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Democrats in Congress Attacked by Trump Deem His Comments Racist

U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 15, 2019.
U.S. Reps Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) hold a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 15, 2019.

Updated: July 15, 2019, 7:47 p.m.

WHITE HOUSE — Four Democratic Party members of the U.S. Congress have appeared together before reporters in a collective and blistering show of force to rebut President Donald Trump's social media and verbal volleys against them.

"He's launching a blatantly racist attack on four duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives, all of whom are women of color," said Ilhan Omar, a Somalia-born Democrat from the state of Minnesota and a naturalized U.S. citizen. "This is the agenda of white nationalists."

Trump set off a firestorm of controversy Sunday by tweeting that the lawmakers should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," even though three of the four were born in the United States. The first tweets came shortly after a segment about the minority congresswomen on the Fox News Channel.

Appearing with Omar at the Monday evening news conference were Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a native New Yorker; Massachusetts Rep. Ayana Pressley, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio; and Michigan Representative Rashid Tlaib, a native of Detroit in that state.

Two of them, Omar and Tlaib, who are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, explicitly called for Trump's impeachment.

"I urge House leadership, many of my colleagues, to take action to impeach this lawless president today," said Tlaib.

"He does not know how to defend his policies," Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. "So, what he does is attack us personally. And that is what this is all about."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, July 15, 2019.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, July 15, 2019.

Earlier in the day, Trump amplified his remarks deemed by many as racist attacks on the lawmakers, rejecting widespread criticism that his comments run counter to American values.

"It doesn't concern me," he told reporters Monday at the White House, "because many people agree with me."

The president said of the lawmakers: "If they're not happy here, they can leave," adding, "these are people that hate our country."

Asked whether his comments were racist, Trump said, "Not at all."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is among those characterizing the president's comments as "disgusting attacks."

"The House cannot allow the President's characterization of immigrants to our country to stand. Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the President's xenophobic tweets," Pelosi said in calling for support for a House resolution to condemn Trump's tweets.

Most lawmakers of Trump's party have stayed silent on the controversy. But four Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah —are criticizing Trump's remarks.

"The president has a unique and noble calling to unite the American people," Romney, a former Republican presidential nominee, told reporters. "In that regard, he failed badly this weekend and continued to do so today."

Murkowski tweeted: "There is no excuse for the president's spiteful comments — they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop."

"President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from," Toomey said in a statement. "The citizenship of all four is as valid as mine."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who golfed with Trump over the weekend, said the president should "aim higher" with his criticism of the four, even as the lawmaker disparaged their views.

On Fox News, Graham said Monday Ocasio-Cortez "and this crowd are a bunch of communists" who "hate Israel. They hate our own country. They're calling the guards along our border — the border control agents — concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins [money]. They're anti-Semitic. They're anti-America."

'The squad'

The four female lawmakers, from what is called the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, are known collectively as "the squad."

"Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world," Pressley told reporters. "And that is the work that we want to get back to. And given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not, be silenced."

Trump tweeted on Monday morning: "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."

A prominent U.S.-based anti-hate Jewish group is condemning the president's attempt to use Jews as a shield.

"As Jews, we are all too familiar with this kind of divisive prejudice," said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League. "While ADL has publicly disagreed with these congresswomen on some issues, the president is echoing the racist talking points of white nationalists and cynically using the Jewish people and the state of Israel as a shield to double down on his remarks."

Omar, in particular, has been a frequent topic of critical coverage on Fox News, in part due to her frequent criticism of Israel and comments perceived as anti-Semitic.