By Sam Dorman
Published July 20, 2019
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., disputed President Trump's account of his Wednesday night rally in North Carolina, claiming that he "relished" the audience's chants about sending Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., back to her native country.
"He kind of presided over the situation, he relished it, he took it in," she said at a town hall on immigration in her New York City district Saturday. When a reporter asked her whether she believed Trump had led the crowd on, Ocasio-Cortez replied: "He absolutely did."
She also pushed back on Trump's claim that he spoke up to stop the chants "immediately." "Roll the tape, he didn't," she said. The chant continued for at least 10 seconds before the president said anything.
Trump, on Saturday, tweeted that he did "nothing to lead people on." "Nor was I particularly happy with their chant. Just a very big and patriotic crowd," he said.
That tweet reflected his initial comments on Thursday when he said he disagreed with the chant.
Other tweets from the president lambasted the way the media handled the chants, suggesting that outlets showed bias in their focus on that but not "the most vile and disgusting statements made by the three Radical Left Congresswomen." He appeared to be referring to Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and one of the other members of their "squad."
But according to Ocasio-Cortez, a "key part" of Trump rousing his base involved allowing Neo-Nazis to go "unchecked." She went on to claim that Trump's response to the chants put "millions of Americans" in danger and showed that he no longer wanted to be the president of the United States.
"What he told this country is that he doesn't want to be president anymore because he wants to pick and choose who he is a president to -- and that's not a president," she said.
"Once you start telling American citizens to 'go back to your own countries,' this tells you that this President's policies are not about immigration, it's about ethnicity and racism," Ocasio-Cortez went on to applause from the town hall crowd. "And his biggest mistake is that he said the quiet part loud. That was his biggest mistake because we know that he's been thinking this the entire time."
Ocasio-Cortez also called the president "lawless" and said his administration was making it difficult for Congress to perform its oversight duties.
"When you have a president that does not respect laws, that means he violates human rights," she said, "and that means he does not actually honor the laws that are on the books." Her comments seemed to echo her words from Friday when she told a reporter that Trump couldn't conceive of an immigration system without torture or hurting "innocent people."
The freshman congresswoman also argued that U.S. immigration enforcement had traumatized migrant children in a way that made the government responsible for providing those children mental health care for the rest of their lives. She also doubled down on the idea that the U.S. could abolish Homeland Security Department
"I think that reorganizing and getting rid of DHS is not as radical as [former President] George [W.] Bush's implementation, creation of DHS in the first place," Ocasio-Cortez said.
For weeks, Ocasio-Cortez has been denouncing the administration's immigration practices and clashed authorities over claims about treatment that migrants encountered. During a fiery and emotional House hearing in July, she tore into what she called the Trump administration’s “policy of dehumanization” and stood by claims that detained migrants were told to drink out of toilet bowls.
That appeared to prompt former Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan to vehemently defend law enforcement during the hearing.
“As a 34-year veteran of law enforcement, it is shocking, shocking to see constant attacks against those that leave the safety and security of their homes every day, put on a Kevlar vest and put a gun on their hip and risk their own safety to defend this nation,” he said, at times appearing to get choked up as he defended his former colleagues.
The freshman congresswoman also defended her decision to oppose additional funding for immigration enforcement -- an issue that appeared to bring her and other freshmen congresswomen more public scrutiny as their "no" votes created tensions with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's, D-Calif., support for the bill.
Fox News' Adam Shaw contributed to this report.