U.S. President Donald Trump insisted Tuesday he believes racist tweets he sent over the weekend “were NOT Racist.”
“I don’t have a Racist bone in my body!” Trump exclaimed amid widespread criticism that he again used nativist and racist rhetoric to lash out at his opponents.
For the first time Trump indicated whom he was referring to when he took aim at a group of progressive Democratic congresswomen of color, whom he told to "go back" to the "totally broken and crime infested" countries they come from.
Trump quoted a former congressman who called them "the squad," a colloquialism that refers to freshmen congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Presley.
Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Presley were all born in the U.S., and Omar is a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Somalia. All are Americans of color.
The president had previously refrained from naming the women when questioned by reporters. It is unclear why he chose to specify who he has been referring to amid sweeping criticism.
House Democrats could vote later Tuesday night on a resolution to condemn Trump's tweets sponsored by congressman Tom Malinowski.
The president called the vote "a Democrat con game," urging his fellow Republicans to "not show 'weakness' and fall into their trap."
"This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat Congresswomen, who I truly believe, based on their actions, hate our Country. Get a list of the HORRIBLE things they have said," Trump said, reiterating criticism of the lawmakers.
Several Republicans have broken with the president over his comments, including congressman Will Hurd, the sole black Republican in the House caucus, who told CNN "those tweets are racist, and xenophobic" prior to the announcement of Malinowski's resolution.
The four liberal congresswomen held a news conference Monday evening in which they lambasted the president use of "xenophobic bigoted" rhetoric.
"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," said Tlaib.
In a letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of "going beyond his own low standards using disgraceful language about Members of Congress".
"The House cannot allow the president’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand," Pelosi wrote.