Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota defended herself Tuesday afternoon against Republican criticism she has faced over a tweet she wrote that slammed a senior White House adviser as a “white nationalist” Monday on Twitter.
“It is the most bizarre thing,” Omar told CNN on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, when asked about the condemnation she’s faced since she tweeted that “Stephen Miller is a white nationalist” on Monday. In her tweet, Omar pointed to reporting that Miller has been behind President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies and convinced the President to drop his nominee to lead US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and go in a “tougher direction.”
“You know we are talking about someone who truly believes not a single refugee, not a single immigrant, should set foot on American soil,” Omar told CNN Tuesday, referencing Miller. “I am appalled by that. Because unlike him and others, I haven’t forgotten my roots. I know what it meant for me to get the opportunity to come to the United States to start anew.”
Omar also attacked Trump and Miller for what she saw as forgetting their own roots.
“And many of his family and Trump’s family came here to get that opportunity and they forget,” Omar said. “They forget that that is how … how they got the chance to become president or work in the White House. Because they got the chance to come to the United States because their families got a chance to come to the United States. So when you get that opportunity, you do not turn your back on the next person who is seeking that opportunity. And I am here to make sure they never forget.”
Omar has faced criticism of her own in recent weeks. One of the first two Muslim women in Congress, she has been accused of pushing anti-Semitic tropes, which prompted a rebuke from several House Democratic leaders.
Republican critics of Omar, including the President’s son Donald Trump Jr., viewed the congresswoman’s attack against Miller, who is Jewish, as anti-Semitic.
When the President tweeted a news clip criticizing Omar, the congresswoman responded by tweeting, “In the words of my 6 year-old daughter, ‘Knock it off. You’re the president.’”
Another House Democrat, Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, defended Omar, saying he was never accused of anti-Semitism when he also called Miller a white nationalist last year.
“Rather than attacking (Omar), why won’t they stand up to white nationalism & President Trump’s support for ‘very fine people’?” Pocan wrote on Twitter Tuesday, referring to the President’s remarks about the 2017 Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Late Tuesday, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley dismissed Omar’s remarks.
“Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has a well-documented history of anti-Semitic comments, social media posts and relationships – so it’s not surprising that she would wildly attack a Jewish member of the Administration,” Gidley said in a statement. “It is completely ignorant to slander a Jewish man as a White Nationalist, and it dishonors the Jewish victims of anti-Semitic persecution across the globe.”
Trump appears to be in the midst of cleaning house at the Department of Homeland Security. Over the past two days, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles were ousted, and at least two other officials have been named as possibly heading out the door.
CNN reported that at least some of the sudden personnel changes came at the urging of Miller, who’s been recently empowered by the President to lead the administration’s border policies.
Miller was the author of Trump’s controversial travel bans and the administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy that was halted due to the backlash over thousands of undocumented children separated from their families at the border. He played a key role in Nielsen’s Sunday resignation.
The staff shakeup appears to be indicative of the administration’s attempts to redirect immigration policy following a surge of migrant apprehensions at the southern border in recent months.
This post has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.
CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez, Jake Tapper, Abby Phillip, Jeremy Diamond and Betsy Klein contributed to this report.