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

The chief of staff to Vice President Pence on Monday attempted to defend President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS 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 ChaoDemocratic chairman presses Transportation secretary over transparency in Boeing 737 Max probe Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Democratic lawmaker asks for probe of reports Chao favored Kentucky officials 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-CortezHillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Sanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden endorsed by former Connecticut senator, 51 Massachusetts leaders MORE (D-N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden endorsed by former Connecticut senator, 51 Massachusetts leaders Omar calls Trump hosting G-7 at Doral 'disturbing' MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSanders seeks spark from Ocasio-Cortez at Queens rally Biden endorsed by former Connecticut senator, 51 Massachusetts leaders Ocasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' MORE (D-Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyOcasio-Cortez mourns Cummings: 'A devastating loss for our country' Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle mourn Cummings Omar endorses Sanders presidential bid 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."