'This is what racism looks like': Democrats blast Trump for attacks on 'The Squad'

Few Republicans have reacted to the president’s tweet, which Democrats have slammed as “racist” and “xenophobic.”
Image: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives to a House Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee hearing at the Capitol
Ocasio-Cortez said Monday that Trump's statement employed “hallmark language of white supremacists.”Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images file

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By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump faced a mounting tide of criticism Monday over his weekend tweet that progressive Democratic congresswomen should "go back" and fix the "totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Democratic members of Congress, 2020 presidential candidates and a world leader lashed out at the president's comment. Few Republicans have reacted to the president’s tweet, which Democrats have described as “racist” and “xenophobic.”

Trump dug in on his comments Monday, tweeting that the congresswomen should apologize to the country for "foul language" and the "terrible things they have said."

Trump's weekend comments appeared to take aim at several women of color, including Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali refugee and U.S. citizen; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York; and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and referred to the lawmakers' ongoing friction with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley were all born in the United States; Omar arrived in the U.S. from Somali as a child.

House Democrats planned to bring a resolution sponsored by Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., who was born abroad, to the floor to condemn the president's tweets. "This weekend, the President went beyond his own low standards using disgraceful language about Members of Congress," Pelosi wrote in a letter Monday to rank-and-file members.

"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."

CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS

Ocasio-Cortez said Monday that Trump's statement employed “hallmark language of white supremacists.”

She also slammed GOP members of Congress who have avoided criticizing the president for his comments. "Until Republican officials denounce yesterday’s explicitly racist statements (which should be easy!), we sadly have no choice but to assume they condone it," she tweeted. "It is extremely disturbing that the *entire* GOP caucus is silent. Is this their agenda?"

Pressley tweeted Sunday that Trump’s tweet was what “racism looks like.”

Pelosi blasted Trump in a pair of tweets Sunday and defended the four members — striking a note of party unity following a tense back-and-forth with Ocasio-Cortez last week.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, told Trump to “Shut. Your. Reckless. Mouth,” suggesting that Trump’s comment would unite Democrats.

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said Monday on Twitter that Trump's comments represented "another vile, racist attack from the President. These comments are absolutely disgusting, and sure don’t reflect our American values. If there’s an *ounce* of decency left in the Republican Party, they’ll speak up and condemn Trump’s comments."

2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CONTENDERS

The candidates running to take Trump on next year also were united in their condemnation of his comment.

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"It is absolutely racist and un-American," Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., told reporters in New Hampshire on Sunday. "And it is an old trope, 'go back to where you came from,' that you might hear on the street but you should never hear that from the president of the United States. This guy doesn't understand, he doesn't understand his responsibilities and I don't think he understands what the American people want from their president, which is somebody who's going to elevate public discourse and speak with a level of dignity."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., struck a similar note. “Let’s be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen," she tweeted Sunday. "This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realizes it. They should be treated with respect. As president, I’ll make sure of it.”

So did Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who tweeted: “When I call the president a racist, this is what I'm talking about. We must stand together for justice and dignity towards all.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the current Democratic front-runner in the polls, tweeted Sunday that Trump "continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain. Let's be clear: Racism and xenophobia have no place in America.”

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., slammed Trump and linked to an ActBlue website for people to contribute to Democratic congressional candidates.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted about the silence of congressional Republicans.

REPUBLICANS

While most senior Republicans stayed silent on the president's comments, some GOP lawmakers were critical of his language. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said Sunday that Trump had been “wrong” to say what he had.

Roy, however, retweeted one of Trump’s tweets blasting the four congresswomen on Twitter Monday.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., tweeted Monday that he was "appalled" by Trump's tweet.

Several GOP lawmakers echoed those sentiments Monday. "There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments –they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, tweeted Monday,

"The President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down," tweeted Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., defended the citizenship of his fellow lawmakers.

"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," he tweeted.

And Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., tweeted, Monday, "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 to tell legal U.S. citizens to go back to their home country."

Former Rep. Scott Taylor, R-Va., who’s running for the Senate in 2020, said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Kasie DC” on Sunday that he doesn’t agree that the members of Congress should go back where they came from — “of course not," he said — but he did not hold the president unilaterally responsible for the remarks.

"Look, I don't like the discourse in the country right now. I don't like the media feeding into it. I don't like some of the bombastic statements on either side," he said. "Look, again, I spent years of life in that part of the world. I understand why Representative Omar has anti-Semitic comments. I don't like any of that stuff. I think it doesn’t have any place in our society. I think people should calm down, work together and get things done.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a close ally of Trump, defended the president Monday. "We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of Communists," he said on Fox News. "They hate Israel. They hate our country. ... They're anti-Semitic. They're anti-America."

Still, Graham said, Trump should “aim higher": "We don’t need to know anything about them personally. Talk about their policies.”

The acting director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, was asked Monday if he views the president’s tweet as racist.

“No," he replied on CNN’s “New Day.” "I see that as presumably political hand grenades. But I wouldn't go that far, no. Certainly not.”

INDEPENDENTS

Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, an independent who recently left the Republican Party and supports impeaching the president, was sharply critical of Trump's remarks. "To tell these American citizens (most of whom were born here) to 'go back' to the 'crime infested places from which they came' is racist and disgusting," he tweeted Sunday.

Fox News's Brit Hume criticized Trump's remarks as "nativist, xenophobic, [counterfactual] and politically stupid," but added that "they simply do not meet the standard definition of racist, a word so recklessly flung around these days that its actual meaning is being lost."

ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin didn't criticize the president's remarks — or endorse them. "I don’t find them racist, the president just went on and clarified his comments," told reporters in the White House briefing room Monday. "I think he speaks for himself on that, and he was very clear."

Asked later if he, as a Jewish American, had any concern serving in an administration where white nationalists find common cause, Mnuchin said he found that question disrespectful, adding that he was on his way to give a speech at the Department of Justice about anti-Semitism.

FORMER ELECTED OFFICIALS

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, told Trump he was "right about one thing: Currently their government is a complete and total catastrophe."

HOLLYWOOD & MUSIC

Actor and filmmaker Rob Reiner said on Twitter that it was "unarguable, Donald Trump is a racist. If you support him you are supporting racism. At this crucial time in the struggle for the soul of our nation, we all must choose. Either embrace his hatred or fight to overcome original sin. Humanity hangs in the balance."

American singer Janelle Monáe tweeted in response to the incident that Pelosi should "stop dragging" out impeachment.

WORLD LEADERS

Outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May was not happy with Trump’s comments. "The prime minister's view is that the language used to refer to these women was completely unacceptable," her spokesman said during a daily briefing with reporters inside Parliament.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went further. "I think Canadians and indeed people around the world know exactly what I think about those particular comments," he told reporters in Ottawa Monday, when asked to comment on Trump's remarks. "That is not how we do things in Canada. A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, and the diversity of our country is actually one of our greatest strengths and a source of tremendous resilience and pride for Canadians and we will continue to defend that."