Explainer: Trump, Twitter and four Democrat congresswomen

Explainer: Trump, Twitter and four Democrat congresswomen

United States President Donald Trump is at the centre of yet another firestorm.

Mr Trump is no stranger to controversy, usually using it to his own advantage. But this latest presidential scandal, sparked by race-fuelled tweets, is growing out of Mr Trump’s control as he receives condemnation domestically and ire internationally.

So, what happened?

It all started when the US President told four Democratic Party congresswomen to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested place from which they came”.

He tweeted:

The four congresswomen Mr Trump was referring to are Democrats Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, all of whom were born in the US except Ms Omar.

Ms Pressley was born in Cincinnati and was the first African-American elected to the US Congress from Massachusetts; Mrs Tlaib was born in Detroit and was the first American of Palestinian descent elected to Congress; Ms Ocasio-Cortez was born in New York; and Ms Omar was born in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu and became a US citizen at age 17.

Although senior Republican Party figures have been fairly quiet on the President’s comments, several GOP senators joined the chorus of Democrats in condemning Mr Trump’s tweets.

Former Republican Presidential Nominee Senator Mitt Romney said that “what was tweeted, was destructive, was demeaning, was dis-unifying, and frankly, was very wrong.”

Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi defended the four congresswomen, calling Mr Trump’s tweets “xenophobic”.

Mrs Pelosi tweeted:

Last week, tension arose between Mrs Pelosi, a senior Democrat and career politician, and Ms Ocasio-Cortez after the first-year congresswoman accused her of targeting “newly elected women of colour”.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s accusation came after Mrs Pelosi addressed a tweet made by Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff which said that moderate Democrats were “New Southern Democrats… hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”

Speaker Pelosi, who received overwhelming support from fellow Democrats in the spat, told reporters: “Our members took offense at [the tweet]. I addressed that.

“How they’re interpreting and carrying it to another place is up to them, but I’m not going to be discussing it any further.”

The double down

Shortly after President Trump’s initial tweets, the uproar began spreading across the Atlantic with outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May calling them “completely unacceptable”.

Both of her possible successors, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and incumbent Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, also condemned the tweets.

“If you are the leader of a great multiracial, multicultural society, you simply cannot use that kind of language about sending people back to where they came from,” Mr Johnson said during a debate with Mr Hunt.

Mr Hunt, whose wife is Chinese, said if anyone told his “half-Chinese Children” to “‘Go back to China,’ I would be utterly appalled”.

However, despite the volley of criticism, Mr Trump doubled down.

He tweeted:

After a short break of a few hours and brief digression into “Fake Polls”, the US President continued to cement his position.

He tweeted:

The response

All four congresswomen addressed the media together on Monday (local time) to respond to Mr Trump’s tweets.

The women said that the President’s “xenophobic, bigoted remarks” are a “distraction” from his inhumane policies, with Ms Pressley telling reporters: “We should not take the bait.”

“We can sit here and continue to recycle his hateful rhetoric, of which I can not feign surprise… because he is if nothing else predictable,” she said.

“What we are focused on is the hateful policies, which are draconian and oppressive and life-threatening and family-separating, which are being rolled out by this administration each day.”

Mrs Tlaib described Mr Trump’s tweets as “simply a continuation of his racist and xenophobic playbook,” while Ms Ocasio-Cortez said: “The first note that I want to tell children across this country is that no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you, and it belongs to everyone.”

Pointing to the President’s “utter disregard and disrespect” for the US Constitution, Ms Omar called for Mr Trump’s impeachment.

“It is time for us to stop allowing this president to make a mockery out of our constitution,” she said.

“It’s time to impeach this president.”

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