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'We will not be silenced': US congresswomen hit back at Trump after racially charged attack

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib have condemned Donald Trump's attacks.

The four Democratic congresswomen attacked by Donald Trump in racially charged tweets have collectively hit back at the US president, vowing they will "not be silenced".

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib held a joint press conference on Monday, with the four politicians accusing Mr Trump of promoting a "white nationalist agenda".

The congresswomen talk to the press on Monday.
The congresswomen talk to the press on Monday.
AAP

"Weak minds and leaders challenge loyalty to our country in order to avoid challenging and debating the policy," Ms Ocasio-Cortez said.

While Ms Tlaib said the US House leaders should "impeach this lawless president today".

The women respond to remarks by President Donald Trump.
The women respond to remarks by President Donald Trump.
AAP

It came after the president defended his attacks, saying he was not concerned if people thought his tweets toward them were racially charged and accused them of hating America.

"As far as I'm concerned if you hate our country, if you're not happy here, you can leave," Mr Trump said at an event at the White House on Monday.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Donald Trump.

The event was meant to highlight US manufacturing, with Trump viewing boats, motorcycles and other products that were made in the United States, but his comments about the lawmakers overshadowed the event.

"If you're not happy in the US, if you're complaining all the time, very simply: you can leave," he said, drawing applause from some of the crowd. "You can leave right now. I don't know who's going to miss 'em."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.
AP

Asked if he was concerned that some people viewed his tweets as racist or that white supremacists had found common cause with him, Mr Trump said it did not.

"It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me," Mr Trump said.

Over the weekend Mr Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of colour should go back to the "broken and crime infested" countries they came from.

Mr Trump told a group of mostly American-born Democratic congresswomen to "go back and help fix the totally broken places".

He doubled down on Monday, asking on Twitter when "the Radical Left Congresswomen" would "apologise to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said.

"So many people are angry at them and their horrible and disgusting actions!"

The women are American citizens and three were born in the US His attack drew a searing condemnation from Democrats who labelled the remarks racist and breathtakingly divisive.

Asked whether the president's comments were racist, Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, defended Mr Trump, telling reporters he had been responding to "very specific" comments made by Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia and was not making a "universal statement".

Ilhan Omar with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

But Mr Trump didn't make that distinction in his tweets. He cited "Congresswomen" - an almost-certain reference to the women, who are known as "the squad".

"I don't think that the president's intent any way is racist," said Mr Short, repeatedly pointing to Mr Trump's decision to choose Elaine Chao, who was born outside the country, as his transportation secretary.

"The administration is welcoming of all nationalities into the United States," he said.

Even as Mr Short spoke, Mr Trump, who has a long history of making racially charged remarks, continued to fan the flames, tweeting: "If Democrats want to unite around the foul language & racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out."

Following a familiar script, Republicans remained largely silent after the president's Sunday morning broadsides that caused Democrats to set aside their internal rifts to rise up in a united chorus against the president.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has previously made a splash with her description of US President Donald Trump.

If Democrats want to unite around the foul language & racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I can tell you that they have made Israel feel abandoned by the U.S.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Mr Trump wants to "make America white again" while Ocasio-Cortez said Mr Trump "can't conceive of an America that includes us".

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president who golfed with Mr Trump over the weekend, on Monday advised the president to "aim higher" during an appearance on Fox and Friends, even as he accused the members in question of being "anti-Semitic" and "anti-American".

"Don't get personal. Don't take the bait," said Mr Graham. He said Ocasio-Cortez and her colleagues "are American citizens" who were "duly elected" while adding: "We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of communists. They hate Israel. They hate our own country."

Former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front runner, tweeted on Sunday that Mr Trump "continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain".

"Let's be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Few Republicans weighed in on the president's comments. Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican black senator.

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Watch: Trump accuses democratic congresswomen of hating America - saying they can leave.
Watch: Trump accuses democratic congresswomen of hating America - saying they can leave.

Mr Trump appeared unbowed on Sunday night when he returned to Twitter to say it was "so sad" to see Democrats sticking up for the women.

"If the Democrat Party wants to continue to condone such disgraceful behaviour," he tweeted, "then we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020!"

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