President Trump on Tuesday dubbed California Rep. Maxine Waters the “face of the Democrats” amid an escalating feud over her remarks inciting protesters to harass Trump officials in public spaces.
“The face of the Democrats is now Maxine Waters who, together with Nancy Pelosi, have established a fine leadership team,” he tweeted. “They should always stay together and lead the Democrats, who want Open Borders and Unlimited Crime, well into the future....and pick Crooked Hillary for Pres.”
After White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen were pressured to leave restaurants last week, Waters told supporters at a Los Angeles rally to keep up the accosting.
"If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they're not welcome anymore, anywhere,” she said.
She later told MSNBC that protesters are “going to absolutely harass them.”
Trump responded Monday by saying that she was urging "harm" to his supporters, and first calling her and Pelosi the face of the party.
Waters has shown no signs of backing down, and accused Trump of lying about what she said.
“Trump is the one who is creating lies,” Waters said during a Monday afternoon news conference on Capitol Hill. “Trying to have people believe that I talked about harming people. There’s nowhere in my statement, anytime, anyplace that we talked about harm.”
Trump, though, doubled down Tuesday by suggesting they team up with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2020.
Trump’s eagerness to present Waters as the face of the Democrats exploits a certain anxiety among Democrats over her remarks and the calls from liberals to hound Trump officials -- some of them women -- in public spaces.
David Axelrod, one of the top strategists behind former President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, called Sanders’ ejection from the restaurant a “total political gift” to Trump.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also pushed back, saying that harassing political opponents was un-American.
"No one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That's not right. That's not American," he said, before warning Democrats not to “fight fire with fire” when Trump engages in “bullying” behavior.
“The president's tactics and behavior should never be emulated. It should be repudiated by organized, well informed and passionate advocacy."
In the House, there was disagreement Monday over how to respond.
“There is a split in opinions about what we should and shouldn’t do,” one senior House source who asked not to be identified told Fox News.
One Democrat from a moderate district replied that Waters’s tactics “don’t help” as Democrats try to retake the House this fall. However, others pointed out that Waters was “speaking to her base.” One Democrat said “Trump says a lot of crazy s--- and we can, too.”
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called for “unity” on Twitter.
“In the crucial months ahead, we must strive to make America beautiful again. Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable. As we go forward, we must conduct elections in a way that achieves unity from sea to shining sea,” Pelosi tweeted.
Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, have ramped up pressure on the Democrats with a resolution by Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., calling for Waters to apologize and resign.
The Biggs’ motion claims that Waters’ statements could “directly and unnecessarily lead to public unrest, physical violence, and physical injury” and that members of the administration have already been harassed in public.
The resolution says that Waters’ comments “are in direct conflict with the reputation of the United States as a nation where individuals have a right to debate their differences civilly, without fear of physical retribution.”
Fox News’ Chad Pergram, Lukas Mikelionis and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.