Pence aide: Trump's 'intent' wasn't racist

The chief of staff to Vice President Pence on Monday attempted to defend President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE's incendiary tweets targeting progressive congresswomen, asserting that the president's "intent" was not racist.

Marc Short, the former White House legislative liaison and current top aide to Pence, told reporters the administration is welcoming to all nationalities after Trump tweeted that the Democratic lawmakers should "go back" where they came from.

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"I don’t think that our president’s intent in any way is racist,” Short said.

Short became the first administration official to publicly defend Trump over the tweets, which Democrats have universally condemned as racist. Republicans have remained largely silent on the issue.

Short disputed the charge that Trump is racist, noting that he has an Asian American Cabinet official in Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoWaPost gives three Pinocchios to McConnell challenger for China attack Trump's contempt for advice and consent Wider impact of COVID: Some voids will be forever, some need not be MORE. He also cited a naturalization ceremony for new citizens that Pence and Chao attended on Independence Day.

Trump did not attend that ceremony, as he was at his golf club in Virginia.

The president sparked an uproar on Sunday morning when he tweeted that unnamed progressive congresswomen "who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe" should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Trump did not specify which lawmakers he was referring to, but the comments were widely interpreted as targeting Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOmar fends off primary challenge in Minnesota On The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick MORE (D-N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar fends off primary challenge in Minnesota The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden picks Harris as running mate The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump to Democratic negotiators: 'They know my phone number' MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibOmar fends off primary challenge in Minnesota Centrists, progressives rally around Harris pick for VP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump to Democratic negotiators: 'They know my phone number' MORE (D-Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyIt's past time to be rid of the legacy of Jesse Helms Minneapolis Star Tribune endorses Ilhan Omar's primary challenger Tlaib wins Michigan Democratic primary MORE (D-Mass.). All four are U.S. citizens, and only Omar, who came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia, was born outside the U.S.

The president doubled down on Sunday night and into Monday morning, suggesting the Democratic congresswomen should apologize to the country and his office.

Despite Trump's use of "congresswomen," Short suggested on Monday that the president may have been speaking specifically about Omar.

"He's making a point about great frustration that a lot of people feel that I think it's hard to find anything Ilhan Omar has actually said since elected to Congress that's been positive about the United States of America," he said.

The Minnesota Democrat has regularly referenced her experiences as a refugee coming to America since joining Congress in January. She has also been an outspoken critic of the United States' relationship with Israel.

Omar prompted allegations of anti-Semitism earlier this year when she suggested those pressing support for Israel were pushing "allegiance to a foreign country."