Trump tries to deflect claims of racism, says Dem. congresswomen 'hate our country'

President Trump sought on Monday to deflect criticism that tweets he wrote over the weekend about four Democratic congresswomen of color were racist by asserting that the women “hate our country.”

“These are people that hate our country,” said Trump during a Made in America event on manufacturing at the White House. “They hate our country. They hate it, I think, with a passion.”

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to their home countries. Three of the four women the president targeted were born in the United States (Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan) while the other, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, is a Somali refugee who became a citizen in 2000.

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Democratic congressional candidate the Midterm elections, Ilhan Omar, speaks to a group of volunteers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. - Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ilhan Omar, Democratic congressional candidate, poses for a selfie with a supporter and her son while campaigning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on October 13, 2018. - Somali-American state legislator Ilhan Omar claimed victory in her primary in Minnesota in August, putting her on track to become one of the first female Muslim members of the US House of Representatives. (Photo by Kerem YUCEL / AFP) (Photo credit should read KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2017, file photo, new State Rep. Ilhan Omar is interviewed in her office two days after the 2017 Legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn. Omar, already the first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature, is jumping into a crowded race for a Minnesota congressional seat. Omar filed Tuesday, June 5, 2018, for the Minneapolis-area seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 file photo, State Rep. Ilhan Omar takes the oath of office as the 2017 legislature convened in St. Paul, Minn. Omar, a Muslim, is the nation's first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature. Religion's role in politics and social policies is in the spotlight heading toward the midterm elections, yet relatively few Americans consider it crucial that a candidate be devoutly religious or share their religious beliefs, according to an AP-NORC national poll conducted Aug. 16-20, 2018. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar, left, laughs while speaking with an attendee during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The DFL will endorse a primary candidate for the seat of Representative Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota, as he runs for state attorney general. Photographer: Emilie Richardson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar speaks during the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) Party endorsement convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., on Sunday, June 17, 2018. The DFL will endorse a primary candidate for the seat of Representative Keith Ellison, a democrat from Minnesota, as he runs for state attorney general. Photographer: Emilie Richardson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Ilhan Omar attends the premiere of 'Time For Ilhan' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
In this Aug. 16, 2018 photo, Democrat Ilhan Omar, the nation's first Somali-American legislator who won her party's congressional primary in the race, talks during an interview at Peace Coffee in Minneapolis. Just two years ago, the Minnesota Democrat became the first Somali-American elected to a state legislature. Now she's likely to become one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Amal Sabrie, Isra Hirsi, Ilhan Omar, Ilwad Hirsi, Ahmed Hirsi, Adnan Hirsi attend the premiere of 'Time For Ilhan' during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival at Cinepolis Chelsea on April 21, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Ilhan Omar, candidate for State Representative for District 60B in Minnesota, arrives for her victory party on election night, November 8, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Omar, a refugee from Somalia, is the first Somali-American Muslim woman to hold public office. / AFP / STEPHEN MATUREN (Photo credit should read STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 07: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a rally on the East Front of the Capitol with groups including United We Dream, calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Thursday, February 7, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 13: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Rayburn Building titled 'Venezuela at a Crossroads,' on Wednesday, February 13, 2019. Elliott Abrams, U.S. special representative for Venezuela, testified. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., arrives for a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center to respond to negative comments by President Trump that were directed at freshmen House Democrats on Monday, July 15, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center responding to negative comments by President Trump that were directed at the freshmen House Democrats on Monday, July 15, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 15: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., conducts a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center responding to negative comments by President Trump that were directed at the freshmen House Democrats on Monday, July 15, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 15: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on July 15, 2019 in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks on four progressive Democratic congresswomen, saying if they're not happy in the United States "they can leave." (Photo by Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) at Netroots Nation convention in Philadelphia, PA on July 13, 2019. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JULY 06: Congresswoman Ilhan Omar speaks on stage at 2019 ESSENCE Festival Presented By Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCE)
WASHINGTON, USA - JUNE 26: U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar speaks during a demonstration held by Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on one-year anniversary of Supreme Court's decision about US President Donald Trump's travel ban for Muslims in front of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, United States on June 26, 2019. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at a press conference on the No Shame at School Act on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The bill, which is sponsored by Omar, will ensure that no child is shamed or goes without eating a school lunch due to a lack of money. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 7: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., arrives for a Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Taskforce on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health forum in Rayburn Building on Friday, June 7, 2019. Actress Taraji Henson, founder of the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, spoke about her struggle with depression. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at a press conference on the No Shame at School Act on June 19, 2019 in Washington, DC. The bill, which is sponsored by Omar, will ensure that no child is shamed or goes without eating a school lunch due to a lack of money. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) listens to remarks during a congressional Iftar event at the U.S. Capitol May 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. Muslims around the world are observing the holy month with prayers, fasting from dawn to sunset and nightly feasts. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at the America Welcomes Event with a Statue Of Liberty Replica Shows Solidarity With Immigrants & Refugees at Union Station on May 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for MoveOn.org)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) speaks at the America Welcomes Event with a Statue Of Liberty Replica Shows Solidarity With Immigrants & Refugees at Union Station on May 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for MoveOn.org)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: The House Foreign Affairs' Committee's Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations Subcommittee member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) questions witnesses during a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill May 16, 2019 in Washington, DC. Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, testified before the committee. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 08: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Mika Brzezinski at the 2019 Town & Country Philanthropy Summit Sponsored By Northern Trust, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Pomellato, And 1 Hotels & Baccarat Hotels on May 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Town & Country)
UNITED STATES - MAY 16: Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., attends a news conference at the House Triangle, on legislation to create special immigrant visas for Iraqi and Afghan wartime translators on Thursday, May 16, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 08: Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Ava DuVernay at the 2019 Town & Country Philanthropy Summit Sponsored By Northern Trust, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Pomellato, And 1 Hotels & Baccarat Hotels on May 08, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Town & Country)
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When asked if he was concerned that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups were finding common cause with the statement, Trump said Monday he wasn’t because “many people agree with me.”

