- Attendees at a campaign rally for President Donald Trump started chanting “send her back” as Trump talked about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
- This prompted numerous responses, including ones from conservative commentators who condemned the chant.
- During Trump’s speech, he also made numerous false claims about Omar and took several of her past statements out of context.
- While speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump was asked why he did not stop the chants. “I think I did—I started speaking very quickly,” the president said. “I was not happy with it—I disagree with it.”
Pundits Respond to Trump Campaign Rally
Several prominent conservative commentators have spoken out against the “send her back” chant that broke out at the Greenville, North Carolina campaign rally for President Donald Trump, following remarks the president made about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Well-known conservative commentator Ben Shapiro condemned the chants in a tweet, writing that while he disliked Omar and believed she was an anti-Semite, “She is also an American citizen and chanting for her deportation based on her exercise of the First Amendment is disgusting.”
“Omar is a citizen and was elected to congress,” YouTube commentator Tim Pool said on Twitter. “You have a problem? Then vote her out. ‘Send her back’ is disgusting.”
Fox News contributor and conservative talk radio host Guy Benson also chimed in, saying “‘Send her back’ is an appalling chant. Omar is a US citizen.”
Omar herself responded on Twitter, writing, “I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!”
Omar also addressed the chants while speaking to reporters in the Capitol on Thursday.
“And as much as he is spewing his fascist ideology on stage, telling U.S. citizens to go back because they do not agree with his detrimental policies for our country, we tell people that here in the United States, dissent is patriotic,” she said.
While speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump was asked why he did not stop the chants. “I think I did—I started speaking very quickly,” the president said. “I was not happy with it—I disagree with it.”
Fact-Checking Trump’s Claims
The rally comes towards the end of a highly polarized week where Trump’s tweets aimed at the four congresswomen, known as The Squad, and the subsequent debate about whether the president’s remarks are racist have dominated the news cycle.
Trump has continually and fervently defended his remarks, arguing that they were not racist. He has repeatedly said that The Squad hates America and that they should be condemned for their past remarks, not him.
Despite receiving backlash from both Democrats and Republicans, Trump has remained steadfast and continued to lash out at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley to return to the countries they are from if they are unhappy in the U.S., despite the fact that all three women were born in America.
However, throughout this whole ordeal, Trump has specifically targeted Omar, a war refugee from Somalia who has lived in the U.S. almost all of her life and has been a U.S. citizen for nearly 20 years.
Trump reiterated many of his old talking points to attack Omar during the rally Wednesday night. Let’s take a took at his most significant claims.
Omar’s Statements on 9/11
Trump started out his blitz against Omar by reciting a frequently used criticized statement she made about the September 11 attacks.
“Omar minimized the September 11 attacks on our homeland, saying ‘some people did something.’ I don’t think so,” Trump said.
That claim, however, is out of context. Omar’s original statement comes from a speech she made at Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
In that speech, Omar said that the Muslim extremists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks are not representative of the entire Muslim population and that all Muslims should not be treated poorly because of the actions of a few.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are, if you one day find yourself in a school where other religions are talked about, but when Islam is mentioned we are only talking about terrorists, and if you say something you are sent to the principle’s office,” Omar said.
“So to me I say, raise hell! Make people feel uncomfortable, because here’s the truth, here’s the truth: far too long we have lived with the discomfort of being a second class citizen,” she continued.
“And frankly I’m tired of it and every single Muslim in this country should be tired of it. CAIR was founded after 9/11, because they recognize that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties,” she added.
It’s worth noting that CAIR was actually founded in 1994, and not after 9/11, but that fact still does not change the full context of the quote.
Omar’s Statements on ISIS
Later in his speech, Trump said: “She [Omar] pleaded for compassion for ISIS recruits attempting to join the terrorist organization.”
That claim appears to refer to a letter she wrote on November 8, 2016, to a judge overseeing a case in which nine Somali-Americans were found guilty of attempting to join ISIS.
Omar was just one of many who wrote to the judge, seemingly on the defendant’s behalfs, recommending a lighter sentence than the 30-years the prosecution was recommending.
Omar’s letter did not mention the accused by name, but seems to be recommending that in general, judges should consider lighter sentences for young people attempting to join an extremist group.
