President Trump admitted on Thursday that he spoke to people in Israel about banning Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from the country.
Speaking to reporters, the president didn’t elaborate on who he spoke to, but insisted he didn’t “encourage or discourage.”
“I don’t want to comment about who I spoke to. I think my social media statement pretty well speaks for itself. But I did speak to people over there,” he said.
“I can’t imagine why Israel would want to let them in. If they want, they can let them in,” he added.
Earlier Thursday morning, Mr. Trump tweeted that Israel would be showing “great weakness” by allowing the two freshman congresswomen into the country, despite their support for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement.
“They hate Israel and all Jewish people and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds,” he tweeted. “Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office.”
The official decision was announced in Israel not long after the president’s tweets.
Democrats and Jewish advocacy groups have rallied against the ban, arguing it is disrespectful and undermines the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Several have blamed the president as well.
It is disgusting that a bigot like Trump is attacking @RashidaTlaib and @IlhanMN in this way. Opposing Netanyahu’s policies is not “hating the Jewish people.” We must stand together against those who promote hatred and racism in Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and everywhere. https://t.co/Sq8FikcumK— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 15, 2019
Despite the criticism, Mr. Trump is standing by his comments.
“I’m only involved from the standpoint that they are very anti-Jewish and anti-Israel. They’ve become the face of the Democrat Party. I absolutely did put out a very strong statement [on social media]. Omar, Tlaib, what they’ve said about Israel is disgraceful,” he said.
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