- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2019

President Trump hotly defended his call Monday for four minority Democratic congresswomen who “hate our country” to leave the U.S., as the House took steps to condemn the president’s remarks and even some Republican lawmakers accused Mr. Trump of racism.

“If you’re not happy in the U.S., if you’re complaining all the time, very simply, you can leave,” Mr. Trump said of the Democrats, including the first two female Muslim lawmakers. “A lot of people love it, by the way.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, announced that her chamber will consider a resolution condemning the president’s “xenophobic” comments, which began Sunday with a tweet telling the lawmakers to “go back” to their original “broken” countries. All four are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the U.S.

“The House cannot allow the president’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand,” Mrs. Pelosi told lawmakers in a letter. “Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets.”

Democrats introduced a resolution Monday night “condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress.”

Several Republican lawmakers seemed ready to approve such a rebuke of the president. Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, the only black Republican in the House, called the president’s comments “racist and xenophobic.”

“It’s also behavior that’s unbecoming of the leader of the free world,” he said on CNN. “You should be talking about things that unite us, not divide us.”

Rep. Michael R. Turner, Ohio Republican, said the president’s remarks “were racist and he should apologize.”

“We must work as a country to rise above hate, not enable it,” Mr. Turner tweeted.

Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, said Mr. Trump’s comments were appalling.

In light of the president’s comments, Rep. Al Green, Texas Democrat, announced that he would be pushing to force a vote on impeachment this month.

“I will again, this month, bring impeachment to a vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for bigotry in policy, harmful to our society,” Mr. Green said.

More than 80 Democrats support starting an impeachment inquiry, but Mrs. Pelosi has been opposed to moving forward.

The speaker reiterated her criticism Monday that Mr. Trump is trying to “make America white again.” Mr. Trump responded: “That’s a very racist statement.”

The president’s “go back” tweets have roiled Washington since Sunday morning and were apparently directed at freshman Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Somali native Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. They have been among his most vocal critics on the border crisis and in calling for impeachment.

All four lawmakers hit back at the president in a news conference at the Capitol on Monday evening. They said Mr. Trump was trying to distract from his failed policies by fomenting racial divisions in the country.

“We are more than four people,” Ms. Pressley said. “Our squad is big. We will not be silenced.”

Ms. Omar, meanwhile, said Mr. Trump is pushing “the agenda of the white nationalists” and that his comments are racist because they are attacks only on “women of color.”

In refusing to back down, the president showed within 48 hours that he relishes portraying the four liberal Democrats as the extremist face of the party in 2020. Ms. Omar has been roundly criticized for saying that “some people” knocked down the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Ms. Tlaib, a daughter of Palestinian immigrants, has been accused of anti-Semitic rhetoric. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez compared border detention facilities for illegal immigrants to Nazi concentration camps. Ms. Tlaib, soon after she was sworn into office, asked, “When do we impeach the motherf——-?”

Mr. Trump chose an appropriately titled event about U.S. innovation called “Made in America” on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday to redouble his accusations that the lawmakers are anti-American. He said they were socialists or, worse, communists.

“These are people that hate our country,” Mr. Trump told reporters. “They hate it, I think, with a passion. Politicians can’t be afraid to take them on.”

He directed most of his ire at Ms. Omar. He said she “hates Jews” and “hates Israel.”

“I hear the way she talks about al Qaeda,” the president said. “Al Qaeda has killed many Americans. A politician that hears somebody, where we’re at war with al Qaeda, and sees somebody talking about how great al Qaeda is … that was Omar. We’re losing great soldiers to al Qaeda.”

Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said the criticism of Ms. Omar is accurate.

“I don’t think that the president’s intent in any way is racist,” he told reporters. “I think he’s trying to point out the fact that, since elected, it’s hard to find anything Ilhan Omar has said that actually is supportive of the United States of America.”

The president criticized Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for opposing Amazon’s plan to add a headquarters to her district in New York City.

“It would’ve been a good deal … tens of thousands of jobs, and New York has not been the same since that happened,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s really hurt New York and New York City. Amazon was going to go there. They were going to relocate a major section of their business in New York. She kept them out. That was a terrible thing she did.”

The president said some of the lawmakers have said “horrible things about Israel.”

“All they do is complain,” Mr. Trump said. “So all I’m saying is, if they want to leave, they can leave. I don’t know who’s going to miss them. But I guess some people will.”

Ms. Omar accused Mr. Trump of hypocrisy. She said his 2016 campaign was based on the theme that America wasn’t good enough.

“He talked about everything that was wrong in this country and how he was going to make it great,” Ms. Omar said. “And so for him to condemn us and to say we are un-American for wanting to work hard to make this country be the country we all deserve to live in — complete hypocrisy.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said of the president, “Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy. He does not know how to defend his policies. So what he does is attack us personally.

“Instead, he tells us that I should go back to the great borough of the Bronx and make it better,” she quipped.

Some Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were advising Mr. Trump to tone down his rhetoric.

“Mr. President, you’re going to win [in 2020]. Just knock it down a notch,” Mr. Graham said on “Fox & Friends.”

He said the president needs to “aim higher” when talking about the liberal House Democrats.

“Talk about their policies,” Mr. Graham said, as if speaking directly to Mr. Trump. “They’re American citizens that are duly elected that are running on an agenda that’s disgusting. They’re anti-Semitic. They’re socialist. You’re right about their policies. Just aim higher. Don’t get personal.”

The president said he rejected that advice.

“I disagree with Lindsey on that,” Mr. Trump said. “He said, ‘Aim higher.’ What am I going to do? Wait until we get somebody else in a higher position? A higher office? These are people that hate our country.

“The voter will decide. But when I hear the way they talk about our country, when I hear the anti-Semitic language they use, when I hear the hatred they have for Israel, and the love they have for enemies like al Qaeda … I will tell you that I do not believe this is good for the Democrat Party. Certainly, it’s not the party that I’ve known over the years.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said Mr. Trump’s comments “drip with racism” and criticized Republican lawmakers for failing to call out the president.

“You are making a deal with the devil,” said Mr. Schumer, wagging his finger. “The president of the United States is supposed to bring this country together. It is clear this president won’t, doesn’t want to and revels in dividing us. No American president has done this.”

At least two Republican senators also criticized Mr. Trump. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone black Republican in the Senate, said Mr. Trump engaged in “unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language.” He worried aloud that Mr. Trump was helping unite a Democratic Party that was badly divided.

Said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican: “President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from. Three of the four were born in America, and the citizenship of all four is as valid as mine. … We should defeat their ideas on the merits.”

But Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican, said he was standing with Mr. Trump.

“Montanans are sick and tired of listening to anti-American, anti-Semite, radical Democrats trash our country and our ideals,” he said in a Twitter post. “This is America. We’re the greatest country in the world.”

Tom Howell Jr., Seth McLaughlin and Bailey Vogt contributed to this report.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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