While speaking to a group of reporters on Friday, President Trump said something that's almost guaranteed to send Democrats back into fits of hysterical rage: He insisted that members of the audience during his North Carolina rally earlier this week - the same ones who burst into the "racist" "send her back" chants - are "incredible patriots."
Trump said this despite disavowing the chant, which he didn't start or actively encourage, after a severe backlash from Democrats and Republicans. While disavowing the chant, Trump did say he "felt a little bit bad" about it.
When pressed by reporters, Trump refused to repeat his criticism of the chant from Thursday, and instead criticized Ilhan Omar - the object of the chant.
"Those are incredible people, those are incredible patriots," Trump said.
In reference to Omar, he said: "She’s lucky to be where she is, let me tell you. And the things that she has said are a disgrace to our country."
Later in the afternoon, during a brief huddle with reporters to address Iran's seizure of two British tankers, Trump criticized her again for introducing a bill supporting the BDS movement directed at Israel.
"They can't go around saying that our country is 'garbage'," Trump said, referring to Omar and her fellow "Squad" members. "When they do that, I don't care about politics."
He added that "what they say is a disgrace to them, a disgrace to our country and a disgrace to Democrats."
Trump calls the North Carolina crowd, some of whom chanted 'send her back,' "incredible people. Those are incredible patriots."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 19, 2019
Trump says of Ilhan Omar: “She’s lucky to be where she is, let me tell you. And the things that she has said are a disgrace to our country."
Via CNN pic.twitter.com/rmuDIZf09A
Bloomberg reported that Trump's seeming back-and-forth over the chant "reflect the political tension he faces as the 2020 campaign gets underway. He is trying to rev up core supporters while at the same time appeasing more mainstream Republicans."
Trump has been feuding with the Squad for nearly a week now, ever since he tweeted on Sunday that the four Congresswoman should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came" - a comment that Democrats immediately pounced on and condemned as racist.
However, Trump's rhetoric about the Squad has helped beef up his approval rating, which according to a poll out Friday climbed to its highest level yet, and just a few points short of a majority of popular support. That means voters are responding to Trump's criticisms of the Democrats, who are becoming increasingly beholden to the party's progressive wing, despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi's insistence that "the Squad"'s following on Capitol Hill is limited to "just four votes" (criticism which AOC, the Squad's de facto leader, swiftly denounced as racist).