She did not say this because she supports ISIS, nor anyone joining ISIS, but because she believes a “compassionate” and restorative justice approach is a better way to combat extremism.
She also argued that a 30-plus year sentence for a 20-year-old man is essentially a life sentence, and feeds narratives that extremists use to recruit.
“Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: ‘Americans do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr,’” she wrote.
Some of the most controversial comments of the night were Trump’s comments about Omar and Al-Qaeda.
“Omar laughed that Americans speak of al-Qaeda in a menacing tone and remarked that you don’t say ‘America’ with this intensity,” he said. “You say ‘al-Qaeda’ makes you proud. Al-Qaeda makes you proud!”
What he is referring to here is a 2013 interview Omar had on a local PBS show in Minneapolis while she was working as an activist.
In that interview, she talked about how Islamic terrorist groups seem frightening to Americans because the words seem foreign, even though they usually come from everyday Arabic words.
She says she took a class about terrorism in college and goes on to say, “The thing that was interesting in the class was every time the professor said ‘al-Qaeda,’ he sort of like — his shoulders went up ‘Al-Qaeda,’ ‘Hezbollah.’”
“But it is that, you don’t say ‘America’ with an intensity, you don’t say ‘England’ with the intensity. You know, you don’t say ‘the Army’ with an intensity,” she continued. “But you say these names [of terrorist groups] because you want that word to carry weight, you want it to leave something.”
Nowhere in that interview does Omar say she is proud of Al-Qaeda, or that she supports them. In fact, she describes Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups linked to them as “evil” and said they were “taking part in terror” around the world.
Trump also went on to make another comment about Omar and Al-Qaeda.
“And at a press conference just this week, when asked whether she supported al-Qaeda,” he said. “She refused to answer. She didn’t want to give an answer to that question.”
That comes from the press conference The Squad held earlier this week to formally respond to Trump’s tweets. When a reporter asked Omar what her response was to Trump’s claim that she supports Al-Qaeda, she responded, “I will not dignify it with an answer.”
“I do not expect every time there is a white supremacist who attacks or there is a white man who kills in a school or in a movie theater, or in a mosque, or in a synagogue, I don’t expect my white community members to respond on whether they love that person or not,” she added.
Accusations of Anti-Semitism
The final claim that Trump made about Omar, which promoted the crowd to start chanting, was about the allegations of anti-Semitism.
“And obviously, and importantly, Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds,” he said. That statement refers to a few things.
In February, both parties criticized Omar after she posted a tweet suggesting that pro-Israel groups buy off politicians. In the since-deleted tweet, Omar wrote: “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”
That tweet got a lot of backlash from people who called the post offensive for using what many took as an anti-Semitic trope. Omar later apologized for the tweet.
“Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes,” she wrote.
“We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity,” she continued. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
The second instance occurred when Omar responded to another member of Congress who criticized her stance on pro-Israel lawmakers, writing, “I should not be expected to have allegiance/pledge support to a foreign country in order to serve my country in Congress or serve on committee.”
Some took that as offensive because they felt that Omar suggested that pro-Israel lawmakers have dual loyalties to Israel and the U.S.
Trump also attacked Omar for her statements, but then a month later, he made a very similar statement. Speaking in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition Trump referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “your prime minister” to a group of Jewish Americans.
See what others are saying: (PolitiFact) (The Washington Post) (Fox News)
Supreme Court Rules High School Football Coach Can Pray on Field
All of our rights are “hanging in the balance,” wrote Justice Sonia Sotomayor in a dissenting opinion.
Court’s Conservatives Break With 60 Years of History
The Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of a former high school football coach who lost his job after he refused to stop praying on the field at the end of games.
Joseph Kennedy, who was hired at Bremerton High School in Washington State in 2008, kneeled at the 50-yard line after games for years and prayed. He was often joined by some of his players, as well as others from the opposing team.
In 2015, the school asked him not to pray if it interfered with his duties or involved students.
Shortly after, Kennedy was placed on paid administrative leave, and after a school official recommended that his contract not be renewed for the 2016 season he did not reapply for the position.
Kennedy sued the school, eventually appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
The justices voted 6 to 3, with the liberal justices dissenting.
“Respect for religious expressions is indispensable to life in a free and diverse republic — whether those expressions take place in a sanctuary or on a field, and whether they manifest through the spoken word or a bowed head,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority opinion.
