by Chris Mills Rodrigo · April 14, 2019
President Trump has a new foil: first-year Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.)
Comments from the Minnesota lawmaker last month about 9/11, criticizing its use as a cudgel against Muslim Americans, have been the subject of intense criticism that escalated on Friday when Trump highlighted them in a video he tweeted.
Speaking at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) last month, Omar said “some people did something” in reference to the 9/11 attacks before explaining that some used the attack to advocate for taking away civil liberties from Muslim Americans.
Trump on Friday shared an edited video superimposing the remarks over images and video of the 2001 terrorist attacks that appeared to suggest Omar was dismissing what happened. “We will never forget,” he tweeted.
On Sunday, the White House defended Trump over the video while top Democrats criticized him. Omar has been the center of multiple controversies as well as the target of threats since joining Congress as one of the first two Muslim women earlier this year, and Trump is being accused of inciting violence against her even as some Democrats criticize her original comments.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday that Trump did not mean “ill will” or “violence toward anyone” with the video.
“But the president is absolutely and should be calling out the congresswoman for her not only one time but history of anti-Semitic comments,” she added.
The video was posted just days after a self-declared Trump supporter was arrested for allegedly making death threats against Omar.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), a Navy veteran, was one of the first people to seize on Omar’s comments last week, calling them “unbelievable” and later denying his criticism incited violence against her.
On Saturday, after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) went after him him over the comments by comparing them to his decision not to cosponsor the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund, Crenshaw said such criticism was “almost not worth responding to.”
“The fact that they would double down on this and try to provide cover for Ilhan Omar when all you have to do is say hey, she misspoke, maybe she did not mean at that way. Why don’t you just say that?” he said on Fox News.
Some Democrats have taken a measured response to Omar, criticizing Trump without defending her comments. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement Saturday that “memory of 9/11 is sacred ground, and any discussion of it must be done with reverence.”
“The President shouldn’t use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack,” Pelosi added. “It is wrong for the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to fan the flames to make anyone less safe.”
Since his father tweeted the video, Donald Trump Jr. has retweeted comments suggesting Omar is un-American and claimed a double standard over threats to conservatives in comparison to those against the lawmaker.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential hopefuls have turned Trump’s attacks against Omar into a campaign issue.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) tweeted Saturday that as a New Yorker representing 9/11 victims, she “can’t accept any minimizing of that pain.” But she also condemned Trump’s “dangerous rhetoric” against Omar.
Gillibrand’s fellow 2020 presidential candidates Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), slammed Trump’s tweet without taking a stance on Omar’s original comments.
Booker said in an interview published Saturday that Trump’s video was “vicious, crass, disgusting.” Warren tweeted Friday that Trump is “inciting violence against a sitting Congresswoman.”
O’Rourke called the tweet “an incitement to violence” during a Sunday campaign stop.
Omar, who moved to the United States in 1992 after fleeing a deadly civil war in Somalia, has roiled controversy within her party in the past with criticism of lawmakers who support Israel. Republican national chairwoman Ronna McDaniel last week tweeted, “Democrat leaders need to condemn her brazen display of disrespect” after Omar’s resurfaced comments. But this time, most Democrats are standing with her.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that he had no issue with the Minnesota lawmaker’s original comments, before tearing into what he called Trump’s lack of “moral authority” on the issue.
“She characterized it only in passing, she was talking about discrimination against Muslim Americans,” Nadler said. “I’ve had some problems with some of her other remarks, but not with that one.”
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the only other Muslim woman in Congress, said that Democratic leadership is handling the criticism poorly.
“They put us in photos when they want to show our party is diverse,” she tweeted Saturday.
“However, when we ask to be at the table, or speak up about issues that impact who we are, what we fight for & why we ran in the first place, we are ignored,” she continued, quote-tweeting a California state legislative staffer who criticized “the attacks on @IlhanMN and subsequent lack of support from Democratic leadership.”
Following Trump’s tweet, on Saturday, Omar tweeted that she “did not run for Congress to be silent.”
“No one person – no matter how corrupt, inept, or vicious – can threaten my unwavering love for America,” she added. “I stand undeterred to continue fighting for equal opportunity in our pursuit of happiness for all Americans.”
The Hill · by Chris Mills Rodrigo · April 14, 2019