Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) both defended President Trump after a Wednesday rally in which his supporters chanted "send her back" about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), while Democrats warned about the danger of this rhetoric.
Graham on Thursday argued that chanting "send her back" about a minority congresswoman who came to the United States as a 12-year-old refugee from Somalia isn't racist and that this rhetoric is fine because Trump doesn't want to "send back" those who agree with him.
"A Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back," Graham said, per CNN's Manu Raju. "If you're a racist, you want everyone from Somalia to go back because they're black or they're Muslim." Graham also suggested that this means the rhetoric is "about the criticism and the critic," although he offered some light criticism by saying that "I don't like it" and "I'm not going around telling anybody to leave the country who's an American citizen," The Hill reports.
McConnell also came to Trump's defense Thursday on Fox Business, saying the president is "onto something" with his attacks on the four congresswomen, although McConnell did not reference the "send her back" chant and instead praised the president as being "right about 'the squad' wanting to turn us into a socialist country," Mediaite reports.
Democrats, meanwhile, slammed Trump after the Wednesday rally, with the Congressional Black Caucus' Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) saying Omar's "life is in imminent danger" as a result of his rhetoric, Politico reports, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) accusing Trump of "instilling fear." Omar herself said that "racism distracts, racism hurts, racism kills." Brendan Morrow
President Trump gave a well-received address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, in his first major speech to lawmakers as president. The first month of Trump's presidency has been riddled with turmoil, from a rash of hasty executive orders to personnel disarray and criticism from lawmakers in his own party. But in a sharp break from his usual ominous rhetoric, Trump on Tuesday struck a more optimistic tone — and Republican leaders have seized on the moment to praise their president and rally around the man behind the presidential lectern.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — who differs from Trump in his views on infrastructure spending and paid family leave, both policies Trump touted in his Tuesday remarks — called Trump's address a "home run":
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) praised Trump's "vision for America," which he said "does not distinguish between race, religion, or economic status." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) noted the president's "new spirit of optimism" and his desire to reposition America "for success both at home and in a dangerous world." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a major adversary of Trump's during the presidential campaign, called Trump's Tuesday performance "truly presidential":