‘His plan to pit us against one another:’ Progressive ‘squad’ responds to Trump attacks

Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Omar and Tlaib say they won’t let president distract from Democrats’ agenda

From left, Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., conduct a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center responding to negative comments by President Donald Trump that were directed at them. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The “squad,” as four progressive Democratic freshman minority women call themselves, responded Monday to President Donald Trump’s repeated calls for them to leave the country by calling it a “distraction” — even as they said the House should impeach him. 

Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York,  Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and  Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said they will not let Trump’s attacks — “a continuation of his racist, xenophobic playbook” as Omar called it — distract them from Democrats’ agenda.

“This is the agenda of white nationalists. ... This is his plan to pit us against one another,” Omar said. 

But the squad, speaking together at a press conference Monday evening, also presented a mixed message about the appropriate way to move forward.

Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez honed in on things Democrats want to accomplish legislatively, like improving conditions for migrants at the border and expanding education and health care access. 

“We are more than four people. We ran on a mandate to advocate for and to represent those who [felt] left out and left behind,” Pressley said. “Our squad is big. Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world. And that is the work we want to get back to.” 

“We’ll stay focused on our agenda and we won’t get caught slipping  because all of this is a distraction. It’s a distraction from what’s most important,” Ocasio-Cortez added.

Omar and Tlaib, however, used the press event as an opportunity to appeal for Trump’s impeachment. 

“I have not made impeachment central to my election or my career,” Omar qualified before saying, “It is time for us to stop allowing him to make a mockery out of this Constitution. It’s time for us to impeach this president.”

Tlaib urged House leadership and her colleagues to hold Trump accountable by supporting an impeachment inquiry. She has introduced a resolution to open one that is cosponsored by the three other members of the squad as well as 13 other Democrats.

Despite the low number of members who have signed onto Tlaib’s resolution, at least 87 Democrats have publicly said they support an impeachment inquiry, according to a CQ Roll Call analysis. Texas Rep. Al Greensaid Monday he plans to file new articles of impeachment as a privileged resolution to force a vote on the matter by the end of the month.

Trump first criticized the squad in Twitter thread Sunday in which he questioned their on running the country and said, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

The president did not name the lawmakers he was attacking but he was widely understood to be targeting Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley, Omar and Tlaib.

His claims about their countries of origin were largely false, however, as the only squad member not originally from the United States is Omar. She was born in Somalia but is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Ocasio-Cortez said Trump is attacking her and her colleagues personally because he doesn’t know how to defend his policies. 

“He can’t look a child in the face and he can’t look all Americans in the face and justify why his country is throwing them in cages,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “So instead he tells us that I should go back to the great borough of the Bronx and make it better. And that’s what I am here to do.“ 

Trump continued to attack the squad on Monday in remarks to the press, as well as tweets. He even fired off a tweet as the four progressive freshmen were addressing the press. 

“The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four ‘progressives,’ but now they are forced to embrace them. That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!” Trump wrote.

The president is correct in that Democrats have coalesced around the squad. Pressley opened their press conference by thanking her colleagues and others around the country for their solidarity. 

In a show of that solidarity, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday that caucus members were drafting a resolution to condemn Trump’s remarks. The House will vote on that as soon as Tuesday. 

The resolution, as well as Trump’s continued criticisms, will only serve to extend the narrative that Pressley sought to quell with her remarks at the news conference Monday evening.

“I encourage the American people and all of us in this room and beyond to not take the bait,” the Massachusetts Democrat said. “This is a disruptive distraction from the issues up here [and] in turn in consequence to the American people.”

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