President Donald Trump on Sunday again ripped into four Democratic congresswomen of color who've been the target of his sustained attacks, calling them "weak" and "insecure" minutes after blasting a Washington Post story on the fallout over his initial comments about the members a week earlier.
"I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country," Trump tweeted. "They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!"
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Trump's own top aides did not think he fully understood what he had done in posting racist rhetoric about the four congresswomen of color, nicknamed "The Squad," on Twitter before a golf outing last weekend.
Last Sunday, Trump touched off an uproar when he tweeted that the four lawmakers — who are citizens and, except for one, were born in the United States — 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.
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Trump said the Post story contained "phony sources who do not exist" and "is Fake News."
"The only thing people were talking about is the record setting crowd and the tremendous enthusiasm, far greater than the Democrats," he added. "You'll see in 2020!"
The Post report, which was based on interviews "with 26 White House aides, advisers, lawmakers and others involved in the response," said Trump had posted the tweets after watching an episode of "Fox & Friends." He wanted to elevate the four congresswomen, telling his advisers he thought they were good foils, the newspaper reported.
Although he did not name them in his initial tweets, Trump later made it clear that he was referring to Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
Omar, a Somali refugee, moved to the United States when she was 12 and is a naturalized citizen. Tlaib, a Palestinian American, was born in Michigan; Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Hispanic descent, was born in New York; and Pressley, who is African American, was born in Cincinnati.
Trump's tweets were widely condemned, with Democrats and a small number of Republicans saying they were racist. The Post reported that Trump "acted alone — impulsively following his gut to the dark side of American politics, and now the country would have to pick up the pieces." Aides and allies, the report said, "would work behind the scenes to try to fix the mess without any public admission of error because that was not the Trump way."
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The latest invectives were the focus of Sunday's political talk shows.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said the president's comments had brought up "the same feelings that I had over 50 some years ago" as a civil rights activist.
"And it's very, very painful," Cummings said on ABC's "This Week." "I just don't think this is becoming of the president of the United States of America, the leader of the entire world."
The four congresswomen, Cummings added, were "some of the most brilliant young people I have met."
"These are folks and women who love their country, and they work very hard, and they want to move us toward a more perfect union that our founding fathers talked about," Cummings said. "When you disagree with the president, suddenly you're a bad person. Our allegiance is not to the president. Our allegiance is to the Constitution of the United States of America and the American people."
Asked whether Trump is a racist, Cummings said, "Yes, no doubt about it," adding, "I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt."
Many allies urged Trump to "reframe" his tweets "away from the racist notion at the core" of his posts — "that only European immigrants or their descendants are entitled to criticize the country," The Post reported.
During at a campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday, the crowd began chanting "send her back" after Trump went on a riff about Omar, bringing the racist tone of Trump's original tweets back into focus. After Democrats and some Republicans denounced the chant, the president distanced himself from it, saying, "I disagree with it."
In an interview with CBS, Vice President Mike Pence said the president made clear that "he wasn't happy about [the chant] and that if it happened again, he might — he might — he would make an effort to speak out about it."
Days after the rally, Trump promoted a tweet from a British pundit praising the chant, saying: "As you can see, I did nothing to lead people on, nor was I particularly happy with their chant. Just a very big and patriotic crowd. They love the USA!"
The pundit Trump elevated, Katie Hopkins, had previously called for a "final solution" to Muslim immigration into the United Kingdom and said Jewish leadership was to blame for a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year because of its support of migration.
The Post reported that Trump's allies sought to reframe the debate away from racism and toward the congresswomen's viewpoints, which have come under fire on the right and among the more moderate members of the left.
On the Sunday shows, the president's allies defended him as not racist and said the congresswomen espoused "anti-American" views.
On "Fox News Sunday," White House senior adviser Stephen Miller said that "color blind" society should mean "you can criticize immigration policy, you can criticize people's views, you can ask questions about where they're born and not have it be seen as racial."
Addressing the program's host, Chris Wallace, Miller said, "I think the term 'racist,' Chris, has become a label that is too often deployed by the left, Democrats in this country, simply to try to silence and punish and suppress people they disagree with, speech that they don't want to hear."
Miller said he could not "disagree more" that the president had stoked racial animus, from his questioning former President Barack Obama's birthplace to his attacks on the congresswomen.
"I fundamentally disagree with the view that if you disagree with somebody, and they happen to be of a different color of skin, that that makes it a racial criticism," he said.
Speaking at a town hall event in the Queens area of New York on Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez said the president's recent comments, coupled with the "send her back" chant, made it clear that "this is not about immigration at all."
"Because once you start to tell American citizens to quote go back to your own countries, this tells you this president's policies are not about immigration. It's about ethnicity and racism," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And his biggest mistake was that he said the quiet part loud. That was his biggest mistake. Because we know that he's been thinking this the entire time."