Congressmembers Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar condemned President Trump’s spate of racist attacks against them in a news conference Monday. Their public rebuke followed Trump tweeting Sunday telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The comments have been widely condemned as racist and xenophobic. We hear from the progressive congresswomen in their own words.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Trump is doubling down after he was widely condemned for his racist attack on four progressive congresswomen of color in a series of tweets that began Sunday and told them to, quote, “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The tweets were aimed at Congressmembers Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who are known as “The Squad.” All four are U.S. citizens, and three of the four were born in the United States. Ilhan Omar was born in Somalia before coming to the U.S. as a refugee at age 12.
On Monday, Trump added a new insult, saying Omar was an al-Qaeda sympathizer—a false claim she said she would not dignify with an answer. During a “Made in America” showcase at the White House, the president refused to back down when reporters asked him about the controversy.
REPORTER 1: Mr. President—
REPORTER 2: Does it concern you—does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It doesn’t concern me, because many people agree with me. And all I’m saying: If they want to leave, they can leave.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Trump, standing outside the White House. His Twitter tirade also named House Speaker Pelosi and comes on the heels of her public feud with the four congressmembers following last month’s passage of the contested border funding bill, which they opposed. Pelosi said that House would vote as early at today on a resolution that, quote, “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments” and says they’ve “legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
This morning, Trump pushed back against the resolution, tweeting the congresswomen, quote, “have been spewing some of the most vile, hateful, and disgusting things ever said by a politician in the House or Senate, & yet they get a free pass and a big embrace from the Democrat Party.” He added, “Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on.”
Well, on Monday, the Squad appeared together for a news conference in response to Trump’s assaults. Here now are their full comments, starting with Congressmember Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY: I want to send a message of gratitude and thanks to the solidarity that we have received from every corner of our country, from our colleagues to our neighbors. We are grateful for your solidarity, your encouragement and your support in the face of the most recent xenophobic, bigoted remarks from the occupant of our White House. I will always refer to him as “the occupant,” as he is only occupying space. He does not embody the grace, the empathy, the compassion, the integrity that that office requires and that the American people deserve.
That being said, I encourage the American people and all of us, in this room and beyond, to not take the bait. This is a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people that we were sent here with a decisive mandate from our constituents to work on, everything from reducing the cost of prescription drugs to addressing our affordable housing crisis, to ensuring that the American people have more than health insurance, but healthcare.
More recently, thanks to the partnership of Chairman Elijah Cummings and the advocacy of myself and a coalition of advocates I’ve worked with for decades, we held the first hearing on childhood trauma. And in sitting in that hearing, as we heard about the many manifestations and iterations of childhood trauma, in the wake of the public health crisis and epidemic that is gun violence, in the wake of PTSD, in the wake of those battling substance abuse disorder and a host of other things, it was impossible not to think of the trauma that is being inflicted upon children every day at our border. At the end of the day, if we improve the conditions of children in a cage, they are still in a cage. And we are viscerally, vigorously and fundamentally opposed to the criminalizing, the vilifying, the mass detention and deportation of migrant families who are simply doing what is their legal human right, and that is to seek asylum.
In the tradition of who we say we are as a country, a beacon of light and hope and of refuge, 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 and why we were sent here—reducing the cost of prescription drugs, addressing the public health crisis and epidemic that is gun violence, addressing the racial wealth gap and, yes, making sure that families stay together.
I also would like to just underscore the fact that despite the occupant of the White House attempts to marginalize us and to silence us, please know that we are more than four people. We ran on a mandate to advocate for and to represent those ignored, left out and left behind. Our squad is big. Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world. And that is the work that we want to get back to. And given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not, be silenced.
And now I’ll invite Representative Omar to offer a few words, as well.
REP. ILHAN OMAR: This country was founded on the radical idea that we are created equal and endowed by our creator with inalienable rights. And yes, we have a long way before we fully live up to those values. It is for this reason precisely that we have to take action when a president is openly violating the oath he took to the Constitution of the United States and the core values we aspire to. As Martin Luther King said, “All we say to America is, be true to what you say on paper.”
I believe this is a pivotal moment in our country. The eyes of history is watching us. 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.