“Here, a government entity sought to punish an individual for engaging in a brief, quiet, personal religious observance,” he added.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion.
“Today’s decision is particularly misguided because it elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection,” she said.
“In doing so, the court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing states to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance.”
The defense in the case argued that the public nature of Kennedy’s prayers put pressure on students to join him, and that he was acting in his capacity as a public employee, not a private citizen.
Kennedy’s lawyers contended that such an all-encompassing definition of his job duties denied him his right to self-expression on school grounds.
“This is just so awesome,” Kennedy said in a statement following the decision. “All I’ve ever wanted was to be back on the field with my guys … I thank God for answering our prayers and sustaining my family through this long battle.”
Religious Liberty or Separation of Church and State?
Sixty years ago, the Supreme Court decided that the government cannot organize or promote prayer in public schools, and it has since generally abided by that jurisprudence.
But the court led by Chief Justice John Roberts has been increasingly protective of religious expression, especially after the confirmation of three conservative Trump-appointed judges.
Reactions to the ruling were mostly split between liberals who saw the separation of church and state being dissolved and conservatives who hailed it as a victory for religious liberty.
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the Bremerton school district, said in a statement that the ruling “gutted decades of established law that protected students’ religious freedom.”
“If Coach Kennedy were named Coach Akbar and he had brought a prayer blanket to the 50 yard line to pray after a game,” one Twitter user said, “I’ve got a 401(k) that says this illegitimate, Christofascist SCOTUS rules 6-3 against him.”
“The people defending former Coach Kennedy’s right to kneel on the field after the game to pray – are the ones condemning Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel on the field to protest police brutality against Black Americans,” another user wrote.
Others, like Republican Congressmember Ronny Jackson and former Secretary of State for the Trump administration Mike Pompeo, celebrated the ruling for protecting religious freedom and upholding what they called the right to pray.
“I am excited to build on this victory and continue securing our inalienable right to religious freedom,” Pompeo wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (Fox News)
Rep. Schiff Urges DOJ to Investigate Trump for Election Crimes: “There’s Enough Evidence”
“When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate,” the congressman said.
Schiff Says DOJ Should Launch Inquiry
Rep. Adam Schiff (R-Ca.) told Rogue Rocket that he believes there is “certainly […] enough evidence for the Justice Department to open an investigation” into possible election crimes committed by former President Donald Trump.
Schiff, who took the lead in questioning witnesses testifying before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection on Tuesday, said that it will be up to the DOJ to determine whether “they have proof beyond a reasonable doubt” of criminal activity, but added that an investigation must first be launched.
“Donald Trump should be treated like any other citizen,” the congressman said, noting that a federal judge in California has already ruled that Trump and his allies “likely” engaged in multiple federal criminal acts. “When the Justice Department finds evidence of criminal potential criminal wrongdoing, they need to investigate.”
“One of the concerns I have is it’s a year and a half since these events. And while […] there’s an investigation going on in Fulton County by the district attorney, I don’t see a federal grand jury convened in Atlanta looking into this, and I think it’s fair to ask why,” Schiff continued, referencing the ongoing inquiry into Trump’s attempts to overturn the election in Georgia.
“Normally, the Justice Department doesn’t wait for Congress to go first. They pursue evidence and they have the subpoena power. They’re often much more agile than the Congress. And I think it’s important that it not just be the lower-level people who broke into the Capitol that day and committed those acts of violence who are under the microscope,” he continued. “I think anyone who engaged in criminal activity trying to overturn the election where there’s evidence that they may have engaged in criminal acts should be investigated.”
Schiff Takes Aim at DOJ’s Handling of Committee Subpoenas
Schiff also expressed frustration with how the DOJ has handled referrals the committee has made for former Trump officials who have refused to comply with subpoenas to testify before the panel.
“We have referred four people for criminal prosecution who have obstructed our investigation. The Justice Department has only moved forward with two of them,” he stated. “That’s not as powerful an incentive as we would like. The law requires the Justice Department to present these cases to the grand jury when we refer them, and by only referring half of them, it sends a very mixed message about whether congressional subpoenas need to be complied with.”
As far as why the congressman thought the DOJ has chosen to operate in this manner in regards to the Jan. 6 panel’s investigation, he said he believes “the leadership of the department is being very cautious.”
