WASHINGTON — President Trump took his feud with four progressive congresswomen to a new level in a speech on Tuesday afternoon, with incendiary attacks that included false accusations. Before a crowd of teenage conservative activists at a hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., Trump repeatedly called Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a “lunatic” and blasted her three progressive colleagues who have come to be known as “the Squad.”
“You know what? Somebody had to do what I did. It’s not pleasant. We have a deep state, we have bad people, we have sick people,” Trump said. “I watched this — this woman — this Tlaib. … From Michigan, right? It’s a great state. … There’s no way she stands for the values of the people of Michigan. … She’s vicious. She’s like a crazed lunatic.”
The mention of Tlaib’s name prompted roaring boos from the audience of young conservatives. Trump seemed to be referencing footage of Tlaib being forcibly removed from an August 2016 Trump campaign event in Detroit while shouting, “You guys are crazy!” Video of the incident, which took place before Tlaib was elected and involved multiple protesters, resurfaced last weekend. Trump said Tlaib was “screaming like a total lunatic.”
“This is not a sane person, folks, and this is what we’re up against,” Trump said.
Tlaib is one of four progressive women who were elected last year and have become some of Trump’s most prominent critics. The Squad also includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.
Trump’s remarks come on the heels of a series of tweets he sent on July 14 saying the four congresswomen should “go back” to their “broken and crime infested” countries. The tweets were widely condemned as racist, since all four are women of color and three of them were born in in the United States; Omar, who was born in Somalia, is an American citizen. Trump later defended himself and argued the tweets were “NOT racist.”
Tlaib’s press secretary, Adrienne Salazar, responded by accusing Trump of trying to distract from important issues.
“When is the last time President Trump talked about policy that benefits working Americans? He knows his policies and values are not in line with most of Americans and instead is using rhetoric to distract and incite hate and bigotry,” Salazar told Yahoo News.
Salazar said Tlaib is “focused on policies that will bring justice, equity and fairness to her residents and people across the country.”
“It’s time for President Trump to do the same,” she added.
Trump’s speech on Tuesday, which was part of the conservative group Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit, lasted more than 80 minutes. Many of the young people in the crowd wore Trump’s trademark red “Make America Great Again” hats and pins that said “I Love Capitalism.” Some waved signs distributed by Turning Point that said, “They hate U.S. cuz they ain’t U.S.”
Turning Point did not permit the press to interview members of the audience, saying many were underage.
After attacking Tlaib, Trump turned to the larger group.
“Now the Democrats … are forced to embrace her, and I call it ‘AOC plus three,’” Trump said of Tlaib and her colleagues.
He mocked Ocasio-Cortez as “no bargain” and predicted he would win Omar’s home state during next year’s election. Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, won Minnesota in the 2016 presidential election.
“We believe in the American dream and not a socialist nightmare that these people are trying to put on our shoulders,” Trump said of the group.
Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Omar did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Yahoo News.
The president was introduced with a biographical video that said Trump was “socially popular with men and women” as a youth. It went on to recount his 2016 presidential campaign with footage of highlights including Trump mocking Republican candidate Jeb Bush and Clinton. The crowd roared even as the footage showed Trump making promises that weren’t kept, including having Mexico pay for a wall on the southern border and appointing a special prosecutor to put Clinton in “jail.”
As Trump spoke, the cheers continued with periodic shouts of “I love you!” punctuating the president’s lengthy speech. At one point, he brought up a trio of young Turning Point activists who claimed they had been ostracized in their communities due to their conservatism. Trump also touted his own record, including the growth of the economy and the large numbers of conservatives he has placed in the federal judiciary.
After Trump’s July 14 remarks about the congresswomen, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, presented articles of impeachment against the president on July 16. The vast majority of House members subsequently voted to table Green’s resolution, with just 95 Democrats supporting the impeachment measure.
During his speech on Tuesday, Trump returned to the topic of the Squad when he criticized Democrats for wanting impeachment even though he claimed the country has the “best military,” “best economy” and “best everything” under his leadership. Trump suggested the quartet of congresswomen are pulling other Democrats to the left.
“These people have lost all control,” Trump said. “The Democrats are getting dragged into a radical left position. … I believe they hate our country, OK?”
Along with criticizing Trump, the members of the progressive Squad have spoken out against more moderate Democrats. The Trump campaign has said the president hopes to capitalize on this type of Democratic infighting in his reelection bid. In his speech, Trump argued that the prominence of the Squad would help him secure a second term.
“When I watch this maniac Tlaib screaming and shouting … out of control … this is representing us?” Trump asked. “This is not what we want representing us, I don’t think. And I think it’s why we’re going to have a tremendous victory in 2020.”
Trump then turned to Ocasio-Cortez, who has been the most prominent member of the group.
“Just call her Cortez because I don’t have time to call her by the whole name,” said Trump. “It’s too long.”
The president then proceeded to levy a pair of false attacks against the congresswomen. He started with Ocasio-Cortez.
“She called our country and our people ‘garbage,’” Trump said. “She said ‘garbage.’”
Ocasio-Cortez has never described the country with that term.
Trump then presented his rationale for “calling out” the four congresswomen, claiming they had talked about “evil Jews.”
Members of the Squad have criticized the Israeli government. Omar has been accused of using anti-Semitic rhetoric in her statements about Israel. However, the women have not used the term “evil Jews,” as Trump claimed.
Trump’s attacks on the four congresswomen have sparked some observers to speculate he is trying to goad Democrats into calling him a racist in order to galvanize his supporters. However, it’s unclear whether his attacks are indeed part of a strategy, or simply Trump saying what is on his mind.
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