This president, who has been credibly accused of committing multiple crimes, including colluding with 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 healthcare, 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 [bleep]. This is a president who has called black—people who come from black and brown countries [bleep] holes. This is a president who has equated neo-Nazis with those who protest against them in Charlottesville. This is a president who has openly violated the very value our country aspires to uphold: equality under the law, religious liberty, equal protection, and protection from persecution. And 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, whether it is happening in chat rooms or it’s happening on national TV. And now it’s reached the White House garden. He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender orientation or immigration status, because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together across all of our differences, the only way to prevent us confronting the problems our country is facing, whether it is healthcare, climate change, student debt or our endless wars. This is his plan to pit us against one another. This is how he can continue to enrich his friends and distract us from the detrimental policies that his administration is pushing forth.
So, 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 to his crimes. We can continue to turn a blind eye of the multiple crimes he’s accused of, we can stand while he violates people’s basic human rights, and the responsibility—the responsibility that his administration has for the deaths of children on our border, or we can take action.
I have not made impeachment central to my election or my tenure, but since the day that I’ve gotten elected, I had said to people, it is not if he will be impeached, but when. So it is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery out of our Constitution. It’s time for us to impeach this president.
So, now we’re going to have Alexandria Ocasio—Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I’ll try to keep things as brief, I guess, as I can. But who knows? When I get on a roll, right?
When I was a little girl, my father took me to the Reflecting Pool here. We were on a road trip from New York to Florida to visit family. And I’ve told this story before, but it was my first time ever visiting Washington, D.C. And it was my only time visiting Washington, D.C., for years, if not decades. And he rested me on the side of the Reflecting Pool and had my toes dip in the water, and he had me look at the Washington Monument, had me look at the Capitol, had me look at the entirety of the capital of our great country. And he looked at everything, and he pointed to all of it, and he said, “This belongs to all of us. This belongs to you, and it belongs to me.” And so, the first note that I want to tell children across this country is that no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you. And it belongs to everyone.
And today, that notion, that very notion, was challenged. This weekend, that very notion was challenged. So I am not surprised when the president says that four sitting members of Congress should, quote, “go back to their own country,” when he has authorized raids without warrants on thousands of families across this country. I am not surprised that he uses the rhetoric that he does when he violates international human rights and takes thousands of children away from their families. I am not surprised that he has turned our public education system, under the leadership of Betsy DeVos, into a cash cow to enrich himself and his friends. I am not surprised when he corrupts via the secretary of transportation. I am not surprised at what he’s doing.
But I also know that we’re focused on making it better, because we don’t leave the things that we love. And when we love this country, what that means is that we propose the solutions to fix it. We love all people in this country, and that’s why we believe healthcare 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 slipping, because all of this is a distraction. It’s a distraction from what’s most important and from our core values as American citizens.
And with that, I’ll hand it over to Rashida Tlaib.
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Thank you so much. Thank you to my sisters in service. Thank you all so much for being here.
As we all know, the recent tweets and words from the president are simply a continuation of his racist and xenophobic playbook. We cannot allow these hateful actions by the president to distract us from the critical work to hold this administration accountable to the inhumane conditions at the border, that is separating children from their loved ones and caging them up in illegal, horrific conditions.
I represent the third-poorest congressional district in this country, one that is made up of working people, who have been targeted by this administration, and their actions and words are hurting them today. I was elected to fight for them, fight for the 13th Congressional District. They sent me here to Congress to fight back against the corporate assault and the corruption in our country.
This means supporting an impeachment inquiry of this president and his actions by the administration and his appointees. Sadly, this is not the first, nor will it be the last, time we hear disgusting, bigoted language from the president. We know this is who he is. And we know that he and his administration are constantly engaged in actions that harm residents and American people in our country.
Many members of Congress have called for his impeachment because of his utter disregard and disrespect of the United States Constitution. And despite this and other many attempts to distract us, I remain focused—we remain focused—on holding him accountable to the laws of this land and accountable to the American people. I urge House leadership, many of my colleagues, to take action to impeach this lawless president today.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmembers Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, responding to Trump’s racist attacks.
When we come back, we’ll speak with Julián Castro, the Democratic presidential candidate, who says Trump is acting like a white supremacist. Julián Castro has also called for the breaking up of ICE. Stay with us.