WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump escalated his attacks Monday on a group of four minority congresswomen known as “the Squad,” calling them “very Racist” and “not very smart.”
Trump’s assessment came in a tweet as his motorcade traveled from the White House to the Supreme Court to pay his respects to the late Justice John Paul Stevens, who died last week at 99 and was lying in repose.
It was the latest in a string of attacks directed at the four freshmen lawmakers since a week ago Sunday, when Trump said in a tweet that they should “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Only one of the four, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., was born outside the United States, and she became a U.S. citizen in 2000.
Fear for her safety
At least two prominent Democrats — the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Sen. Amy Klobuchar — expressed concern on Monday for Omar’s safety.
“She [Omar] should not be attacked and vilified by the president for taking the positions she takes,” Jackson told the Star Tribune in a phone interview. “It’s not fair, but it’s also very dangerous.”
A one-time Democratic candidate for president, Jackson drew a parallel with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he worked alongside in the 1960s in pursuit of equal rights for black Americans.
“The government defamed Dr. King. And made him an object of hate. And he was killed,” Jackson said.
Of Trump, the civil rights leader said: “He’s making people afraid of her, and it’s going to produce violence. Her safety is at stake.”
Klobuchar, in an interview with the Post, accused Trump of “basking in” the chants of “Send her back!” that broke out at his most recent rally in North Carolina. She said she was particularly concerned about Omar’s safety.
Klobuchar, who is running for president, said such Trump attacks represent an attempt to distract the public from “the broken promises littering the carpet of the Oval Office.”
Turning the tables
Trump has often tried to turn the tables on his political foes, accusing them of the very shortcomings for which they criticize him.
“The ‘Squad’ is a very Racist group of troublemakers who are young, inexperienced, and not very smart,” Trump wrote. “They are pulling the once great Democrat Party far left, and were against humanitarian aid at the Border … And are now against ICE and Homeland Security. So bad for our Country!”
Over the past week, Trump has repeatedly defended his words directed at Reps. Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan despite widespread criticism that his remarks were racist and divisive.
The president went on the offensive again Monday during a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I think they’re very bad for our country. I really think they must hate our country,” Trump told reporters.
Behind the scenes, Trump’s staff and his allies continued to promote talking points that focused on the lawmakers, while avoiding directly injecting race into the arguments.
At a weekly meeting of Senate Republican communications aides, a White House official, Brad Bishop, encouraged the GOP staffers to emphasize a fresh message about the four Democrats, according to two people in attendance: that the liberal lawmakers need to start helping their constituents, rather than focusing on unpopular issues such as impeaching Trump or abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
During an appearance Monday at an NAACP convention in Detroit, Tlaib was introduced as “one of the four women who was told to go back home.”
“Yeah, I’m not going nowhere, not until I impeach this president,” she said.
Staff writer Patrick Condon contributed to this report.