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Warren confronts question of whether DNA test was a misfire

“Tribes and only tribes determine tribal citizenship and I respect that difference,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

2020 Elections

‘My decision was, we’re just going to put it all out there,’ Warren says of test that showed traces of Native American ancestry.

SIOUX CITY, IOWA — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, making her first official swing through this pivotal state, was forced to quickly confront an issue threatening to dog her throughout her presidential campaign: her claims of Native American ancestry.

An audience member, in the first question of the morning, asked Warren on Saturday why she underwent DNA testing last year and gave President Donald Trump “fodder to be a bully.”

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Warren steered at least part of her answer toward the president, saying: “I can’t stop Donald Trump from what he’s gonna do. I can’t stop him from hurling racial insults. I don’t have the power to do that.”

Last October, just weeks before the midterm elections, Warren released a video and results of a DNA test in an attempt to address questions over her past claims of having Native American heritage. The move, however, was panned as a political miscalculation, and she was criticized for seeming to play into Trump’s taunts of her as “Pocahontas.”

Warren’s response to the question in Iowa included some of the most straightforward remarks she’s given about her camp’s October decision.

“I am not a person of color. I’m not a citizen of a tribe. Tribal citizenship is very different from ancestry. Tribes and only tribes determine tribal citizenship and I respect that difference. I grew up in Oklahoma and like a lot of folks in Oklahoma, we heard the family stories of our ancestry,” Warren said.

“When I first ran for public office, the first time was in 2012 and the Republicans homed in on this part of my history and thought they could make a lot of hay out of it, a lot of racial slurs and a lot of ugly stuff that went on,” she added. “And so my decision was, we’re just going to put it all out there.”

Warren is in the midst of a three-day swing through the first presidential caucus state. Her Sioux City event, held at the Orpheum Theatre, drew 575 people, according to her campaign.

On Monday, Warren formally filed an exploratory committee for president, becoming the highest-profile Democratic potential 2020 contender to do so.

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