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President Donald Trump on Sunday said progressive congresswomen should "go back" and try to fix the "crime infested places" they "originally came from" before telling the U.S. government how to handle its problems. Then, after his comments were denounced as racist, he doubled down.
"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run," Trump wrote in a series of three tweets.
"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came," the president continued. "Then come back and show us how it is done. These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"
Although he did not mention anyone by name in his tweets, the president appeared to be referring to a group of progressive congresswomen, none of whom are white, who have generated headlines and whose influence was recently downplayed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
That group includes Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
Tlaib, a Palestinian American, was born in Michigan; Omar, a Somali refugee, moved to the United States when she was 12 and is a naturalized citizen; Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Latin American descent, was born in New York; and Pressley, who is African American, was born in Cincinnati.
Ocasio-Cortez responded to Trump on Twitter on Sunday afternoon, saying "the country I 'come from,' & the country we all swear to, is the United States."
"But given how you've destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet," she continued. She added that Trump is "angry because" he doesn't "believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected [Omar], where [Tlaib] fights for Michigan families, where [Pressley] champions little girls in Boston."
"You are angry because you can't conceive of an America that includes us," she said. "You rely on a frightened America for your plunder."
Omar also responded to Trump in a tweet Sunday, saying she and her fellow members swear an oath only to the United States, "which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen."
Pressley and Tlaib posted tweets in response, too, with the former writing, "THIS is what racism looks like."
"WE are what democracy looks like," she said. "And we're not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday."
Tlaib wrote that she is "fighting corruption in OUR country."
"I do it every day when I hold your admin accountable as a U.S. Congresswoman," she added. "Detroit taught me how to fight for the communities you continue to degrade & attack. Keep talking, you'll be out of the WH soon."
Trump's tweets were swiftly condemned by other congressional Democrats, as well, including presidential candidates, who called them "racist" and "bigoted." Apparently in response, the president tweeted Sunday night that it was "so sad" that Democrats were "sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion."
"Whenever confronted, they call their adversaries, including Nancy Pelosi, 'RACIST,'" he wrote. "Their disgusting language ..... and the many terrible things they say about the United States must not be allowed to go unchallenged."
Pelosi on Sunday blasted Trump's screed, saying that when the president "tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to 'Make America Great Again' has always been about making America white again."
"Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power," she added.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted that Trump's comments were "vile," "racist" and "xenophobic."
"This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realizes it," Warren said of the Democratic congresswomen. "They should be treated with respect."
Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent also running to be the Democratic nominee, 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."
Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, a member of the House Democratic leadership, blasted Trump, tweeting, "A racist tweet from a racist president," while Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia wrote, "This is undisguised racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, and everyone in Congress regardless of party should condemn it."
Rep. Joe Neguse of Colorado, meanwhile, said Trump was "spending his Sunday morning sending bigoted tweets."
"Fact check: 3 of the 4 colleagues of mine he's targeting were born in the U.S. And those of us serving in Congress who immigrated here or are children of immigrants like myself are American," he tweeted. "Period."
A weeklong feud involving the progressive congresswomen and Democratic leadership might have played a role in Trump's tweets. Referring to the four women, Pelosi said in a Maureen Dowd column published in The New York Times last week: "All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn't have any following. They're four people, and that's how many votes they got.”
In response, Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview that she and her fellow progressives were being singled out by Pelosi as "newly elected women of color," saying, "It got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful."
Trump jumped into the fray himself last week, defending Pelosi and saying Ocasio-Cortez is the one who's been disrespectful.
"A group of people that came from — I don't know where they came from — I'm looking at this Omar from Minnesota," he added. "And if one-half of the things they're saying about her are true, she shouldn't even be in office."
Sanders said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he thought Pelosi was being "a little" too tough on the freshman lawmakers.
"You cannot ignore the young people of this country who are passionate about economic and racial and social and environmental justice. You've got to bring them in, not alienate them," Sanders said.