Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff on Monday defended President Donald Trump’s demand that four members of Congress “go back” to some other country, insisting that Trump’s intent was in no way racist.
Chao, he pointed out, didn’t speak English when she came to the U.S. and became a naturalized citizen. She’s married to Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
According to CNN reporter Betsy Klein, Short later said that he flat-out didn’t “think that our president’s intent in any way is racist.”
Trump on Sunday appeared to target Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota in a slew of racist tweets that refer to them as foreign-born, telling them to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came from.” All four lawmakers are citizens and three were born in the U.S.
Most Republican leaders have stayed quiet about Trump’s comments, so Short’s defense is particularly notable. Trump, apparently emboldened by the silence, on Monday called the Democratic lawmakers racist for calling him racist.
The Trump administration has used this type of nonsensical defense before. Earlier this year, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) defended Trump against testimony by the president’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, after Cohen called Trump a racist.
Meadows argued that Lynne Patton, a black woman, worked on Trump’s staff and said she wouldn’t tolerate working for a racist.