New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, fresh from a bitter public spat with top House Democrats, unloaded on President Trump Sunday afternoon after he suggested that unnamed progressive congresswomen “go back” to their own “corrupt” and “crime infested” countries of origin, then “come back and show us how it is done.”
“You can’t leave fast enough,” Trump had written.
Ocasio-Cortez’s fiery Twitter return barrage could be the call to action that unifies a party currently divided along establishment and progressive lines, observers said, even as some analysts blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for laying the groundwork for Trump’s remarks.
“Mr. President, the country I ‘come from,’ & the country we all swear to, is the United States,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “But given how you’ve destroyed our border with inhumane camps, all at a benefit to you & the corps who profit off them, you are absolutely right about the corruption laid at your feet.”
Ocasio-Cortez continued: “You are angry because you don’t believe in an America where I represent New York 14, where the good people of Minnesota elected @IlhanMN, where @RashidaTlaib fights for Michigan families, where @AyannaPressley champions little girls in Boston. You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder. You won’t accept a nation that sees healthcare as a right or education as a #1 priority, especially where we’re the ones fighting for it. Yet here we are.”
Trump’s tweets did not name any specific congresswomen. Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County.
Ilhan Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country.
Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, was born in Detroit. Ayanna Pressley, the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati.
“But you know what’s the rub of it all, Mr. President?” Ocasio-Cortez concluded. “On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you, either. You can’t accept that we will call your bluff & offer a positive vision for this country. And that’s what makes you seethe.”
Tlaib, in her own response, tweeted that Trump “needs to be impeached” and called him “a lawless & complete failure of a President.”
Omar accused Trump of “stoking white nationalism” and added, “As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States. Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.”
Pressley wrote: “THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like. And we’re not going anywhere. Except back to DC to fight for the families you marginalize and vilify everyday.”
Trump specifically invoked Pelosi, D-Calif., in his original comments, writing, “I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements” for the members of Congress to leave the U.S. temporarily.
The president also condemned the congresswomen for “viciously telling the people of the United States” how “the government is to be run.” He suggested that they “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” before returning home.
Just days earlier, Pelosi had urged junior members of her caucus not to tweet attacks at fellow Democrats, and had spoken dismissively of the new freshman firebrands.
Pelosi specifically told The New York Times last week that Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib “have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”
On Sunday, after Trump’s remarks, Pelosi came under renewed scrutiny.
“Make no mistake: Nancy Pelosi’s dogwhistling snipes at @AOC, Ilhan Omar, @RashidaTlaib and @RepPressley helped pave the way for this vicious, racist attack from the president,” wrote Washington Post global opinions editor Karen Attiah.
Attiah added, “What people need to see in this newly formed @maureendowd /@SpeakerPelosi / @realDonaldTrump axis of shevil is that white supremacy relies on dismissing, silencing, and undermining women of color. Putting them in their place by any means necessary.”
For her part, Pelosi quickly condemned Trump’s comments, and said they showed he wanted to make America “white again.”
But, commentator Natalie Shure rejected Pelosi’s attempt to blame Trump entirely: “You’ve…literally spent the past few weeks attacking the exact same members,” Shure wrote.
A torrent of others, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., and Meghan McCain, agreed that Trump’s remarks were racist.
“This is racist,” McCain wrote. “And I see Trump people are trying to spin this to just be about Rep. Omar, but we all know that’s a lie. But even if it were just about Rep. Omar, it would still be racist. We don’t tell people we’ve welcomed into this country to ‘go back.'”
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a 2020 presidential contender, wrote, “Let’s call the president’s racist attack exactly what it is: un-American.”
“Let’s be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen,” added Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., also a presidential contender. “This *is* their country, regardless of whether or not Trump realizes it. They should be treated with respect. As president, I’ll make sure of it.”
Meanwhile, some conservatives said Trump’s comments likely would unite feuding Democrats and strengthen their political position with the presidential campaign heating up.
For example, Jerry Dunleavy of the Washington Examiner was one of several commentators who compared Trump to “Leeroy Jenkins,” the videogame player who, according to viral video legend, charged wildly into the fray and upset his teammates’ carefully crafted plan.
But, MSNBC analyst Matthew Miller said those concerns were misplaced.
“Spare me the analysis about how Trump’s racist tweets will unite the Democratic Party,” he wrote. “Isn’t the relevant question now and forever what the hell Republicans are willing to do about it?”
Matt Wolking, the deputy director of communications for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, insisted the president was being misinterpreted.
“Anyone who says the president told members of Congress to go back to where they came from is lying,” he wrote on Twitter. “He told them to ‘Then come back and show us how it is done.'”
Regardless, Democrats were far more united on Sunday than they were the previous week. In a highly unusual move Friday night, the official House Democratic Caucus Twitter account ripped into Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff for his criticism of another Democratic lawmaker — an astonishing tirade that laid bare the simmering tensions between the freshman congresswoman and her party’s leadership.
The caucus’ Twitter account flagged a June 27 tweet by Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, in which he criticized Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kan., for her votes on issues to do with the migrant crisis at the border.
“I don’t think people have to be personally racist to enable a racist system. And the same could even be said of the Southern Democrats. I don’t believe Sharice is a racist person, but her votes are showing her to enable a racist system,” he tweeted.
On Friday night, the caucus account took aim.
“Who is this guy and why is he explicitly singling out a Native American woman of color?” it said.
“Her name is Congresswoman Davids, not Sharice,” the House Democrats added. “She is a phenomenal new member who flipped a red seat blue.”
“Keep Her Name Out Of Your Mouth,” it said with interspersed emojis of clapping hands.
Several top Democrats, including Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, retweeted the post.
The tumult came after Ocasio-Cortez accused Pelosi of “singling out” women of color, although she later denied she was accusing Pelosi of racism.
The spat delighted conservatives, who expressed their glee at the eruption of blue-on-blue infighting. Chakrabarti, meanwhile, fired back and accused the caucus account of taking his tweet out of the context of a conversation where someone else brought up Davids.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Adam Shaw and Nick Givas contributed to this report.