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Trump says love US or leave as racism row escalates

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US President Donald Trump has defended his attacks against four Democratic congresswomen, saying he is not concerned if people think his tweets towards them are racist.

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He also accused the US lawmakers of hating America.

“As far as I’m concerned if you hate our country, if you’re not happy here, you can leave,” Trump said at an event at the White House on Monday.

The event was meant to highlight US manufacturing, with Trump viewing boats, motorcycles and other products that were made in the United States, but his comments about the lawmakers overshadowed the event.

“If you’re not happy in the US, if you’re complaining all the time, very simply: you can leave,” he said, drawing applause from some of the crowd. “You can leave right now. I don’t know who’s going to miss ’em.”

Asked if he was concerned that some people viewed his tweets as racist or that white supremacists had found common cause with him, Trump said it did not.

“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said.

Over the weekend Trump said in a tweet that the four first-term minority congresswomen, known informally in congress as “the squad”, should “go back” to the “the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.

Meanwhile Democrats in congress have moved on Monday to formally condemn Trump’s attacks on the congresswomen.

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her party would introduce a resolution criticising his “xenophobic tweets”.

The move could put Trump’s fellow Republicans in an awkward position, forcing them to vote against their leader, who has strong support among conservative voters, or effectively defend statements that have been widely described as racist.

“Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the president’s xenophobic tweets,” Pelosi said in a statement. She did not say when the vote would take place.

Republican lawmakers have been slow to speak out against Trump’s attacks on the four congresswomen, which Democrats have broadly condemned as divisive and racist.

Representative Will Hurd, the only African-American Republican in the House, was a rare exception. “The tweets are racist and xenophobic. They’re also inaccurate,” he said on CNN.

All four of the congresswomen are US citizens. Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib were born in the US while Omar, a Somali refugee, arrived in 1992.

“He relies on racism, division and anti-immigrant sentiment to consolidate power because he does not have a positive vision for the future of America,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters at the Capitol on Monday.

Ocasio-Cortez, who has clashed with fellow Democrats she views as insufficiently progressive, said she thought the attacks were deliberate.

“I think there’s a strategy to divide the country because the more this country is divided, the more he benefits from it,” she said.

Trump’s remarks come as he has intensified his long-running campaign to restrict immigration. Anticipated raids targeting illegal immigrants failed to materialise over the weekend but the administration on Monday said it would tighten asylum rules.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham, a sometime Trump golf partner and adviser, called the four congresswomen “socialist” and “anti-Semitic” on Fox News on Monday but he also called on Trump to stop making such personal attacks.

“Aim higher … Take on their policies. The bottom line here is this is a diverse country,” Graham said, adding he had spoken to Trump.

Senator Susan Collins, a centrist Republican up for re-election in Maine next year, called Trump’s comments “way over the line” and said he should delete them.

None of the top four Republican leaders in congress, including Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, or their representatives had any immediate comment.

-AAP

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