Trump slams 'squad' during North Carolina rally as crowd chants 'send her back'

John Fritze

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump continued his attack on four progressive congresswomen of color during a fiery rally in North Carolina on Wednesday, drawing jeers and chants of "send her back" as he mentioned their names. 

Trump ran through a litany of criticism aimed at the four women, accusing them of "helping to fuel the rise of a dangerous, militant hard left." He called out the four members of the "Squad" by name, highlighting past statements they have made criticizing the president and his administration's immigration policies.

"If they don’t like it, let them leave," Trump told the crowd. "I think in some cases they hate our country."

During his 2016 campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton, Trump often prompted chants of "lock her up" at his rallies in reference to the Democratic nominee. The North Carolina crowd broke out a new chant of "send her back," echoing the president's original notion that the four congresswomen should leave the United States. 

Trump's remarks ratcheted up the attack he began over the weekend in which he encouraged the women to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." The four women are all U.S. citizens and three were born in the U.S.

The rally, which White House officials predicted earlier Wednesday would be particularly scorching, cemented the notion that Trump is using the recent controversy as a theme of his reelection campaign to draw a distinction between himself and Democrats.    

At one point, referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., one of the four women Trump has targeted, the president said he would call her simply "Cortez," adding that “I don’t have time to go with three different names.”

The president left for the rally shortly after the House blocked a resolution to impeach him for his attack on the women. A day earlier, House Democrats and four Republicans voted to formally condemn his original tweets as racist. The president slammed the impeachment vote during his rally, but praised the Democrats who opposed the effort.  

Referring to "the resolution – how stupid is that – on impeachment," Trump told supporters that the vote was a "disgrace."  

President Donald Trump gestures while speaking at a campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., on July 17, 2019.

The president has doubled down on his attacks on the congresswomen in recent days and told reporters Wednesday as he left the White House that he's "enjoying" the fight. The rally, which took place in a state Trump won in 2016, offered the president an opportunity to frame the controversy in the context of his reelection. 

In an illustration of the partisan divide over issues of patriotism and race, a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll on Wednesday found that a clear majority of Americans say Trump's tweets targeting the congresswomen were "un-American."

Most Republicans, however, said they agreed with his comments. 

Poll: Most Americans call Trump's tweets targeting 4 congresswomen 'un-American'

More: Fox viewers skeptical of calling people 'racist', and other takeaways from the USA TODAY/Ipsos poll on Trump's tweets

Trump's initial tweets were viewed as being directed at Ocasio-Cortez; Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. During the rally, Trump mentioned them by name and criticized their past statements. At one point, Trump questioned whether Pressley is "in any way related to Elvis?"

The 332-95 vote to kill the impeachment effort Wednesday saw a majority of Democrats join with Republicans to block the measure – a win for conservatives and the president.

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he arrives at Pitt-Greenville Airport in Greenville, North Carolina, on July 17, 2019.

The articles declare Trump is "unfit to be president, unfit to represent the American values of decency and morality, respectability and civility, honesty and propriety, reputability and integrity."

Trump, tweeting from Air Force One en route to North Carolina, dismissed the impeachment resolution as partisan politics.

"This is perhaps the most ridiculous and time consuming project I have ever had to work on," he wrote. "This should never be allowed to happen to another President of the United States again!"  

Contributing: Christal Hayes

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump slams 'Squad' during N.C. rally as crowd chants 'send her back'