President Donald Trump on Sunday again ripped into four freshmen Democratic congresswomen who've been the target of his sustained attacks, calling them "weak" and "insecure" minutes after blasting a Washington Post story on the fallout over his initial comments about the members a week earlier.
"I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country," Trump tweeted. "They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said. They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!"
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Trump's own top aides did not think he fully understood what he had done in posting racist rhetoric about the four congresswoman of color, nicknamed "The Squad," on Twitter before a golf outing last weekend.
Last Sunday, Trump touched off an uproar when he tweeted that the four lawmakers — who are citizens and, except for one, were born in the United States — should "go back" and try to fix the "crime infested places" they "originally came from" before telling the U.S. government how to handle its problems.
Trump said the Post story contained "phony sources who do not exist" and "is Fake News."
"The only thing people were talking about is the record setting crowd and the tremendous enthusiasm, far greater than the Democrats," he added. "You'll see in 2020!"
The Post report, which was based on interviews "with 26 White House aides, advisers, lawmakers and others involved in the response," said Trump had posted the tweets after watching an episode of "Fox & Friends." He wanted to elevate the four congresswomen, telling his advisers he thought they were good foils, the newspaper reported.
Although he did not name them in his initial tweets, Trump later made clear he was referring to Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
Omar, a Somali refugee, moved to the United States when she was 12 and is a naturalized citizen. Tlaib, a Palestinian American, was born in Michigan; Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Hispanic descent, was born in New York; and Pressley, who is African American, was born in Cincinnati.
Trump's tweets were widely condemned, with Democrats and a small number of Republicans saying they were racist. The Post reported that Trump "acted alone — impulsively following his gut to the dark side of American politics, and now the country would have to pick up the pieces." Aides and allies, the report said, "would work behind the scenes to try to fix the mess without any public admission of error because that was not the Trump way."
Many allies urged Trump to "reframe" his tweets "away from the racist notion at the core" of his posts — "that only European immigrants or their descendants are entitled to criticize the country," the Post reported.
During a campaign rally in North Carolina days later, the crowd began chanting "send her back" after Trump went on a riff about Omar, bringing the racist tone of Trump's original tweets back into focus. After Democrats and some Republicans denounced the chant, the president distanced himself from it, saying "I disagree with it."
Days later, Trump promoted a tweet from a British pundit praising the chant, saying, "As you can see, I did nothing to lead people on, nor was I particularly happy with their chant. Just a very big and patriotic crowd. They love the USA!"
The pundit Trump elevated, Katie Hopkins, had previously called for a "final solution" to Muslim immigration into the United Kingdom and said Jewish leadership was to blame for a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year because of its support of migration.
The Post reported that Trump's allies sought to reframe the debate away from racism and toward the congresswomen's viewpoints, which have come under fire on the right and among the more moderate members of the left.
Speaking at a town hall event in Queens on Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez said the president's recent comments coupled with the "send her back" chant made clear "this is not about immigration at all."
"Because once you start to tell American citizens to quote go back to your own countries, this tells you this president's policies are not about immigration, it's about ethnicity and racism," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And his biggest mistake was that he said the quiet part loud. That was his biggest mistake. Because we know that he's been thinking this the entire time."