Member of Senate GOP leadership says Trump tweets are racist

Senate Republican Conference Vice Chairwoman Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstThe Hill's Campaign Report: GOP set to ask SCOTUS to limit mail-in voting Liberal super PAC launches ads targeting vulnerable GOP senators over SCOTUS fight Romney backs pre-election Supreme Court vote, paving way for McConnell, Trump MORE (R-Iowa) said Monday that she thinks President TrumpDonald John TrumpOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Pelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Trump mocks Biden appearance, mask use ahead of first debate MORE’s tweets suggesting that minority Democratic lawmakers “go back” to the countries they came from was racist.

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Ernst was pressed by reporters about Trump’s tweets from the weekend when she walked into a weekly leadership meeting in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi: Trump hurrying to fill SCOTUS seat so he can repeal ObamaCare Senate GOP aims to confirm Trump court pick by Oct. 29: report Trump argues full Supreme Court needed to settle potential election disputes MORE’s (R-Ky.) office.

Asked if she thought Trump’s comments were specifically racist, Ernst acknowledged, “Yeah, I do.”  

She reiterated that view when asked on another occasion by a CNN reporter if she found Trump’s comments racist.

“Uh, yeah. They’re American citizens,” she said, referring to Trump’s suggestion that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezHouse passes bill to avert shutdown Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' The Memo: Dems face balancing act on SCOTUS fight MORE (N.Y.), Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar fires back at Trump over rally remarks: 'This is my country' Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' Democrats scramble on COVID-19 relief amid division, Trump surprise MORE (Minn.), Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibTrump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' George Conway: 'Trump is like a practical joke that got out of hand' Pelosi endorses Kennedy in Massachusetts Senate primary challenge MORE (Mich.) and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyTrump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' Pressley applauded on House floor after moving speech on living with alopecia San Francisco considers changing local voting age to 16 MORE (Mass.), who all identify as racial minorities, go back to the counties they’re from.

Of that group, only Omar, a native of Somalia, was born outside the United States.  

Ernst also called the comments “not constructive” and “not helpful.”

Like other Republicans, she said Trump should focus on policies instead of personal attacks.

“Let’s focus on policies and we can debate those policies because I personally think the GOP has a stronger platform to talk about. That’s what we should be focusing on,” she said.

Ernst, a first-term member of the Senate, is up for reelection next year and Democrats think they have a shot of defeating her if Trump underperforms expectations.

She has distanced herself from Trump on other occasions, such as earlier this year when she warned Trump not to trust North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnSatellite images indicate North Korea preparing for massive military parade South Korea warns of underwater missile test launch by North Korea Trump says he didn't share classified information following Woodward book MORE or when she has criticized his tariff policy.

Ernst said Monday that she had not spoken to Trump about his tweets.