Dems rally behind Omar as Trump escalates attacks

House Democrats rallied behind Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Monday as President Trump escalated his attacks suggesting the freshman lawmaker downplayed the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It’s a change from past controversies involving Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. Fellow Democrats who rebuked her in recent weeks for comments viewed as anti-Semitic are now rushing to her defense.

{mosads}“There have been occasions when she’s made comments that she’s apologized for that were inartful or that were taken as anti-Semitic. This was certainly not one of them,” Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said Monday on a call with reporters.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) also backed Omar, a fellow CBC member: “What she said was true: that after the attack on 9/11, Muslims were treated horribly in this country.”

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said he has ordered a review of security in place for Omar in Washington and in her Minneapolis district. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced a day earlier that she spoke with the sergeant-at-arms to ensure U.S. Capitol Police are conducting a security assessment to protect Omar, her family and her staff.

“He is really putting the congresswoman’s life at risk,” Thompson said of Trump.

The CBC members’ remarks came after Trump blasted Pelosi in a tweet Monday morning for defending Omar, whom he characterized as “out of control.”

“Before Nancy, who has lost all control of Congress and is getting nothing done, decides to defend her leader, Rep. Omar, she should look at the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and ungrateful U.S. HATE statements Omar has made. She is out of control, except for her control of Nancy!” Trump tweeted.

{mossecondads}Notably, however, Trump didn’t mention Omar during a roundtable discussion on the economy in Minnesota, just south of Omar’s district, later Monday.

Omar, who fled violence in her native Somalia as a child and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp, sparked controversy late last week over March comments she delivered to the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim civil rights group, circulated across conservative media. Omar condemned people who blamed all Muslims for the 9/11 attacks based on the actions of a few extremists.

“CAIR was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” she said.

Trump drew more attention to the issue on Friday with a tweet highlighting parts of her comments along with video depicting the 9/11 attacks. Omar said in a statement on Sunday that she’s faced a spike in death threats, including many directly referencing the video posted by Trump.

By contrast, previous controversies involving Omar drew bipartisan backlash.

In February, Democratic leaders urged Omar to apologize after she suggested that U.S. lawmakers defending Israel were motivated by money. And last month, the House adopted a resolution broadly condemning hate after Omar questioned “the political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country” in reference to the pro-Israel lobby.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has been among the most outspoken Jewish Democrats to publicly call out Omar for her criticism of Israel. But Nadler, who represents the part of Manhattan where the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers occurred, notably defended Omar this time.

“She was talking about discrimination against Muslim Americans. And she just said that, after that happened, it was used as an excuse for lots of discrimination and for withdrawal of civil liberties,” Nadler said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I have had some problems with some of her other remarks, but not with that one.”

While Democrats have overwhelmingly rallied behind Omar, some of her closest allies have complained that Democratic leaders were slow to respond. Immediately following Trump’s tweet on Friday, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), another Muslim freshman, urged all Democrats to condemn the president’s message.

“No more silence, with NY Post and now Trump taking Ilhan’s words out of context to incite violence toward her, it’s time for more Dems to speak up,” she tweeted.

“They put us in photos when they want to show our party is diverse. However, when we ask to be at the table, or speak up about issues that impact who we are, what we fight for & why we ran in the first place, we are ignored. To truly honor our diversity is to never silence us,” Tlaib wrote in another tweet on Saturday.

Pelosi, who was traveling in Europe over the weekend, initially released a statement on Saturday condemning the president’s 9/11 tweet without mentioning Omar by name, saying that “it is wrong for the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to fan the flames to make anyone less safe.”

Pelosi went further on Sunday and said, “The president’s words weigh a ton, and his hateful and inflammatory rhetoric creates real danger.”

Within a Democratic Party racing to Omar’s defense, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was a notable outlier. While the New York Democrat, who’s running for the White House in 2020, characterized Trump’s attacks on Omar as “dangerous” and “disgusting,” she also seemed to suggest Omar had minimized the 9/11 attacks.

“As a Senator who represents 9/11 victims, I can’t accept any minimizing of that pain,” Gillibrand tweeted on Saturday.

Other Democrats, however, were quick to reject the notion that the party is divided in its response to the latest Omar controversy.

“There may be one or two that aren’t standing with us, but don’t make it seem as though we are a house divided,” said Fudge, a former CBC chairwoman. “We are standing with her.”

Fudge, who mulled challenging Pelosi for Speaker late last year, also dismissed the idea that Democratic leaders haven’t been forceful enough.

“I think that the Speaker has been strong,” she said.

Democrats have repeatedly accused Trump of inciting racial divisions across the country, particularly on hot-button issues related to immigration and refugee policies. In rushing to Omar’s defense this week, they’re amplifying the importance of sticking together to combat the president’s hard-line rhetoric.

“Since Ilhan came to national attention, and throughout her tenure in Congress, she has been the target of these right-wing … extremists. And she continues to stand up for her beliefs everyday — for people of color, for refugees, for her constituents, for Muslims,” Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.) said. “And that’s why we’re standing up for her.”

Tags Bennie Thompson Donald Trump Ilhan Omar Jerrold Nadler Karen Bass Kirsten Gillibrand Marcia Fudge Nancy Pelosi Rashida Tlaib

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