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Trump says congresswomen can go "wherever they want"

Trump continues to defend racist tweet

President Trump on Tuesday continued to defend his tweet that progressive female representatives of color should "go back" to their countries, saying they could go "wherever they want" without naming any countries. 

The president continues to face backlash over his inflammatory tweets, although that backlash isn't coming from his administration. Administration officials are either defending him or declining to comment on the president's racist remarks. 

Asked by a reporter during a cabinet meeting where the Democratic representatives should go, the president responded, "It's up to them."

"Go wherever they want, or they can stay. But they should love our country," he said. "They shouldn't hate our country. You look at what they've said, I have clips right here — the most vile, horrible statements about our country, about Israel, about others. Uh, it's up to them. They can do what they want. They can leave, they can stay, but they should love our country and they should work for the good of our country."

The president sparked a firestorm over the weekend with a series of tweets seemingly targeting freshmen Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar that were immediately and widely condemned as racist. He wrote that the representatives — three of whom were born in the U.S., and all of whom are American citizens — should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came."

Mr. Trump has continued to stand by the remarks, tweeting Tuesday morning that he doesn't have a "racist bone" in his body. 

Freshman Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez retorted, "You're right, Mr. President - you don't have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest. That's why you violate the rights of children and tell the Congresswoman who represents your home borough, to "go back to my country."

But perhaps the president's most vigorous defense of his remarks came Monday on the White House South Lawn, when he shrugged off concerns that white nationalists are harnessing his remarks. 

"It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me. And all I'm saying, they want to leave, they can leave," Mr. Trump said Monday. 

Administration officials have so far either declined to comment on the president's tweets or defended him. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin opined that the president's comments weren't racist. Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow declined to comment Monday, saying the president had tweeted what he'd tweeted. 

But some former administration officials condemned the president's remarks. 

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci tweeted,  "Would @realDonaldTrump ever tell a white immigrant - whether 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th+ generation - to 'go back to your country'? No. That's why the comments were racist and unacceptable. America is a nation of immigrants founded on the ideals of free thought and free speech."

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