Trump on July 14 sent out a series of racist tweets directed at four progressive Democratic members of Congress who are women of color. The president suggested they "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested" countries from which they came.
The four lawmakers are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Three out of four of the lawmakers were born in the US and all are US citizens. Omar was born in Somalia, came to the US as refugee when she was a child, and became a US citizen at 17.
Trump's tweets at the four lawmakers, who've become known as "the Squad" on Capitol Hill, played off of the racist "go back to Africa" trope.
Trump's tweets also alluded to Democratic infighting that's occurred between "the Squad" and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in recent weeks: "I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"
The fight between Pelosi and the freshman Democrats largely began in late June after she accepted a Senate version of a nearly $4.6 billion emergency border aid funding bill. The progressive lawmakers felt it didn't go far enough in terms of addressing conditions in detention centers being used by the federal government to house migrants. Ocasio-Cortez has referred to these facilities as "concentration camps."
"What we did today is continue to allow the atrocity to take place," Omar said after the bill went through. "We've sent money that we don't know if it's going to continue to be used to put proper beds, to buy toothpaste, to assist these children in any kind of way and their families."
Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti sent a tweet attacking moderate Democrats over the emergency aid bill after it passed. "I don't think people have to be personally racist to enable a racist system," Chakrabarti wrote. "And the same could even be said of the Southern Democrats. I don't believe [Rep. Sharice Davids] is a racist person, but her votes are showing her to enable a racist system."
Subsequently, in an early July interview with The New York Times, Pelosi went after Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley. "All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn't have any following. They're four people and that's how many votes they got."
Chakrabarti then took to Twitter and slammed Pelosi. "All these articles want to claim what a legislative mastermind Pelosi is, but I'm seeing way more strategic smarts from freshman members," Chakrabarti tweeted on July 6 in reference to the speaker's comments. "Pelosi is just mad that she got outmaneuvered (again) by Republicans."
Not longer after, on July 8, Ocasio-Cortez pushed back on the notion she shouldn't speak out against Pelosi in public: "Having respect for ourselves doesn't mean we lack respect for her. It means we won't let everyday people be dismissed."
The House Speaker then scolded Democrats at a caucus meeting, telling them to come to her instead of tweeting complaints: "You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it," Pelosi reportedly said at the Wednesday caucus meeting. "But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just ok."
A spokesperson for Pelosi said the comments weren't directed at anyone in particular, but Ocasio-Cortez went after the House Speaker in a subsequent interview with The Washington Post. The freshman Democratic accused Pelosi of "singling out of newly elected women of color," adding that the speaker had been "outright disrespectful." Ocasio-Cortez later said she "absolutely" did not intend to accuse Pelosi of racism with her comments.
But the feud escalated significantly last week, when the official Twitter account for the House Democrats went after Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff for the tweet he'd sent going after moderate members of the party in late June, after the emergency border aid funding bill spat. The tweet said, "Who is this guy and why is he explicitly singling out a Native American woman of color? Her name is Congresswoman Davids, not Sharice. She is a phenomenal new member who flipped a red seat blue. Keep Her Name Out Of Your Mouth."
Trump's racist tweets attacking the progressive lawmakers were posted on Sunday, July 14. In an effort to rile up his base and further divide Democrats, the president appeared to be inserting himself in the ongoing battle between Pelosi and "the Squad."
Trump's tweets sparked immediate condemnation from Democratic leaders and some members of the GOP. Later in the week, Republican leaders rejected the notion Trump is racist.
Trump on Monday said he was not concerned that the tweets were being characterized as racist, because he said "many people agree with me." Meanwhile, a poll conducted after Trump's tweets found his approval had gone up with Republicans.
"The Squad," at a press conference on Monday, ripped into Trump over his tweets and reiterated calls for launching impeachment proceedings against him. "He does not know how to defend his policies so what he does is attack us personally," Ocasio-Cortez said of Trump.
And in what seemed to be an apparent jab at previously comments Pelosi made about "the Squad," Pressley at the press conference said: "We are more than four people. We ran on a mandate to advocate for and to represent those ignored, left out, and left behind. Our squad is big. Our squad includes any person committed to creating a more equitable and just world."
Trump on Tuesday rejected that his tweets were racist and said he doesn't have a "racist bone" in his body. Ocasio-Cortez responded in a tweet that said, "You're right, Mr. President — you don't have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest."
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Tuesday added fuel to the fire when she asked a reporter "what's your ethnicity?" in response to questions about Trump's racist tweets.
Relatedly, Conway's husband, George Conway, wrote an op-ed on Monday calling Trump a racist after his tweets. He's a frequent critic of the president. "No matter how much I came to dislike him, I didn’t want to think that the president of the United States is a racial bigot. But Sunday left no doubt," he wrote.
The House on Tuesday passed a resolution condemning Trump over the tweets. Every single Democrat voted in favor of the resolution, with just four Republicans joining them.
Before the resolution passed, Pelosi sparked a fierce debate on the House floor over using the word "racist" to describe Trump's tweets. There are strict rules over the language lawmakers are permitted to use on the floor. Her words were ruled out of order, which led to a vote on whether to strike them from the record. The vote failed.
The debate surrounding whether Pelosi's word choice was so heated that Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, who was presiding over the House floor, tossed his gavel and declared, "I abandon the chair."
At a rally for his 2020 re-election campaign on Wednesday in North Carolina, Trump continued his attacks on Omar, which prompted his supporters to echo his racist tweets as they chanted, "send her back!" Trump did not rebuke the chants at the time. He paused for 13 seconds before speaking again.
Trump on Thursday disavowed the "send her back" chants, stating he wasn't "happy" about them. The president also falsely claimed he attempted to stop the chants, though video shows that's not true.
It didn't take long for Trump to reverse his position. On Friday, he praised the supporters who were at his Wednesday rally: "Those people in North Carolina ... that stadium was packed, it was a record crowd. And I could have filled it 10 times, as you know," Trump said. "Those are incredible people. Those are incredible patriots."
Timeline of the chaotic series of events surrounding Trump's racist tweets attacking 'the Squad'