HARLAN, IOWA -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren doubled down on her description of the president as a white supremacist on Thursday, a substantial escalation in her rhetoric that comes on the heels of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, executed by an alleged shooter who sources say told authorities he was out to kill as many Mexicans as he could.
Warren said she's calling President Donald Trump a white supremacist now specifically because "it’s just one piece of evidence after another and at some point, when he has been so embraced by the white supremacist and has not distanced himself, then he’s there."
"He’s winked, he’s nodded, he’s danced, he’s helped, he’s given compliments, and he’s turned people against people in this country. That’s not what makes us a stronger America," Warren told reporters after an event at a family farm in Harlan, Iowa.
Warren first said President Trump was a white supremacist after an event in Council Bluffs on Wednesday night, accusing him of driving a racial wedge in America while endorsing others who proffer supremacist ethos. The New York Times first reported Warren's response to whether she thought Trump was a white supremacist, a label former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas used earlier that night when he was asked about it.
On Thursday, Warren expanded on why she believes Trump deserves the label, listing the president's reaction to a white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed, his comments that four U.S. congresswomen of color should "go back" to the countries they came from despite most of them being born in the U.S. and reports that he described African countries as "s---hole" countries.
"He’s a man who cozies up to the white supremacists. He calls them fine fellas. He’s talked about trying to get brown people and black people out of this country. He’s talked about s---hole countries. This is what he’s done. The wink and the nod. And he can’t have it both ways. He can’t keep trying to stir this up, give aid and comfort, be embraced by the white supremacists, and then say, oh, but not me," Warren said.
"No. He’s responsible. He’s the president of the United States," she said.
Over the last few days, following the shooting in El Paso, Warren has been asked about white supremacy but not gone so far as to label the president directly, instead criticizing him for not disavowing it more adamantly.
"White supremacy is a domestic terrorism threat in the same way that foreign terrorism threatens our people," Warren told CNN's Don Lemon on Sunday. "And it is the responsibility of the president of the United States to help fight back against that. Not to wink and nod and smile at it and let it get stronger in this country."
In the past, she's called Trump a "thin-skinned racist bully," but also demurred at other times in calling Trump a racist outright. Trump has repeatedly denied that he's a racist.
The president, for his part, called for unity and healing in visits to El Paso and Dayton, two cities mourning the loss of thirty one people after two back-to-back mass shootings.
He also repeated conservative media reports focused on the Dayton shooter’s self-description as "leftist” on a Twitter account believed to be his, although law enforcement authorities have said they do not believe his political views appear to be a significant motive for the Dayton attack.
"This person supported Bernie Sanders, Antifa and Elizabeth Warren I understand -- nothing to do with President Trump," he said, speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn, referring to two of the 2020 Democratic candidates and the left-wing, anti-fascist group.
Most of the posts on the shooter's social media accounts indicate left-leaning politics. Two of these posts were in support of Elizabeth Warren and one also expresses support of Bernie Sanders, amid other posts that were anti-white supremacist and pro-immigration.
In response, 2020 candidates like Warren have stepped up their call-out of Trump's speech, accelerating the way they address the rise of racial friction and violent action across the country.
Previously, many, including Warren, used strong words in talking about the president's rhetoric, but sidestepped directly calling him a racist. Now, spurred on both by the recent spate of mass shootings and a new speed limit for the 2020 race as they all take the trail in Iowa ahead of the state fair, the directness marks a notable nuance.
On the trail Thursday, Warren also said she agreed with a description from former Vice President Joe Biden that Trump has given safe harbor to groups like the KKK and Neo-Nazis.
"I think that’s a pretty good description," she said.