Republican senator admits Trump’s tweets were racist but refuses to drop support for president

Colin Drury

A Republican senator has admitted Donald Trump’s tweets telling four US congresswomen of colour to “go back” were racist – but says she backs him anyway.

“I don’t appreciate the tweets,” said Joni Ernst of Iowa. “But I still support the president.”

She added: “If you just look at his policies and what he’s been able to do, our economy is booming, and we’re really doing quite well as Americans.”

Her comments – essentially placing economic success over racial equality – came on Tuesday as it emerged Mr Trump himself had told allies he was angry by the lack of support from Republicans backing his attack on New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

He is said to have warned that those not defending his stance may expect repercussions, according to the Politico website.

The fallout from his original comments showed no sign of letting up by Wednesday.

A day earlier, the House of Representatives “strongly condemned” Mr Trump’s language, with some Democrats renewing calls to launch impeachment proceedings.

A vote passed by 240 – 187 approved a resolution saying “Donald Trump’s racist comments have legitimised fear and hatred of new Americans and people of colour”.

It said it “strongly condemned” his remarks that said “our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the president like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries”.

But Mr Trump appeared unconcerned by the rebuke – and once again took to Twitter to double down on his comments.

“If you really want to see statements,” he wrote hours after the vote, “look at the horrible things they said about our Country, Israel, and much more. They are now the top, most visible members of the House Democrats, who are now wedded to this bitterness and hate.”

If followed similar comments made when asked about his original tweet at the White House on Monday.

“As far as I’m concerned if you hate our country, if you’re not happy here, you can leave,” he said.

The same evening, the four women – now nicknamed “the squad” by US media – held their own press conference, urging people not to be “distracted” by the president’s actions.

“He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender, orientation, or immigration status,” said Ms Omar.