By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump defended Monday his tweets singling out four Democratic U.S. congresswomen of color, falsely claiming "these are people who hate our country."
Trump issued the controversial tweets Sunday against "'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen," whom he did not name, but was likely referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley, saying they should go back to "the totally broken and crime infested" countries they came from.
The group of progressive lawmakers is collectively known as "the squad," and all of them were born in the U.S., except Omar who is a naturalized citizen.
Asked about criticism he has faced for his comments, Trump told reporters at the White House "It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me."
"If you’re not happy in the U.S., if you’re complaining all the time, very simply -- you can leave, you can leave right now," Trump said, doubling down on his rhetoric.
Trump on Monday continued to decline to identify precisely whom he was referring to, but in his tweets from Sunday he noted conflict with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a likely reference to Ocasio-Cortez who has recently been feuding with the Democratic leader.
Trump also said the lawmakers should "apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used."
Omar stirred controversy with a series of comments critical of Israel's lobbying efforts in Congress, and Tlaib used an expletive to describe the president when addressing supporters.
All of the left-wing lawmakers have issued sometimes stern criticism of the president and the Trump administration more broadly, particularly on immigration, but have not voiced the hateful sentiments against the U.S. the president alleges.
Trump's comments elicited strong opposition from Democrats with some Republicans joining in the chorus after remaining largely silent Sunday, including congressman Will Hurd who told CNN "those tweets are racist, and xenophobic."
"They're also inaccurate. The four women he's referring to are actually citizens of the United States. Three of the four were born here. It's also behavior that's unbecoming of the leader of the free world. He should be talking about things that unite, not divide us," the House Republican caucus's sole black lawmaker said.