WASHINGTON – Defiant in the face of widespread criticism, President Donald Trump renewed his belligerent call Monday for four Democratic congresswomen of color to get out of the U.S. “right now,” cementing his position as the most willing U.S. leader in generations to stoke the discord that helped send him to the White House.
Content to gamble that a sizable chunk of the electorate embraces his tweets that have been widely denounced as racist, the president made clear that he has no qualms about exploiting racial divisions once again.
“It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said at the White House. “A lot of people love it, by the way.”
The episode served notice that Trump is willing to again rely on incendiary rhetoric on issues of race and immigration to preserve his political base in the leadup to the 2020 election.
There was near unanimous condemnation from Democrats for Trump's comments and a rumble of discontent from a subset of Republicans – but notably not from the party's congressional leaders.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the GOP White House nominee in 2012 and now one of the president's most vocal GOP critics, said Trump's comments were “destructive, demeaning, and disunifying.”
Far from backing down, Trump on Monday dug in on comments he made a day earlier on Twitter that if lawmakers “hate our country,” they can go back to their “broken and crime-infested” countries. His remarks were directed at four congresswomen: Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are American citizens, and three of were born in the U.S.
“If you're not happy in the U.S., if you're complaining all the time, you can leave, you can leave right now,” he said.
The president questioned whether Democrats should “want to wrap” themselves around this group of four people as he recited a list of the quartet's most controversial statements.
The four fired back late Monday, condemning what they called “xenophobic bigoted remarks” from the president and renewing calls for their party to begin impeachment proceedings.
Trump “does not know how to defend his policies and so what he does is attack us personally,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday that the House would vote on a resolution condemning his new comments. The resolution “strongly condemns President Donald Trump's racist comments” and says they “have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
Trump is wagering that his most steadfast supporters will be energized by the controversy as much, or if not more so, than the opposition.
“It's possible I'm wrong,” Trump allowed Monday. “The voters will decide.”