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America ‘belongs to everyone’: Congresswomen targeted by Trump deliver searing rebuke to president

Congresswomen respond to Trump’s tweets
Congresswomen targeted by Trump respond to his tweets on Monday. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar spoke out against President Trump in a Monday press conference, delivering a blistering rebuke a day after he said in a tweet that they should go back to “the broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

Pressley, who represents the Seventh District of Massachusetts as the first African-American woman elected from the state, spoke first, and thanked supporters for “the solidarity we have received from every corner of our country.”

She denounced the “most recent xenophobic, bigoted remarks from the occupant of our White House.”

Trump “does not embody the grace, the empathy, the compassion, the integrity that the office requires,” Pressley said. “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people.”

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Omar, who represents Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, spoke next, calling Trump’s remarks “the agenda of white nationalists,” and urging her colleagues to impeach him.

She said Trump is “openly violating the oath he took.”

Ocasio-Cortez recounted a story from her childhood, when her father brought her to Washington, D.C., and told her that as an American, the seat of government belonged to her.

“No matter what the president says, this country belongs to you,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “It belongs to everyone.”

Tlaib, who represents Michigan, echoed Omar’s call for impeachment.

“We know this is who he is,” Tlaib said. “We remain focused on holding him accountable.”

The response came after the second day of an intense back-and-forth with Trump, who Sunday morning leveled a series of tweets at the congresswomen widely condemned as racist.

Trump on Monday doubled down on the comments during an event at the White House, resurrecting language not prevalent in the US for decades.

He said that if the lawmakers ‘‘hate our country,’’ they ‘‘can leave’’ it.

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After having spent much of Monday defending his remarks, he tweeted again just minutes before the press conference began.

“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.

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 him.

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.’’

Pelosi announced Monday that the House would be holding a vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s comments.

Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president who golfed with him over the weekend, advised him 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 our own country.’’

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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 marginalize women of color.

Trump’s words may have been meant to widen the divides within the Democrat caucus, which has been riven by internal debate over how far left to go in countering him and over whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings against the president. Instead, the president’s tweets, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, brought Democrats together.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, tweeted Sunday that Trump ‘‘continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain.’’

‘‘Let’s be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen,’’ tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Among the few GOP lawmakers commenting, Rep. Pete Olson of Texas said Trump’s Sunday tweet was ‘‘not reflective of the values of the 1,000,000+ people’’ in his district. ‘‘We are proud to be the most diverse Congressional district in America. I urge our President immediately disavow his comments,’’ he wrote.

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It was far from the first time that Trump has been accused of holding racist views.

In his campaign kickoff in June 2015, Trump deemed many Mexican immigrants ‘‘rapists.’’ In 2017, he said there good people on ‘‘both sides’’ of the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators that left one counter-protester dead. Last year, during a private White House meeting on immigration, Trump wondered why the United States was admitting so many immigrants from ‘‘shithole countries’’ like African nations.

Repeatedly, Trump has painted arriving immigrants as an ‘‘infestation’’ and he has been slow in condemning acts of violence committed by white supremacists. And he launched his political career with false claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Fearful of his Twitter account and sweeping popularity among many Republican voters, GOP lawmakers have largely tried to ignore the provocative statements.


Material from the Assoicated Press was used in this report.