By Christopher Wilson
Four female Democratic congresswomen responded Monday to President Trump’s attacks of the past two days by calling for an impeachment inquiry and turning the focus of the feud back to White House policies on immigration.
“This is a distraction and we should not take the bait,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said at a Capitol Hill press conference in reference to the president’s remarks, adding,“This is simply a disruption and a distraction from the callous, chaotic and corrupt culture of this administration, all the way down. We want to get back to the business of the American people.”
Pressley was one of four freshmen congresswomen of color who Trump told to go back to their home countries in a tweet posted Sunday. Three of the four women the president targeted were born in the United States (Pressley, Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Tlaib of Michigan) while the other, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, is a Somali refugee who became a U.S. citizen in 2000.
Earlier Monday, Trump doubled down on his criticism of the Democratic women, stating that the four “hate our country.” Asked whether he had any concerns that white supremacists had found common cause with his remarks, Trump said he did not because “many people agree with me.”
Throughout the day, Trump continued to urge the lawmakers to leave the U.S., tweeting just before the press conference, “We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice, and your choice alone.”
At their own press conference, the four congresswomen known collectively as “the Squad,” put forth theories on the president’s strategy for targeting them.
“Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid debating the policy,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “This president does not know how to make the argument that Americans do not deserve health care. He does not know how to defend his policies, so what he does is attack us personally and that is what this is all about. He can’t look a child in the face and he can’t look all Americans in the face and justify why this country is throwing them in cages so instead he tells us that I should go back to the great borough of the Bronx and make it better. And that’s what I’m here to do.”
Omar called Trump’s policies “the agenda of white nationalists” and in a comment that that could be read as directed at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said that it was time to begin impeachment proceedings. “So we can either continue to enable this president and report on the pile of garbage that comes out of his mouth or we can hold him accountable to his crimes,” Omar said.
Tlaib echoed her colleagues, saying the time had come to begin an impeachment inquiry, but it was Omar and Ocasio-Cortez who spent the bulk of the press conference at the microphones.
“Right now, the president is carrying out mass deportation raids across this country, in each one of our districts,” said Omar. “Right now, the president is committing human rights abuses at the border, keeping children in cages and having human beings drinking out of toilets. This president who has been credibly accused of committing multiple crimes, including colluding with [a] foreign government to interfere with our election. This is a president who has overseen the most corrupt administration in our history and pursued an agenda to allow millions of Americans to die from a lack of health care while he transfers millions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations. This is a president who has said, grab women ‘by the pussy.’ This is a president who has called black athletes ‘sons of bitches.’ This is a president who has called people who have come from black and brown countries ‘shitholes.’ This is a president who has equated neo-Nazis with those who protest against them in Charlottesville.”
Ocasio-Cortez began her remarks with a story about visiting Washington, D.C., with her father and him telling her that, as a citizen, the capital belonged to her. She dismissed Trump’s proposal that those critical of the United States should leave it.
“We don’t leave the things that we love,” said Ocasio-Cortez in response. “And when we love this country, what that means is we propose the solutions to fix it. WE love all people in this country and that’s why we believe health care is a human right. We love all children in this country and because we do that’s why we fight for education for all children through college. And so we’ll stay focused on our agenda and we won’t get caught slippin’ because all of this is a distraction. It’s a distraction from what’s most important and from our core values as American citizens.”
“Every single statement that we make is from a place of extreme love for every single person in this country,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “It is part of the mandate of why we ran for office and why we got elected. … Every single person here in the United States knows that we are fighting every single day to create a more perfect union and to fight on their behalf.”
Omar pointed to what she called the “complete hypocrisy” of Trump criticizing the Democratic lawmakers for wanting to work to improve America, while his 2016 presidential campaign was focused on problems with the country and how to make it great again.
As the president’s comments dominated the airwaves across the nation, Republicans were slow to criticize Trump’s attacks, which came after a week of feuding between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the four congresswomen who had been critical of the border funding deal Pelosi made with Republicans in the Senate and moderate House Democrats.
Last week, after Ocasio-Cortez had accused Pelosi of persistently “singling out” women of color, Trump defended the speaker. “I’ll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi that you know better than I do: She is not a racist,” he said. On Monday, he was defensive after she attacked his tweets: “Speaker Pelosi said ‘Make America white again,’ let me tell you that’s a very racist, that’s a very racist statement. I’m surprised she’d say that.”
Pelosi rejected what she called Trump’s “xenophobic comments meant to divide our nation” and on Monday told House Democrats in a letter that she would hold a vote on a resolution condemning the tweets.
“This morning, the President doubled down on his attacks on our four colleagues suggesting they apologize to him,” wrote Pelosi. “Let me be clear, our Caucus will continue to forcefully respond to these disgusting attacks.”