“I think that they want to make sure that the department avoids controversy if possible, doesn’t do anything that could even be perceived as being political,” Schiff continued. “And while I appreciate that sentiment […] at the same time, the rule of law has to be applied equally to everyone. If you’re so averse, […] it means that you’re giving effectively a pass or immunity to people who may have broken the law. That, too, is a political decision, and I think it’s the wrong decision.”
On the Note of Democracy
Schiff emphasized the importance of the American people working together to protect democracy in the fallout of the insurrection.
“I really think it’s going to require a national movement of people to step up to preserve our democracy. This is not something that I think Congress can do alone. We’re going to try to protect those institutions, but Republicans are fighting this tooth and nail,” he asserted. “It’s difficult to get through a Senate where Mitch McConnell can filibuster things.”
“We don’t have the luxury of despair when it comes to what we’re seeing around us. We have the obligation to do what generations did before us, and that is defend our democracy,” the congressman continued. “We had to go to war in World War II to defend our democracy from the threat of fascism. You know, we’re not called upon to make those kinds of sacrifices. We see the bravery of people in Ukraine putting their lives on the line to defend their country, their sovereignty, their democracy. Thank God we’re not asked to do that.”
“So what we have to do is, by comparison, so much easier. But it does require us to step up, to be involved, to rally around local elections officials who are doing their jobs, who are facing death threats, and to protect them and to push back against efforts around the country to pass laws to make it easier for big liars to overturn future elections.”
“We are not passengers in all of this, unable to affect the course of our country. We can, you know, grab the rudder and steer this country in the direction that we want.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (CNN)
Senate Passes Bill to Help Veterans Suffering From Burn Pit Exposure
For Biden, who believes his son Beau may have died from brain cancer caused by burn pits, the issue is personal.
Veterans to Get Better Healthcare
The Senate voted 84-14 Thursday to pass a bill that would widely expand healthcare resources and benefits to veterans who were exposed to burn pits while deployed overseas.
Until about 2010, the Defense Department used burn pits to dispose of trash from military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations, dumping things like plastics, rubber, chemical mixtures, and medical waste into pits and burning them with jet fuel.
Numerous studies and reports have demonstrated a link between exposure to the toxic fumes emitted by the pits and health problems such as respiratory ailments and rare cancers. The DoD has estimated that nearly 3.5 million veterans may have inhaled enough smoke to suffer from related health problems.
For years, the Department of Veterans Affairs resisted calls to recognize the link between exposure and illness, arguing it had not been scientifically proven and depriving many veterans of disability benefits and medical reimbursements.
Over the past year, however, the VA relented, awarding presumptive benefit status to veterans exposed to burn pits, but it only applied to those who were diagnosed with asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis within 10 years of their service.
The latest bill would add 23 conditions to the list of what the VA covers, including hypertension. It also calls for investments in VA health care facilities, claims processing, and the VA workforce, while strengthening federal research on toxic exposure.
The bill will travel to the House of Representatives next, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to push it through quickly. Then it will arrive at the White House for final approval.
An Emotional Cause for Many
Ahead of a House vote on an earlier version of the bill in March, comedian John Stewart publically slammed Congress for taking so long to act.
“They’re all going to say the same thing. ‘We want to do it. We want to support the veterans. But we want to do it the right way. We want to be responsible,’” he said. “You know what would have been nice? If they had been responsible 20 years ago and hadn’t spent trillions of dollars on overseas adventures.”
“They could have been responsible in the seventies when they banned this kind of thing in the United States,” he continued. “You want to do it here? Let’s dig a giant fucking pit, 10 acres long, and burn everything in Washington with jet fuel. And then let me know how long they want to wait before they think it’s going to cause some health problems.”
For President Biden, the issue is personal. He has said he believes burn pits may have caused the brain cancer that killed his son Beau in 2015.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer applauded the fact the long-awaited benefits could soon arrive for those impacted.
“The callousness of forcing veterans who got sick as they were fighting for us because of exposure to these toxins to have to fight for years in the VA to get the benefits they deserved — Well, that will soon be over. Praise God,” he said during a speech on Thursday.
A 2020 member survey by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America found that 86% of respondents were exposed to burn pits or other toxins.
Although burn pits have largely been scaled down, the DoD has not officially banned them, and at least nine were still in operation in April 2019.