• Freshman Democratic congresswomen responded to President Trump’s attacks on them, characterizing it a “distraction.”
  • The lawmakers, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also reiterated calls for impeaching Trump.
  • They also criticized the Trump administration’s immigrant detention policy in the wake of mass protests over the weekend.
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WASHINGTON – Four of the most outspoken progressive freshmen in the House held a press conference on Monday evening to denounce President Donald Trump over a series of racist attacks he directed at them over the last two days.

The group of freshman lawmakers, which Rep. Ayanna Pressley referred to as “our squad,” characterized Trump’s comments a “distraction” and a symptom of his inability to govern. They also reiterated calls to impeach the president, which have gained momentum in the weeks and months that have followed the conclusion of the special counsel probe into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez replaces Nancy Pelosi as Fox News and Republicans’ new boogeyman for 2020

Rep. Pressley of Massachusetts called the attacks a “distraction” from progressives’ overall agenda. After the press conference, Pressley declined to answer questions about whether a non-binding resolution of disapproval would be worthwhile if the president’s comments were indeed a distraction.

“We are more than four people. We ran on a mandate to advocate for and to represent those ignored, left out, and left behind,” Pressley said in an apparent reference to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has minimized the young group’s clout on Capitol Hill. “Our squad is big. Our squad includes any person committed to creating a more equitable and just world.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said Trump’s attacks challenge American ideals of who belongs in the United States.

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“I want to tell children across this country … that no matter what the president says, this country belongs to you, and it belongs to everyone, and today, that notion – that very notion – was challenged,” said Ocasio-Cortez.

Responding to Trump’s claims that she supports terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said, “I know that every single Muslim who has lived in this country and across the world has heard that comment and so I will not dignify it with an answer.”

“This is a president who has openly violated the very values our country appears to uphold: equality under the law, religious liberty, equal protection, and protection from persecution,” Omar added. “And to distract from that, he’s launching a blatantly racist attack on four duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives, all of whom are women of color. This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms, or it is happening on national TV, and now it has reached the White House garden.”

Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan called the attacks “a continuation of [Trump’s] racist and xenophobic playbook.”

On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the progressive congresswomen of color should “go back” to the “crime infested” countries they came from, despite the fact that only one was born outside the US.

The comments were met with widespread condemnation, including from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said on Monday that House Democrats would introduce a resolution “condemning the President’s xenophobic tweets.”

Read more: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she still supports removing Trump through impeachment, but recognizes it almost certainly won’t happen

“Mr. President, As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States,” Omar wrote in a Sunday tweet. “Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen.”

Trump doubled down on his comments on Monday afternoon, telling reporters at a press conference that Omar “hates Israel, hates Jews.” He falsely accused the Minnesota lawmaker, who came to the US as a refugee from Somalia, of praising Al-Qaeda. Omar was forced to apologize earlier this year after comments she made about Israel were interpreted by many as anti-Semitic.

“These are people that hate our country,” Trump said. “If they want to leave, they can leave.”

When asked if he was concerned that many believe his comments are racist and that white nationalist groups are finding “common cause” with him on the issue, Trump replied, “It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me.”

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