White House

N.C. crowd chants ‘Send her back’ as Trump criticizes Omar and House ‘squad’

President also mocks Buttigieg’s last name, painting South Bend mayor as foreign policy lightweight

President Donald Trump greets Blake Marnell of San Diego during a rally at the Williamsport Regional Airport in Montoursville, Pa., on May 20. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday night criticized the House Democratic women known as “the squad,” zeroing in on Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota as his supporters at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, chanted “Send her back!”

He contended that Omar “blamed” the United States for the 9/11 attacks and “smeared” U.S. soldiers involved in the so-called Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia in 1993.

“Omar blamed the United States for the crisis in Venezula. … And she looks down with contempt on the hardworking American,” Trump said.

He railed against the members of “the squad” — freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — calling them “left-wing ideologues” and alleging they “want to demolish our Constitution” and erode “the values that built this … country.”

“The radical Democrats are trying to destroy all of our country’s tremendous success,” the president said. Democrats, in contrast, contend that Trump is a threat to American democracy and his economic policies are only benefiting the wealthiest individuals and big corporations.

As Trump started his criticism of the four House lawmakers, a protestor interrupted him and was subdued by security as the crowd jeered him and chanted “U-S-A.”

[Tweets and comments signal bare-knuckle reelection fight]

“He goes home to mommy, and he gets reprimanded. That’s the end,” Trump said. “Sorry, mommy.”

The president’s feud with the four female freshmen began Sunday morning with two tweets before he left the White House for his second round of golf of last weekend. In one, he falsely stated that the four were originally from other countries.

He also tweeted that since all have been critical of things about the United States, they should each “go back” to their places of birth. Only Omar was born on foreign soil: She’s a naturalized U.S. citizen, while her three “squad” colleagues were, like Trump, born in America.

On Ocasio-Cortez, Trump noticeably refrained from calling her by her nickname, “AOC,” and dismissively said he would simply call her “Cortez” because using her full last name or full name would take too long. The North Carolina crowd booed again as he accused her of lying about his policies. 

‘Squad’ a foil until Dems nominate

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist and adjunct professor at The George Washington University, said the president and his top campaign staffers have been looking for a way to bring the “squad” into the 2020 campaign. When they traded barbs last week with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, O’Connell said Trump saw his chance and pounced.

As he seeks a second term, Trump wants to portray the Democratic Party into one sliding toward socialism and run by progressive lawmakers like the “squad” members. O’Connell and other GOP operatives expect the four Democratic congresswomen will remain a key focus of Trump’s, at least until the party formally picks a presidential nominee next summer.

A long list of House Democrats joined Republicans earlier in the day in stopping a resolution calling for Trump’s impeachment, 332-95 (Democratic Rep. Peter A. DeFazio of Oregon voted “present”). Trump used the vote to fire up the crowd in Greenville.

“So we just had a very big vote on impeachment, the most ridiculous project I have ever been involved in. … It’s a disgrace,” the president said to boos for the impeachment resolution. “What happened to me with this witch hunt should never be allowed to happen to another president of the United States. Never, ever again.”

The friendly crowd cheered loudly as he bashed the various federal and congressional probes of Russia’s 2016 election meddling and alleged coordination with his campaign.

A few minutes later, Trump asked the crowd rhetorically, “Can you imagine what we would have done if we — I won’t say it, but this guy did — didn’t have the bulls---,” referring to the Russia probes. He has taken to cursing when in front of his supporters in recent months, always drawing big applause from the crowds.

[House’s condemnation of Trump may just be the beginning]

Trump spoke before an adoring crowd at Williams Arena on the campus of East Carolina University in Pitt County as he seeks to secure the state’s 15 Electoral College votes.

The latest RealClearPolitics polling averages from North Carolina found former Vice President Joe Biden leading Trump by 3.7 points and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg up over the president by 0.5 point. RCP also found Trump ahead of Sen. Kamala Harris of California by 4.7 points in North Carolina and of Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 1 point.

No third term

At Wednesday’s rally, Trump addressed worries on the left that he would move to secure a third term if he wins reelection next year, a move that would require  Congress to pass a constitutional amendment that would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states, or 38.

But Trump vowed it will not come to that, saying to tepid applause, “In 2024, I promise, I’ll leave.”

Before the half-hour mark of the rally, Trump had called Biden “Sleepy” and Warren “Pocahontas,” saying neither was “looking too good” in the Democratic primary. Both have a legitimate shot at being the Democratic nominee, however.

He spent a few minutes mocking Warren’s alleged claims of a substantial Native American ancestry, saying he wants her to be the Democratic nominee so he can use that against her. But he said he doubts she’ll be his general election foe.

Trump also mocked Sanders, calling him “crazy” and “desperate.” He said the Vermont senator’s many policy proposals would cost too much and joked that Sanders wants to give every American a “free Rolls Royce.” And he called the entire Democratic slate of candidates “sad.”

And Trump mocked the pronunciation of Buttigieg’s last name, saying he runs a “failed city” and would be a foreign policy lightweight.

“If that’s a hot, young star, I guess I don’t know stars anymore,” Trump said with a chuckle before mocking the Democrat’s last name one more time. “I don't see him meeting successfully with [North Korean leader] Kim Jung Un. ... I don’t see him meeting with Vladimir Putin.”

Repeat 2016 electoral map

Trump won North Carolina by 4 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

White House and campaign aides have acknowledged the president’s strategy, for now at least, is to try to stick to the 2016 Electoral College map that put him in the White House.

He has done little, if anything, since taking office to expand his base beyond a core of faithful conservatives and so-called establishment Republicans who are willing to trade his tweets and norm-busting antics for such priorities as a healthy economy, a muscular-sounding foreign policy and tax cuts.

That continued Wednesday night in Greenville, with the president touting his record and bashing congressional Democrats at will.

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