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‘Bile of garbage’: Progressive squad tears into Trump

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‘He does not know how to defend his policies so what he does is attack us personally,’ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said.

Updated

The four progressive congresswomen at the center of President Donald Trump’s racist tweet controversy tore into the president on Monday, ripping him on everything from his “inhumane” policies at the border to his “weak” mind and the “bile of garbage” that comes from his mouth.

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib didn’t mince words as they confronted the president head on in the 20-minute press conference, their response coming after Trump has repeatedly disparaged the group since Sunday, starting with a tweet saying they should “go back” to where they came.

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“Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy,” said Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). “He does not know how to defend his policies so what he does is attack us personally. That is what this is all about.”

The condemnation from the freshman firebrands — who refer to themselves as “the squad” — came as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team moved ahead with plans to vote on a resolution condemning Trump’s remarks as soon as Tuesday.

The House “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color,” Democrats wrote in a draft of the resolution obtained by POLITICO.

In their press conference, the four lawmakers said it was obvious Trump’s tweets and further comments escalating his attack on them was meant to distract from the lengthy list of controversies that continue to envelop his administration, from the inhumane conditions at the border and mass deportation raids to continued fallout from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

“Right now the president is carrying out mass deportation raids across this country in each one of our districts. Right now the president is committing human rights abuses at the border, keeping children in cages and having human beings drinking out of toilets,” Omar (D-Minn.) said.

“To distract from that, he’s launching a blatantly racist attack on four duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives, all of whom are women of color. This is the agenda of white nationalists,” she added.

Pressley said it was imperative that both Congress and the broader public not “take the bait.”

“This is simply a disruption and a distraction from the callous, chaotic and corrupt culture of this administration,” Pressley (D-Mass.) added.

The only recourse, the group argued, was immediately beginning impeachment proceedings.

“We can either continue to enable this president and report on the bile of garbage that comes out of his mouth. Or we can hold him accountable for his crimes,” Omar said. “It is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery out of our constitution. It is time for us to impeach this president.”

Trump’s deluge of controversial remarks targeting the four progressives did something that Democrats themselves had been unable to do in the last week — set aside their differences and rally together to fight a common opponent.

The caucus – which had spent the last week bitterly divided and publicly feuding over internal divisions – quickly joined together to denounce the president as racist and demand he apologize. Instead, Trump dug in, elevating the controversy more on Monday through a series of tweets and press events at the White House.

As Trump continued to criticize the congresswomen, lobbing a series of falsehoods and claiming repeatedly they “hate our country,” Pelosi announced early Monday that the House would take action.

In a letter to House Democrats, the speaker said Trump “went beyond his own low standards using disgraceful language” on Sunday, telling the four congresswomen to “go back” to the “crime infested places from which they came.” His further attacks on Monday were the final straw.

“This morning, the President doubled down on his attacks on our four colleagues suggesting they apologize to him,” Pelosi wrote to House Democrats. “Let me be clear, our caucus will continue to forcefully respond to these disgusting attacks.”

Pelosi implored House Republicans – most of whom have been silent since Trump started his tirade against the congresswomen over the weekend – to vote with Democrats to condemn the president’s language.

“The House cannot allow the president’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand. Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets,” Pelosi wrote.

Still, some Democrats wanted to go further. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), a vocal impeachment supporter, argued during a closed-door meeting Monday night in favor of formally censuring Trump.

“I think he deserves the highest thing we can do, less than impeachment. Condemnation, I think, is too light,” Cohen said after the meeting.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) acknowledged that some members made clear to him that they prefer a censure resolution, but he said: “We generally have agreement on this resolution.”

The House resolution caps a whirlwind 24 hours for Trump, starting with a self-created political crisis that caught lawmakers, even his closest Capitol Hill confidantes, completely by surprise and that the president willingly exacerbated by refusing to back down on Monday.

Trump kicked off the controversy on Sunday by using racist language to imply that Omar, Tlaib, Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez were not Americans. Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib (D-Mich.) were all born in the United States. Omar emigrated to the U.S. as a Somalian refugee in the early 1990s and became a U.S. citizen at age 17 in 2000.

The president refused to walk back his comments on Monday and instead reiterated several false claims, including that the congresswomen “hate our country,” “hates Israel” and “hates Jews.”

“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said when asked about claims that he was echoing common racist tropes used by white supremacists. “All I’m saying, they want to leave, they can leave,” he added.

Republicans, meanwhile, struggled to answer for Trump, with GOP lawmakers cycling through a variety of responses from defending the president to calling out his remarks as “racist.”

Most Republicans were silent on Trump’s remarks Sunday, although GOP lawmakers slowly started speaking up Monday after it was clear the president was not going to distance himself from the controversy.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) defended Trump, going so far as to say the congresswomen “are a bunch of communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own country,” in an interview on Fox. But he also urged the president to “aim higher.”

“They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country,” Graham said.

But GOP Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio said Trump’s tweets “were racist and he should apologize.” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) saying he was “appalled” by the president’s remarks and Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) urging him to “immediately disavow his comments.”

“There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments – they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” said moderate GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

The Trump-created controversy couldn’t come at a more critical time for House Democrats, who left the Capitol last week struggling to move on after a messy public spat between Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez dominated the week and brought to the surface ideological, generational and racial tensions that had been simmering below the surface for months.

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) said Monday that Trump’s comments and tweets inspired him to force a vote on articles on impeachment sometime within the next week. Green, a longtime impeachment backer, forced similar votes in both 2017 and 2018, but the measures were defeated each time.

“The President of the United States is a racist, a bigot, a misogynist, as well as an invidious prevaricator,” Green said in a statement. “To say that Donald John Trump is unfit for the Office of the President of the United States is an understatement.”

Andrew Desiderio, John Bresnahan and Caitlin Oprysko contributed to this report.

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