Trump 'sees a foil' in the 4 Democratic congresswomen, says 'American Carnage' author Tim Alberta

PHOTO: President Donald Trump listens to a question as he speaks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House before departing, July 17, 2019, in Washington.PlayAlex Brandon/AP
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As uproar continues over tweets President Donald Trump launched on Sunday targeted at four congresswomen of color in which he told them to "go back" to where they came from, Tim Alberta -- the chief political correspondent for POLITICO Magazine and author of the new book, 'American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump' -- says Trump's attacks might be part of a wider 2020 strategy in which he sees a foil in these four Democratic congresswomen. 

"Trump really thrives off of having a political foil, and he looks at these four Democratic freshmen progressive congresswomen and he sees a foil," Alberta told ABC News Political Director Rick Klein on the 'Powerhouse Politics' podcast on Wednesday. "He would love to paint the entire Democratic Party with the broad brush of these women -- a couple of whom have obviously said really controversial things that are very polarizing figures even on the left." 

Alberta said Trump is positioning himself between the divisions of the Democratic Party to draw attention to the party's left-wing and paint it as "socialism."

PHOTO: In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, second from left, speaks, as U.S. Reps., from left, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, listen, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
In this July 15, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, second from left, speaks, as U.S. Reps., from left, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, listen, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington.

"Trump looks at this feud between Nancy Pelosi and sort of the old guard of the Democratic establishment and these young progressives, and he wants to insert himself in it to make sure that anybody and everybody on the right … that they know that a vote against him is a vote for socialism. It is a vote for the Green New Deal. It is a vote for Medicare-for-all and chipping away private insurance from 150 million Americans. It is a vote for giving health care coverage to undocumented immigrants," Alberta said. "Trump wants to put socialism on trial here."

Looking to 2020, Alberta shared that the election cycle is most likely "to be a replay of 2016" and that the happenings of this week are "in many ways Trump going back to that 2016 Republican primary where he constantly had a foil to use whether it was lyin' Ted or a little Marco or low energy Jeb."

In Alberta's new book, he discusses the significant changes in the Republican Party over the years and what led to the rise of President Trump. 

According to Alberta, Trump was able to take over the Republican Party because it was "sort of fundamentally weak" at the time he joined the race, and the others in the race "kept their distance believing that he would either implode or that he wasn't serious." 

"That fundamental miscalculation at the beginning is sort of brought us to where we are today," he added.

PHOTO: Tim Alberta is shown in this undated file photo. Sweta Alberta
Tim Alberta is shown in this undated file photo.

Alberta is keen to point out numerous examples of Republicans who were large critics of Trump during the 2016 election and have since transformed to become some of his staunchest supporters and advocates. The list ranges from figures including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to former House Speaker Paul Ryan. 

"Politics is the art of self-preservation," Alberta said. "Anybody whose spent five minutes on Capitol Hill or on the campaign trail, you realize that most of these folks really just want to protect their hide."

Today's Republican Party, Alberta says, falls around a "binary fault line" centered around whether they support Trump. 

"It's really a simple question of are you going to back Trump or are you going to speak out against Trump," Alberta told Klein. "And if you're a Republican today and you see what happened to Jeff Flake and to Mark Sanford and to Bob Corker and to Justin Amash, you know that you're taking your career into your own hands if you dare to speak out against him."

PHOTO: President Donald Trump leads a cabinet meeting at the White House, July 16, 2019, in Washington. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
President Donald Trump leads a cabinet meeting at the White House, July 16, 2019, in Washington.

Even Vice President Mike Pence, Alberta described, as initially having strong concerns about Trump. 

"First, Pence, like so many of these other Republicans we've been talking about, had really really deep-seated concerns about Trump," he said.

When Pence was being courted by Trump to serve as vice president, Alberta said he went through a "sort of metamorphosis."

Pence became "sort of seduced by Trump. The more time Pence spends around Trump he becomes convinced that basically, the caricature out there is all wrong."

While most people around Trump have been caught in the crosshairs with him, Alberta said that hasn't been the case for Pence. 

"The one exception is Pence, and it is because he not only is never willing to do anything publicly to break with the president," Alberta said. "But I'm also told that it's when he does have significant disagreements -- things that he really does feel strongly about -- he always sits down with Trump privately and expresses them, and that's something that Trump really values in his vice president."

Powerhouse Politics podcast is a weekly program that posts every Wednesday, and includes headliner interviews and in-depth looks at the people and events shaping U.S. politics. Powerhouse Politics podcast is hosted by ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl and ABC News Political Director Rick Klein.