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Lindsey Graham: 'AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists,' but Trump should 'aim higher'  2 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

Democrats put recent internal squabbles aside to unite in defense of four liberal congresswomen whom President Donald Trump on Sunday told to "go back" and fix the countries they "originally came from" before trying to legislate changes in the United States. 

Some congressional Republicans joined Democrats in condemning the tweets – believed to be aimed at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. At least one Republican congressman defended the remarks and said Trump had been misunderstood. The majority of GOP lawmakers have not commented on the controversy. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was one of the first to weigh in, saying in a Fox News interview on Monday that while he agreed with Trump's criticisms of the four congresswomen's politics, he thought the president should "knock it down a notch" and avoid getting personal in his attacks on them. 

"They are American citizens. They won an election. Take on their policies," Graham advised.

"We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country," Graham said, referring to Ocasio-Cortez by her initials.

But knowing that, the president should "aim higher," he said. 

During a news conference on Monday, Trump indicated he believed that Graham was advising him to wait and take aim at more powerful Democrats. 

"I disagree with Lindsey. These are congresswomen. What am I supposed to do, just wait for senators?" the president said. "He said 'aim higher, shoot higher.' What am I going to do, wait until we get somebody else in a higher position, a higher office?"

Graham said on "Fox& Friends" that he recently spoke to Trump and lauded him for his economic accomplishments and his military success against the Islamic State. He said Trump should contrast that with the four Democratic congresswomen's goals, which "would destroy this country." 

"Focus on what they want to do for America, and to America, and compare it with what you've done. Don't get personal. Don't take the bait," Graham said he told the president. 

When asked about the president's tweets, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told NBC10 Boston, "I certainly feel a number of these new members of Congress have views that are not consistent with my experience and not consistent with building a strong America.

"At the same time, I recognize that the president has a unique and noble calling to unite all Americans regardless of our creeds, or race, or place of our national origin and I think in that case, the president fell far short," he said, according to reporter Allison King. 

Romney later issued a similar response on Twitter.

"There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments –they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop," Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, tweeted. "Instead of digging deeper into the mud with personal, vindictive insults –we must demand a higher standard of decorum and decency."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement that she strongly disagrees "with many of the views and comments of some of the far-left members of the House Democratic Caucus" but Trump's tweet "was way over the line, and he should take that down." 

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said in a statement that Trump was "wrong to suggest that four-left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from." 

Toomey said that he "couldn't disagree more" with the four lawmakers on "virtually every policy issue" but "they are entitled to their opinions, however misguided they may be. 

"We should defeat their ideas on the merits, not on the basis of their ancestry." 

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., lamented that while Democrats bickered among themselves, Trump "interjected with unacceptable personal attacks and racially offensive language." 

"No matter our political disagreements, aiming for the lowest common denominator will only divide our nation further." 

“Just because the so-called squad constantly insults and attacks the president isn’t a reason to adopt their unacceptable tactics," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., told the St. Louis-Post Dispatch in a statement. 

When asked by Politico if she thought the tweets were racist, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said, "Yes, I do. They are American citizens." 

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told CNN that "the president shouldn’t have written that. I think it damages him. It damages the country and none of us should be participants in identity politics." 

But Rubio would not go so far as to call Trump's racist, saying "I don't read into people's intentions" and "part of the problem" is that "we throw these terms around today." 

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, downplayed the tweets, telling Politico that "lefties on Twitter everyday" tell him to go back to where he came from. 

During an interview with Fox News, Cruz said, "like most tweets the president sends, I wouldn't send these particular tweets." But he said there should be a discussion on the "substance" of the four congresswomen's records, which he called "indefensible" and "extreme." 

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, told CNN that he thought Trump's tweets were "racist and xenophobic." 

"It's also behavior that is unbecoming of the leader of the free world. You should be talking about things that unite us, not divide us," Hurd said.

"And also I think politically it doesn't help. While you had a civil war going on within the Democratic Party between the far left and the rest of the party, now they have circled the wagons and are starting to protect one another." 

Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas, said Trump's remarks were not "reflective of the values of his constituents." 

"We are proud to be the most diverse Congressional district in America. I urge our President immediately disavow his comments," Olson said in a tweet. 

A third Texas Republican, Rep. Chip Roy said Trump was "wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any ‘home’ besides the U.S." 

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said he was "appalled" by the tweets. 

"There’s no excuse. Inflammatory rhetoric from both sides of the aisle that is used to divide us just isn’t right. It’s not helpful," Upton said. 

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., said Trump's tweets were "wrong" and that "criticism should focus on policy." 

Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., said Trump's comments were "inappropriate and do not reflect American values." She called on all politicians to "raise their level of civility in order to address the serious issues facing our country." 

"@RealDonaldTrump, we must be better than comments like these. I share the political frustrations with some members of the other party, but these comments are beneath leaders," tweeted Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Mich.

Here are some reactions from some other Republican lawmakers on Twitter: 

Rep. Justin Amash called Trump's remarks "racist and disgusting," but the congressman from Michigan recently left the Republican Party and before that had bucked the GOP by calling for Trump's impeachment. 

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told CNN it was "counterproductive for a president to insult a member of Congress" but he declined to comment on whether he thought the tweets were racist. 

Rep. Andry Harris said in a radio interview with WBAL that Trump's comments were "obviously not racist" and that Trump might have been telling the congresswomen to "go back to the district they came from." 

"They all didn't come from foreign countries so you'd have to presume that it was not a country" Trump was referring to, Harris said. 

"The default, when someone disagrees with someone nowadays, they call them racist," he said. 

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he thought Trump's attack on the four Democratic lawmakers was a smart political move. 

"I think the president believes that the more he can get the country to look at the so-called Squad, the more he can get them to realize how radical they are and how fundamentally un-American their views are, in the long-run the better off he is," Gingrich said on "Fox & Friends." 

Ocasio-Cortez said Republican lawmakers who did not comment on Trump's tweets were expressing tacit agreement with them. 

"Until Republican officials denounce yesterday’s explicitly racist statements (which should be easy!), we sadly have no choice but to assume they condone it," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on Monday. "It is extremely disturbing that the *entire* GOP caucus is silent. Is this their agenda?"

Former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona called on more of his fellow Republicans to come forward and denounce the president's tweets. 

"I’ve often said that Republican elected officials can’t be expected to respond to every comment by the President," Flake tweeted. "But there are times when the President's comments are so vile and offensive that it is incumbent on Republicans to respond and condemn.

"This is one of those times."

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