­i­dent’s in­tent any way is racist,” said Short, re­peat­edly point­ing to Trump’s de­ci­sion to choose Elaine Chao, who was born out­side the coun­try, as his trans­porta­tion sec­re­tary.

“The ad­min­is­tra­tion is wel­com­ing of all na­tion­al­i­ties into the United States,” he said.

Even as Short spoke, Trump, who has a long his­tory of mak­ing racist re­marks, con­tin­ued to fan the flames, tweet­ing, “If Democrats want to unite around the foul lan­guage & racist ha­tred spewed from the mouths and ac­tions of these very un­pop­u­lar & un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive Con­gress­women, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how it plays out.”

Omar ig­nited a bi­par­ti­san up­roar in Wash­ing­ton sev­eral months ago when she sug­gested that mem­bers of Congress sup­port Israel for money, while Tlaib riled up a sup­port­ive crowd by call­ing the pres­i­dent a pro­fan­ity and pre­dict­ing that Trump would be re­moved from of­fice.

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 the pres­i­dent.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wants to “make Amer­ica white again.” Oca­sio-cortez, af­ter joust­ing for days with Pelosi, 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 hate­filled agenda.”

Rep. Ha­keem Jef­fries of New York, chair­man of the House Demo­cratic Cau­cus, summed up the Demo­cratic re­sponse: “Racial ar­son­ist strikes again. Shut. Your. Reck­less. Mouth.”

With his tweet, Trump in­serted him­self fur­ther into a rift be­tween Pelosi and Oca­sio-cortez, just two days af­ter he of­fered an un­so­licited de­fense of the Demo­cratic speaker. Pelosi has been seek­ing to min­i­mize Oca­sio-cortez’s in­flu­ence in the House Demo­cratic cau­cus in re­cent days, prompt­ing Oca­siocortez to ac­cuse Pelosi of try­ing to marginal­ize women of color.

On Sun­day, Trump’s tone took a turn.

“So in­ter­est­ing to see ‘Pro­gres­sive’ Demo­crat Con­gress­women, who orig­i­nally came from coun­tries whose govern­ments are a com­plete and to­tal catas­tro­phe, the worst, most cor­rupt and in­ept any­where in the world (if they even have a func­tion­ing gov­ern­ment at all), now loudly and vi­ciously telling the peo­ple of the United States, the great­est and most pow­er­ful Na­tion on earth, how our gov­ern­ment is to be run,” he tweeted.

“Why don’t they go back and help fix the to­tally bro­ken and crime in­fested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”

He added: “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough.

I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel ar­range­ments!”

The at­tacks may have been meant to widen the di­vides within the Demo­crat cau­cus, which has been riven by in­ter­nal de­bate over how far left to go in coun­ter­ing Trump and over whether to pro­ceed with im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against the pres­i­dent. In­stead, the pres­i­dent’s tweets, which evoked the trope of telling black peo­ple to go back to Africa, brought Democrats to­gether.

For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent

Joe Bi­den, the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial front-run­ner, tweeted Sun­day that Trump “con­tin­ues to spew hate­ful rhetoric, sow di­vi­sion, and stoke racial ten­sions for his own po­lit­i­cal gain.”

“Let’s be clear about what this vile com­ment is: A racist and xeno­pho­bic at­tack on Demo­cratic con­gress­women,” tweeted Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, a Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

An­other 2020 con­tender, for­mer Texas Rep. Beto O’rourke, tweeted at the pres­i­dent: “This is racist. These con­gress­women are every bit as Amer­i­can as you — and rep­re­sent our val­ues bet­ter than you ever will.”

Few Repub­li­cans weighed in on the pres­i­dent’s com­ments. Con­gres­sional lead­ers, in­clud­ing Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell, did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment, nor did Sen. Tim. Scott of South Carolina, the only Repub­li­can black se­na­tor.

Trump ap­peared un­bowed Sun­day night when he re­turned to Twit­ter to say it was “so sad” to see Democrats stick­ing up for the women. “If the Demo­crat Party wants to con­tinue to con­done such dis­grace­ful be­hav­ior,” he tweeted, “then we look even more for­ward to see­ing you at the bal­lot box in 2020!”

It was far from the first time that Trump has been ac­cused of hold­ing racist views.

In his cam­paign kick­off in June 2015, Trump deemed many Mex­i­can im­mi­grants “rapists.” In 2017, he said there good peo­ple on “both sides” of the clash in Char­lottesvill­e, Vir­ginia, be­tween white su­prem­a­cists and anti-racist demon­stra­tors that left one counter-pro­tester dead. Last year, dur­ing a pri­vate White House meet­ing on im­mi­gra­tion, Trump won­dered why the United States was ad­mit­ting so many im­mi­grants from “shit­hole coun­tries” like African na­tions.

Re­peat­edly, Trump has painted ar­riv­ing im­mi­grants as an “in­fes­ta­tion” and he has been slow in con­demn­ing acts of vi­o­lence com­mit­ted by white su­prem­a­cists. And he launched his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer with false claims that Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

De­spite his his­tory of racist re­marks, Trump has paid lit­tle penalty in his own party.

Though a broad ar­ray of Repub­li­cans did speak out against his re­ac­tion to Char­lottesvill­e, they have largely held their tongues oth­er­wise, whether it be on mat­ter of race or any other Trump provo­ca­tion. Fear­ful of his Twit­ter ac­count and sweep­ing pop­u­lar­ity among Repub­li­can vot­ers, GOP law­mak­ers have largely tried to ig­nore the provoca­tive state­ments.

Sen. Kamala Har­ris, a Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial hope­ful from Cal­i­for­nia, tweeted, “Let’s call the pres­i­dent’s racist at­tack ex­actly what it is: un-amer­i­can.”

Oca­sio-cortez, who is of Puerto Ri­can de­scent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in sub­ur­ban Westch­ester County.

Press­ley, the first black woman elected to the House from Mas­sachusetts, was born in Cincin­nati.

Omar, the first So­mali na­tive elected to Congress and one of its first Mus­lim women, was born in So­ma­lia but spent much of her child­hood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home coun­try. She im­mi­grated to the United States at age 12, teach­ing her­self English by watch­ing Amer­i­can TV and even­tu­ally set­tling with her fam­ily in Min­neapo­lis.

Tlaib was born in Detroit.

AP

In this com­bi­na­tion im­age, from left, are Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-mich., Il­han Omar, D-minn., Alexan­dria Oca­sio-cortez, D-NY., and Ayanna Press­ley, D-mass. In tweets Sun­day, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump por­trays the law­mak­ers as foreign-born trou­ble­mak­ers who should go back to their home coun­tries. In fact, the law­mak­ers, ex­cept one, were born in the U.S.

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