Washington: Injecting race into his criticism of liberal Democrats, US President Donald Trump said four congresswomen of colour 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 US. His attack drew a searing condemnation from Democrats who labelled the remarks racist and breathtakingly divisive.
Even as White House officials moved Monday to defend his incendiary weekend tweets, Trump refused to apologise and instead asked on Twitter when “the Radical Left Congresswomen” would “apologise 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 Republican 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 known as “the squad” that includes Omar, Republ-ican 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 that, “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,” 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.”
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president who golfed with Trump over the weekend, advised the president to “aim higher” during an appearance on Fox and Friends, even as he accused the members in question of being “anti-Semitic” and “anti-American.”
“Don't get personal. Don’t take the bait,” said Graham. He said Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues “are American citizens” who were “duly elected,” while adding: “We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate US.”
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 Ocasio-Cortez to accuse Pelosi of trying to marginalise women of color....