WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump doubled down on Monday on his widely criticized suggestion that four Latina, Muslim or black Democratic congresswomen should “leave” the country because they “hate it,” while the Democratic opposition and some Republican lawmakers accused him of racism and white supremacism.
A day after implying on Twitter that they were not born in the US and suggesting that “they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump denied that his comments about the congresswomen were racist even as the hashtag #RacistPresident was gaining popularity on that social network.
The president augmented and doubled down on his comments on Monday, telling reporters at the White House that if the four lawmakers “hate our country,” they can leave. He lashed out at those who have criticized his series of tweets for being racist, saying that it “doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”
Trump, who is descended from immigrants, just like the overwhelming majority of other Americans, did not back down from his earlier remarks despite that fact that in making them he has sparked negative coverage perhaps unprecedented since in 2018 he called El Salvador and Haiti “shithole countries.”
Trump focused most of his rant against Ilhan Omar, the only one of the congresswomen he attacked who was not born in the US, having been brought to the US by her parents from their native Somalia when she was a small child. She obtained US citizenship when she was a teenager.
“Somebody that comes from Somalia, which is a failed government, a failed state, who left Somalia and ultimately came here and now is a congresswoman, is never happy,” said Trump at a planned “Made in America” event.
Omar “says horrible things about Israel, hates Israel, hates Jews, hates Jews, it’s very simple,” he declared.
“If you’re not happy here, then you can leave,” Trump said to cheers from attendees of the event at the White House. “As far as I’m concerned, if you hate our country, if you’re not happy here, you can leave.”
“Come back if you want, don’t come back, that’s okay too. But if you’re not happy, you can leave,” he added.
The other lawmakers Trump criticized were born in the US. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a New Yorker with Puerto Rican roots, Rashida Tlaib comes from Detroit and her parents are Palestinian and African American Ayanna Pressley was born in Chicago.
At present, there are 11 naturalized citizens serving in the US Congress.
The four women entered Congress in January, having been elected in the November balloting, and they now make up a group popularly known as “The Squad” which has attracted much media attention for being in the vanguard of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing and for their verbal jousting over policy with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a Democrat.
At a press conference, the four women on Monday condemned Trump’s tweets but asked that not so much attention be paid to this latest “distraction” by the president.
“Weak minds and weak leaders challenge loyalty to our country to avoid challenging and debating policy. This president does not know how to defend his policies, so what he does is attack us personally,” said Ocasio-Cortez, accompanied by the other three lawmakers.
Omar, who is Muslim, said she refused to dignify Trump’s earlier claim that she supports Al Qaeda with a response, adding that white nationalists say similar things on the Internet and now have arrived at the White House.
Meanwhile, amid the controversy, Pelosi prepared a resolution asking her Democratic colleagues in Congress to formally condemn Trump’s comments and urging Republicans to denounce his “xenophobic tweets.”
Initially, just one Republican – Chip Roy – openly condemned the president’s remarks, but later the only two GOP African Americans in Congress, Sen. Tim Scott and Congressman Will Hurd, criticized what they called his “racist” and “xenophobic” remarks.
Moderate Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski also criticized Trump’s tweets, while Sen. Pat Toomey said that the US citizenship of the four Democratic congresswomen is just as valid as his own, being the grandson of Irish immigrants.
Trump’s attacks fall squarely within his apparent re-election strategy, which is based on identifying the Democrats who are influencing the party’s base as “socialists” and radicals, accusing them of anti-Semitism, as he has regularly done with Omar.
“Radical Left Democrats want Open Borders, which means drugs, crime, human trafficking, and much more....The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four ‘progressives,’ but now they are forced to embrace them. That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!” Trump said in a pair of tweets on Monday.