WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump created a firestorm over the weekend when he told four Democratic congresswomen to “go back” to their own countries.
Although Trump did not specify who he was specifically referring to, many believe he was talking about Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-,Minn., Ayanna Pressley D-Mass., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
Three of those lawmakers were born in the U.S. Omar came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia more than 20 years ago and is a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Omar and Tlaib are the only two Muslim women in the House.
On Monday afternoon, the lawmakers responded to Trump’s comments in a press conference on Capitol Hill. Pressley said the president’s recent comments were just a “disruptive distraction” from a “callous, chaotic and corrupt” administration.
“I encourage the American people and all of us in this room and beyond to not take the bait,” Pressley added.
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Omar accused Trump of pursuing a “white nationalist” agenda. Ocasio-Cortez reminded children across the nation that “this country belongs to you,” despite Trump’s comments, and Tlaib renewed her calls for Trump to be impeached.
While the congresswomen were speaking, Trump continued to tweet about them.
“The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four ‘progressives,’ but now they are forced to embrace them,” the president wrote. “That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!”
Trump defended his comments in more tweets on Tuesday, writing “I don’t have a racist bone in my body!”
Since Trump’s initial comments, a number of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have condemned the president’s statements.
Here’s what we know about the comments and the reaction to them:
What did Trump say?
On Twiter Sunday, the president posted about a group of Democratic congresswomen and said they should “go back” to where they came from.
“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.”
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“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. 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 president wrote in a three-tweet thread.
Monday, Trump denied his comments were racist and told reporters at the White House that, “if somebody has a problem with our country, If somebody doesn’t want to be in our country, they should leave.”
In a tweet early Monday morning, the president said the four Democratic congresswomen should apologize.
“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,” Trump tweeted.
On Monday afternoon, just as the four lawmakers were set to begin their press conference, Trump tweeted again that if the lawmakers are not happy, they can leave.
“We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice, and your choice alone. This is about love for America. Certain people HATE our Country,” he wrote in a tweet.
“They are anti-Israel, pro Al-Qaeda, and comment on the 9/11 attack, ‘some people did something.’ Radical Left Democrats want Open Borders, which means drugs, crime, human trafficking, and much more,” Trump continued in the thread. “Detention facilities are not Concentration Camps! America has never been stronger than it is now – rebuilt Military, highest Stock Market EVER, lowest unemployment and more people working than ever before. Keep America Great!”
The quote in Trump’s tweet about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is a reference to a statement Omar made in April when she said: “CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.”
Ocasio-Cortez has repeatedly criticized migrant detention centers as “concentration camps.”
Who were Trump’s initial tweets about?
Since taking office in January, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley and Tlaib, who are all freshmen congresswomen, have come to be known as “The Squad.”
The four lawmakers have united on a number of issues on Capitol Hill, and recently they were the only Democrats to vote against the House version of a border funding bill that was backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Each of the lawmakers condemned Trump’s tweets, accusing the president of racism.
“THIS is what racism looks like,” Pressley tweeted. “WE are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday.”
Omar, who has been criticized by Republicans several times due to controversial comments she made about Israel, also criticized Trump’s online postings and Trump himself.
“Mr. President, As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States,” she tweeted Sunday. “Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.”
Tlaib once again called on Trump to be impeached.
“Want a response to a lawless & complete failure of a President?” she tweeted. “He is the crisis. His dangerous ideology is the crisis. He needs to be impeached.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who is a self-described Democratic Socialist, tweeted a thread responding to the president, saying that Trump is “angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us.”
“You rely on a frightened America for your plunder,” she tweeted. “You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”
Over the past several weeks, “The Squad” has found itself at the center of a separate intra-party controversy.
There has been a rift between some of the moderate Democrats and the four progressive congresswomen.
Pelosi downplayed the four lawmakers’ votes against the border funding bill during a July 6 interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, saying “they’re just four people.”
Since then, some members of “The Squad” has individually responded to Pelosi’s comments on Twitter. Following those tweets and in a closed-door meeting with Democratic lawmakers, Pelosi said that if any lawmaker had an issue within the party, they should come directly to her and not tweet about it.
Ocasio-Cortez accused Pelosi of “singling out of newly elected women of color” during an interview with the Washington Post. But later told CNN that she “absolutely” did not believe Pelosi was racist.
Trump last week criticized Ocasio-Cortez, saying that she was being “very disrespectful” to Pelosi.
“I’ll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi that you know better than I do: She is not a racist,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday. “For them to call her a racist is a disgrace.”
What has the reaction been?
Many lawmakers have condemned Trump’s comments.
Pelosi denounced Trump’s initial tweets Sunday, saying Trump is has been trying to make “America white again.”
“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” Pelosi tweeted. “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”
Pelosi has since called on lawmakers to pass a resolution condemning Trump’s remarks. The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the resolution rebuking Trump’s comments on Tuesday evening.
“The House cannot allow the President’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand,” Pelosi said. “Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the President’s xenophobic tweets.”
On Tuesday, Trump called the planned vote “a Democrat con game.”
“Republicans should not show ‘weakness’ and fall into their trap,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Several Republicans have also condemned Trump’s remarks, but the president also received some support for the attacks and some praise for the political strategy that appears to be behind them.
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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that despite disagreeing with many of the views from the progressive Democratic lawmakers, Trump’s tweet “was way over the line, and he should take that down.”
During an interview on “Fox and Friends,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., accused the four congresswomen of being “communists,” but also said the president “should knock it down a notch.”
During an interview on “Fox & Friends,” former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he believes that Trump is trying to “get the country to look at the so-called Squad, the more he can get them to realize how radical they are and how fundamentally un-American their views are, in the long-run the better off he is.”
Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black GOP senator, lamented that while Democrats bickered among themselves, Trump “interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language.”
“No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further,” Scott, R-S.C., said in a statement.
Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., said: “While I strongly disagree with the tactics, policies, and rhetoric of the far-left socialist ‘Squad,’ the President’s tweets were inappropriate, denigrating, and wrong. It is unacceptable to tell legal U.S. citizens to go back to their home country.”
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said he was “appalled” by Trump’s tweets.
“There’s no excuse. Inflammatory rhetoric from both sides of the aisle that is used to divide us just isn’t right. It’s not helpful,” he tweeted.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in a statement to the St. Louis-Post Dispatch: “Just because the so-called squad constantly insults and attacks the president isn’t a reason to adopt their unacceptable tactics.”
Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said Monday he thought Trump’s tweets were “racist and xenophobic.”
“It’s also behavior that is unbecoming of the leader of the free world. You should be talking about things that unite us, not divide us,” Hurd said on CNN.
Despite the bipartisan criticisms, Trump remained defiant Monday evening.
“MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” the president tweeted moments after “The Squad” concluded their press conference responding to Trump’s multiple attacks on them.
Contributing: William Cummings, David Jackson
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