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

The chief of staff to Vice President Pence on Monday attempted to defend President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSAID administrator tests positive for COVID-19 Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year DOJ appeals ruling preventing it from replacing Trump in E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit 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 ChaoWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration New administration, House turnover raise prospects for more diversity on K Street Reinvesting in American leadership 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-CortezKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation Biden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far MORE (D-N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden Cabinet picks largely unify Democrats — so far Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' Pelosi faces caucus divisions in Biden era Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 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."