WASHINGTON -- As President Trump launched a fresh Twitter attack Sunday on four minority congresswomen he said were "not capable of loving our Country," a senior Democratic congressman who was active in the civil rights movement half a century ago offered a searing rebuke of the president, saying he now has "no doubt" Trump is a racist.
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said Trump's repeated excoriation of the four freshman Democrats -- and his praise of the patriotism of rally-goers who chanted "Send her back!" about one of them who is foreign-born -- had left him unable to avoid a reluctant conclusion.
"I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt," Cummings said of Trump on ABC's "This Week." However, asked point-blank if he believes the president is a racist, the congressman replied: "Yes. No doubt about it."
Over the past week, despite the qualms of some aides, Trump has doubled and tripled down on his condemnation July 14 of the members of Congress known as "the Squad," all of whom are women of color. A furor erupted following that series of tweets in which the president said the four should "go back" to their countries of origin, although all are American citizens and all but one are native-born. The House of Representatives officially condemned the tweets as racist.
Early Sunday morning, Trump tweeted that the four needed to apologize for past remarks, and again accused them of lacking patriotism.
"I don't believe the four Congresswomen are capable of loving our Country," he wrote of Democrats Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
"They should apologize to America (and Israel) for the horrible (hateful) things they have said," he added. "They are destroying the Democrat Party, but are weak & insecure people who can never destroy our great Nation!"
A Trump campaign official, Mercedes Schlapp, said Trump had disavowed the "Send her back!" chant that erupted at a campaign rally in Greenville, N.C., after the president verbally attacked Omar, who was born in Somalia and naturalized two decades ago. Video of the rally shows the president listening to the chant for 12 to 13 seconds, letting it die down before resuming his speech.
Trump told reporters on Thursday that he "didn't like" the chant and tried to stop it, but by Friday he was praising the Greenville rally-goers as "incredible patriots." On Saturday, he retweeted far-right British commentator Katie Hopkins praising the chant as an updated version of "Lock her up," an anti-Hillary Clinton rallying cry that persisted long into Trump's presidency.
"Well done," tweeted Hopkins, who in the past has called Islam "disgusting" and appeared to blame a rabbi's migrant advocacy for last year's mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.