Mitch McConnell has been a fierce, consistent defender of President Donald Trump. And as congressional Republicans Monday began criticizing Trump’s blasts at four Democratic congresswomen, McConnell remained silent, promising only he’d respond to questions Tuesday.
Trump said Sunday the congresswomen should “go back” to their home countries, even though all four are U.S. citizens and three were born in the U.S.
McConnell, the Senate majority leader, had nothing to say about the matter Sunday and again Monday. When reporters questioned him Monday the Kentucky Republican said, he’d “be happy” to answer questions at his weekly press availability Tuesday afternoon.
McConnell refused to talk about the tweets, and did not mention them in his remarks opening the Senate Monday. Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot who announced last week she’d challenge McConnell for re-election, warned on Twitter against becoming “numb to these statements. These words are wrong and un-American.”
McConnell has been adverse to publicly weigh in on Trump’s Twitter habits, though last fall, he reportedly called Trump to tell him that his tweeted criticism of Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, was not helpful for the confirmation process.
Despite mostly silence from congressional Republicans Sunday, several began criticizing Trump Monday.
Among them was Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who faces a significant re-election challenge next year.
“I disagree strongly with many of the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus — especially when it comes to their views on socialism, their anti-Semitic rhetoric, and their negative comments about law enforcement — but the President’s tweet that some Members of Congress should go back to the ‘places from which they came’ was way over the line, and he should take that down,” she said.
Added Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican: “President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from.”
Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and member of the GOP leadership team, issued a statement Monday that stopped short of calling the tweets racist and also contained criticism of the Democratic congresswomen.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who golfed with Trump on Saturday along with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said in a Fox & Friends interview Monday that Trump should “aim higher” and focus on the members’ politics.
But addressing Trump personally, he said, “Mr. President you’re right about their policies, you’re right about where they’ll take the country.”
The latest Trump tweets came as the four newly-elected members have tussled openly with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, sharply condemned the tweets as “xenophobic” and charged that they are “meant to divide our nation.”
She said Monday that the House will take up a resolution condemning “these disgusting attacks” and called on Republicans to “join us in condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets.”
Trump began his torrent of criticism Sunday morning, tweeting that the “’Progressive Democrat Congresswomen” should stop criticizing the government and “go back” to where they came from, suggesting that they “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe.”
He never referred to them by name, but added that they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.”
He defended his tweets Monday, telling reporters that he was unruffled by assertions that his remarks were racist.
“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said on the South Lawn at the White House. “And all I’m saying -- they want to leave, they can leave.”
He asked via Twitter when the “Radical Left Congresswomen” would apologize “to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said.”
Trump did not name the women but Democrats assume he is referring to Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley, D-Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib D-Michigan — all of whom were elected to Congress in November 2018 and have emerged as highly visible, outspoken members of the House.
All were born in the U.S., but Omar, who was born in Somalia and grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before immigrating to the United States.
McConnell kicked off his 2020 reelection campaign in April with a video that makes it clear he is running for another term as closely tied to Trump as he can get. The three-minute ad touts his success at delivering two Supreme Court justices to Trump and includes footage of Trump hailing the Senate Majority Leader as a “rock-ribbed Kentucky leader.”
Trump returned the favor to McConnell last week, voicing support for “our great Kentucky senator” after Democrat Amy McGrath announced her candidacy.
“Why would Kentucky ever think of giving up the most powerful position in Congress, the Senate Majority Leader, for a freshman Senator with little power in what will hopefully be the minority party,” Trump asked via Twitter.
Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Kentucky, said Republicans are condoning the remarks by remaining silent.
“You can’t remain silent with this kind of behavior,” Yarmuth said, saying the tweets were “outrageous” and “as unAmerican as I have ever witnessed.”