“[They’re] complaining all the time, very simply, you can leave right now,” added Trump. “Come back if you want, don’t come back, it’s OK too. But if you’re not happy, you can leave.”

Of course, Trump’s own 2016 presidential campaign parlayed the politics of grievance into victory. His campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” was itself an inherent critique of what he saw as wrong with the nation, and his 2015 campaign book, “Crippled America,” did not shy away from complaining about the United States.

But Trump’s success as a politician has been predicated on the idea that the best defense is a strong offense, and on Monday he called on the Democratic congresswomen to apologize to him.

He asserted at the White House event that he didn’t call out the congresswomen by name, but moments later he did just that, singling out Omar.

“A politician who hears somebody when we’re at war with al-Qaida and sees somebody talking about how great al-Qaida is, pick out her statement, was Omar,” Trump said, though it is unclear what statement he was referring to. “How great al-Qaida is, when you hear that, and we’re losing great soldiers to al-Qaida.”

Trump then referenced Ocasio-Cortez’s criticisms of a deal online retailer Amazon made with New York.

“One of them kept Amazon out of New York. Tens of thousands of jobs. Would have been a great thing. And she kept Amazon from going,” Trump said of Ocasio-Cortez.

Both congresswomen have pushed back against the president.

Omar, the first Somali-American in Congress and first hijab-wearing Muslim member of the House, responded to Trump on Sunday, tweeting: “You are stoking white nationalism [because] you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda.” During his comments Monday, Trump attacked Omar’s criticisms of Israel.

Ocasio-Cortez also took aim at Trump over the weekend.

“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President?” said Ocasio-Cortez Sunday in response to Trump’s tweets. “On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either. You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”

Republicans have been mostly silent about Trump’s attacks, which came after a week of feuding between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the four freshman 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.”

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