Dems struggle to turn page on Omar controversy

Democrats desperately want to turn the page on a painful week, but doing so is proving to be difficult.

Freshman Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Progressive group leader describes why Warren would be better than Sanders Omar offers sneak peek at her forthcoming memoir MORE (D-Minn.), who has been the center of a debate on anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred that has exposed deep divisions within the new majority, on Friday signaled she’s not going to stop battling on social media with her critics.

Less than 24 hours after the House adopted a resolution broadly condemning bigotry in the wake of Omar’s comments about U.S.-Israel relations, she launched into a Twitter battle Friday morning with Meghan McCain over the thorny topic.

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Omar did so by retweeting a message from Mehdi Hasan, a columnist for The Intercept and a host of Al Jazeera English, that was deeply critical of McCain’s father, former Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFox's Britt McHenry confirms brain tumor, says she's got 'amazing medical team' President Trump is weak against Bernie Sanders in foreign affairs Appeals court refuses to throw out Joe Arpaio's guilty verdict after Trump pardon MORE (R-Ariz.), who died last year.  

“Meghan’s late father literally sang ‘bomb bomb bomb Iran’ and insisted on referring to his Vietnamese captors as ‘gooks’” Hasan wrote. “He also, lest we forget, gave the world Sarah Palin. So a little less faux outrage over a former refugee-turned-freshman-representative pls.”

McCain, a co-host of "The View," ripped Omar for sending out the message, calling it “trash” and “beneath a sitting member of Congress.”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Biden seeks revival in South Carolina Congress eyes billion to billion to combat coronavirus Sanders makes the case against Biden ahead of SC primary MORE also got into the act Friday, seizing on Omar’s remarks and the House resolution — which, to the dismay of several veteran Jewish Democratic lawmakers, changed from a measure condemning anti-Semitism to one that condemned many kinds of hatred — to argue that Democrats had become an “anti-Jewish” and “anti-Israel” party.

While Trump’s remarks were condemned by Democrats, they pointed to how Republicans think the week has moved to their advantage.

While every Democrat voted for Thursday’s resolution, the party was divided all week by its content.

Jewish Democrats openly expressed frustration that the measure initiated in direct response to Omar’s invocation of the “dual loyalty” trope didn't focus solely on condemning anti-Semitism.

As angry as Jewish Democrats were, so were some progressives over what they viewed as unfair treatment of Omar.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez cuts census ad with Lin-Manuel Miranda Bill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Industry group warns fracking ban could cost 7.5M jobs in US MORE (D-N.Y.) began fundraising off a report that pro-Israel activists want to pursue primary challenges against her and other members of their freshman "squad,” including Omar.

“Rashida, Ilhan, and Alexandria have at times dared to question our foreign policy, and the influence of money in our political system. And now, lobbying groups across the board are working to punish them for it,” Ocasio-Cortez’s team wrote in a fundraising email that also referenced freshman Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias Omar offers sneak peek at her forthcoming memoir Sanders wins endorsement of top Muslim group MORE (D-Mich.), who, along with Omar, is one of the first Muslim women to serve in Congress.

Caught in the middle of the battle is Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding Overnight Energy: Murkowski, Manchin unveil major energy bill | Lawmakers grill EPA chief over push to slash agency's budget | GOP lawmaker accuses Trump officials of 'playing politics' over Yucca Mountain Hillicon Valley — Presented by Facebook — Federal court rules tech giants can censor content | Trump upends surveillance fight | Senate passes bill barring federal funds for Huawei equipment MORE (D-Calif.), who has the unenviable task of bringing her caucus together.

On Friday, she defended Omar for a second day in a row, arguing she is not anti-Semitic.

“I think she has a different experience in the use of words, doesn't understand that some of them are fraught with meaning,” Pelosi said of the Somalian-born Omar, who came to the United States in 1995 after years in a refugee camp in Kenya.

Omar’s critics in her caucus have not used the same language as Pelosi.

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Rep. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelOvernight Defense: Army says it isn't investigating Vindman | White House outlines legal justification for Soleimani strike | Service member dies in Africa Trump administration outlines legal justification for Soleimani strike Pompeo to testify on Iran in February MORE (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, declined to share details of his private conversation with Omar, a member of his panel. But when asked if he believed Omar intended to invoke anti-Semitic undertones, Engel replied, “I have no idea what's in her heart.”

Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinProgressive group leader describes why Warren would be better than Sanders House Democrats launch probe into NIH and FBI suspecting Chinese Americans of espionage Barr to testify before House Judiciary panel MORE (D-Md.), a Jewish lawmaker who helped draft the final version of the anti-hate resolution, said he also had “a few conversations” with Omar throughout the process. Like Engel, however, he declined to say if he left those talks convinced she doesn’t harbor anti-Semitic beliefs.

“I shouldn't speak for her,” he said after a long pause.

Omar late Thursday joined Tlaib and Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.), who also is Muslim, in lauding passage of the resolution. Their joint statement led with the news that the resolution marked “the first time we have voted on a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry.”

The resolution the House voted on was heavily edited.

An initial version unveiled Thursday, hours before the vote, stated that white supremacists had targeted “traditionally persecuted peoples, including African Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants, and others.” The revised measure went on to include Latinos, the LGBTQ community, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders.

The Omar controversy overshadowed the House’s passage of a sweeping election reform bill that was meant to be one of the party’s first major piece of legislation since taking over the House.

Some Democrats were deeply disappointed at that result — and some lashed out at the media.

“Every tweet by a freshman from Minnesota is not newsworthy, no matter how juicy the temptation may be,” said Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward Connolly'Liberated' Pelosi bashes Trump — and woos Democratic base Trump's best week ever? Trump set to confront his impeachment foes MORE (D-Va.).

Yet there’s also frustration with Omar herself, not just over her choice of words in describing Israeli affairs but for doing so repeatedly — and airing much of it on social media.

“There are members of the caucus who are resentful that she has distracted people like you from a much more important agenda we think deserves attention,” Connolly said.

“That may not have been her intention, but, for God's sake, don't persist in it — knowing now that that's going to happen,” he continued. “[If the media] is following every tweet, for God's sake, take a break, go on vacation … whatever you have to do. But stop so we can refocus on substance. There's a lot of frustration about that, too.”

Supporters of Omar said her colleagues shouldn’t expect her to change.

Omar, Carson suggested, isn’t about to alter her aggressive messaging style.

“On one end, we know that there are members who are going to be free. They're going to candid. They're going to be fearless in their approach to getting their message out,” he said. “There are other folks who are going to be more measured and pragmatic, and I don't think we're in a place to condemn one methodology over the other.”

Updated 9:02 a.m.