Trump won’t back down af­ter tweet

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By John T. Bennett

WASHINGTON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is not back­ing down af­ter call­ing on mi­nor­ity Demo­cratic con­gress­women to “go back” to the coun­tries of their an­ces­try, tweet­ing on Mon­day that they should apol­o­gize — not him.

The pres­i­dent on Sun­day drew im­me­di­ate out­rage from Demo­cratic mem­bers and other crit­ics when he lashed out at a hand­ful of fresh­man House Democrats

who have been in a war of words with Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Cal­i­for­nia while also sharply crit­i­ciz­ing Trump since be­fore they took of­fice in Jan­uary. They also sup­port im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against him, some­thing that has an­gered him for months.

He took to Twit­ter be­fore a round of golf Sun­day — he also played Satur­day at his Ster­ling, Va., club — to say Reps. Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez of New York, Il­han Omar of Min­nesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michi­gan and Ayanna S. Press­ley of Mas­sachusetts all orig­i­nally are from “com­plete and to­tal catas­tro­phe, the worst, most cor­rupt and in­ept any­where in the world.”

(FACT CHECK: Three of the women are United States ci­ti­zens who were born here. Omar was born in So­ma­lia, but is a U.S. cit­i­zen.)

Trump then fired off a sec­ond Sun­day tweet with this broad­side that likely will please his con­ser­va­tive base: “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.”

But as the work­week be­gan, Trump did what he so of­ten does with his rhetor­i­cal bat­tles: He dou­bled down. (On pol­icy mat­ters, how­ever, he has shown a pat­tern of talk­ing tough be­fore back­ing down. He did so again last week with his de­ci­sion to drop a push to add a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion to the cen­sus.)

The White House on Mon­day ze­roed in on Omar, who was pres­sured into apol­o­giz­ing ear­lier this year for com­ments even many Democrats de­scribed as anti-Semetic.

“If the Democrats choose to want to unite around Omar, it’ll be in­ter­est­ing to see how that plays out for them,” Marc Short, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s chief of staff, said in a TV in­ter­view.

Short, who has been Trump’s top con­gres­sional en­voy and a lead­ing pub­lic de­fender, urged crit­ics who call the pres­i­dent “racist” to look at the “re­al­ity of who serves in Don­ald Trump’s Cabi­net.” Just what Short meant is un­clear be­cause most of Trump’s Cabi­net is white; Hous­ing and Urban De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary Ben Car­son is black and Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Elaine Chao was born in Taipei and has Chi­nese par­ents.

Short con­tended that Trump’s Sun­day tweet was him “mak­ing a point about a great frus­tra­tion that a lot of people feel: It’s hard to find any­thing that Ilan-Omar has said since elected to Congress that’s pos­i­tive about the United States of Amer­ica.”

Trump used a tweet about an hour af­ter his first Mon­day morn­ing post to echo Short.

“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,” he wrote. “I can tell you that they have made Is­rael feel aban­doned by the U.S.”

(FACT CHECK: Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to pro­vide mil­i­tary aid to Is­rael, and Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton was just there amid ten­sions with Iran. In fact, at about $3.8 bil­lion a year, Is­rael gets more Amer­i­can mil­i­tary aid than any other coun­try.)

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers have mostly been mum since the pres­i­dent’s Sun­day tweet. For them, push­ing back on a chief ex­ec­u­tive that is so pop­u­lar with their shared con­ser­va­tive base would risk Trump find­ing a right-wing pri­mary chal­lenger that might de­feat them. (Trump still polls in the high 80% level with Repub­li­can vot­ers, and even higher with staunch con­ser­va­tives.)

Trump on Mon­day, as he of­ten does, cast him­self as the vic­tim.

“When will the Rad­i­cal Left Con­gress­women 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,” he tweeted Mon­day morn­ing. “So many people are an­gry at them & their hor­ri­ble & dis­gust­ing ac­tions!”

Trump’s de­ci­sion to at­tack the so-called “Squad,” a nick­name the four fresh­man con­gress­women have taken on, comes amid his high­est ap­proval rat­ings since he took of­fice. A Washington Post-ABC News sur­vey put his ap­proval rat­ing at 47 per­cent; it had hov­ered around 40% for most of his term.

Pelosi and other Democrats, in­clud­ing the ones to which Trump was al­lud­ing, quickly re­sponded, with the speaker call­ing his tweets “xeno­pho­bic com­ments meant to di­vide our na­tion.” And Oca­sioCortez posted a se­ries of tweets, in­clud­ing one that had this mes­sage for the pres­i­dent: “Mr. Pres­i­dent, the coun­try I ‘come from,’ & the coun­try we all swear to, is the United States.

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