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

The chief of staff to Vice President Pence on Monday attempted to defend President TrumpDonald John TrumpO'Rourke: Trump driving global, U.S. economy into recession Manchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Objections to Trump's new immigration rule wildly exaggerated 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 ChaoTrump administration takes step to relax truck driver time regulations New guidance on travel with service animals is a step forward, but more can be done The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps 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-CortezRepublicans plot comeback in New Jersey Joseph Kennedy mulling primary challenge to Markey in Massachusetts The latest victims of the far-left's environmental zealotry: Long Islanders MORE (D-N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTlaib suggests boycotting Maher show after he calls anti-Israel boycott movement 'bullsh-t purity test' The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown Tlaib's grandmother to Trump: 'May God ruin' you MORE (D-Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibTlaib suggests boycotting Maher show after he calls anti-Israel boycott movement 'bullsh-t purity test' The Memo: Trump pushes back amid signs of economic slowdown Tlaib's grandmother to Trump: 'May God ruin' you MORE (D-Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyJoseph Kennedy mulling primary challenge to Markey in Massachusetts Ocasio-Cortez brushes off Trump tweet claiming she is 'fuming' over Tlaib, Omar attention Trump finds consistent foil in 'Squad' 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."