Trump defends rhetoric: 'When they hit us we have to hit back'

Trump defends rhetoric: 'When they hit us we have to hit back'
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE on Thursday defended his use of harsh rhetoric to respond to criticism from Democrats, even as he insisted the country has been united by his administration's economic achievements.

"I think the country is far more united than people think. Ultimately what’s uniting the country is success," Trump said in response to a question at a Fox News town hall about toning down political rhetoric in the country.

"But when they hit us we have to hit back," he continued, suggesting it was key to his appeal in 2016. "I feel that. There's two ways of doing it. Turning your cheek, but I wouldn't be sitting up here if i turned my cheek."

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Trump was asked later in the town hall "how are you going to bring us together," where he reiterated his belief that politicians should not take criticism lying down.

"Politicians have to be able to be civil," he said. "If they’re not, you have to fight back."

He then accused Democrats of blunting his administration’s agenda on immigration before suggesting members of the other party will become more cooperative if he wins reelection.

The president has drawn repeated criticism for his rhetoric, particularly his criticism toward Democrats. He has derided lawmakers as "low IQ," mocked their appearance, called them "crazy," questioned if a deceased congressman went to hell, and at one point suggested four lawmakers of color should "go back" to their countries, even though all are American citizens.

Trump's allies have regularly defended him as a "counterpuncher" in the face of controversy.

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His insistence on Thursday that he has to "hit back" drew a sharp contrast with former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama celebrates seniors, tells them to 'breathe deep and dance your heart out' at virtual prom The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead Michelle Obama working with 31 mayors on increasing voter participation MORE's oft-quoted line at the Democratic convention that "when they go low, we go high." Former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderLegal challenges to stay-at-home orders gain momentum Census delay threatens to roil redistricting Storm builds around Barr over dropping of Flynn case MORE drew criticism when he recommended last year that when Republicans "go low, we kick them."

Trump also was asked about and promptly seized on controversial comments from Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment MORE (D-N.Y.) in which he warned that Trump-appointed Justices Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughSupreme Court denies California church's challenge to state restrictions Supreme Court denies Illinois churches' request for action after state eases restrictions Federal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members MORE and Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court denies California church's challenge to state restrictions Speculation swirls about next Supreme Court vacancy Supreme Court denies Trump officials' effort to block order on moving at-risk inmates MORE that they would "pay the price" if they voted against abortion rights.

"That was a real intimidation," Trump said, responding to Schumer's comments.

"If a Republican did what Schumer did, they’d be in jail right now," he added.

The president defended his own criticism of liberal Supreme Court Justices, again characterizing his comments as a response to their attacks on him.