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Trump 2020 Campaign Reacts To President's Racist Tweets


To talk about the president's language and how it will factor into the reelection campaign, I spoke earlier this afternoon with Marc Lotter. He's director of strategic communications for Trump's 2020 campaign and former special assistant to the president. Welcome back to the program.


MARC LOTTER: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: President Trump's tweet this morning accused Democrats of racist hatred. Given the long history we've just heard of the president playing on issues of race, do you see any hypocrisy in the president accusing others of racist hatred?

LOTTER: Well, I think the hypocrisy is being said on the Democrat side. I mean, when you have representatives like Ilhan Omar, who has made blatantly anti-Semitic statements and tropes - and the House of Representatives under Nancy Pelosi couldn't even condemn that. They had to water it down to try to get enough support in order to do that. And I think what you're seeing is the president is calling out some of these actions in terms of areas where people have taken anti-Semitic views and other views. And he's doing what he often does - is he responds back and does it harder.

SHAPIRO: There are a lot of ways to call out actions. Is saying to Americans, go back to where you came from, particularly women of color, an appropriate way to call out those actions you disagree with?

LOTTER: Well, I think what the president is highlighting is that many of the - and many of - especially when you're talking about the four representatives that are being discussed here - have very socialistic views. And there are - and they're talking about things that - in countries and trying to bring policies and things from countries that just don't work here. And when - I think what the president was highlighting was, if those things are going to go work, they're not working. See if you can fix them over in the countries where they're from, and then we'll try to (inaudible).

SHAPIRO: OK, but that specific go back to where you came from language is familiar to any person who grew up in the U.S. looking different from the people around them. Do you think the president is so naive as to have not known that phrase's long racist history?

LOTTER: Well, I can't tell you what the president - you know, what the president thought in - what was going through his mind when he was sending out those specific - that specific tweet. But again, what I would point to is that this is a president who's going to speak his mind. He's going to talk about things. And when he believes that things are being attacked - and let's remember. You know, these congresswomen who he is referring to have not only done anti-Semitic things; they've also discussed praise for al-Qaida and questioning what happened in 9/11. And they've also...

SHAPIRO: Without digging into the...

LOTTER: ...Gone so far as to call our Border and Customs agents' actions to concentration camps.

SHAPIRO: Sure, and it's one thing to criticize those policies. It's another thing to paint American citizens who are elected members of Congress as other, as saying, go back to where you came from. And in these tweets, the president specifically referenced his reelection campaign, saying, we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020. You are the communications director for his reelection campaign. Do you plan to make racial divisions a central part of your strategy?

LOTTER: No, but I think what you can do is you can highlight the poll that was done and apparently leaked from inside Democrat sources over the weekend that showed that AOC and her - and the squad, as they're sometimes referred to, have approval ratings in swing states between 8% and 20%. And when they are driving the policy language and the policy decisions of the Democrat Party, you can absolutely be assured that the policies that they're endorsing and supporting are going to be tantamount because it's going to be a choice for the American people in 2020.

SHAPIRO: But these were not attacks on policies. I mean, the president really was not talking about specific policy matters. He was painting with a pretty broad brush here.

LOTTER: And I would say that he's painting with that broad brush as it relates to some of the policies and things that they have espoused and that they are endorsing. It is out of the mainstream. It's out of touch with what the American people want, even according to their own internal polling. And I think that's what the president was referencing.

SHAPIRO: In another part of the program, we speak with Republican former Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. And he talked about what he sees as the degradation of tone and language that he blames this president for. Here's part of what he said.


JEFF FLAKE: I could not stand on a campaign stage with the president when people are shouting, lock her up, and to be OK with that kind of thing or while he, you know, called my Democratic colleagues clowns or losers and, you know, to have to laugh along with that or be OK with that.

SHAPIRO: Are you proud to be part of a campaign that makes those kinds of remarks a signature?

LOTTER: Well, I'm proud to work for a president of the United States who puts the American people first, whether it's growing jobs, rebuilding our military, taking a strong stand on the world stage. And those are the kinds of things that we are going to highlight. Those are the kinds of things that this president is talking about.

And while I understand that the former senator is a longtime never Trumper - and by the way, he was so unpopular he couldn't even win reelection in his own state. He was that out of touch.

SHAPIRO: All right.

LOTTER: So we'll focus on moving with the - forward with the president's campaign.

SHAPIRO: Marc Lotter, director of strategic communications for Trump's 2020 campaign.

Thank you for your time.

LOTTER: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: And we want to note Marc Lotter alluded to something the president said earlier today; that Representative Omar had spoken about, quote, "how wonderful al-Qaida is." We want to fact-check that now. There is no evidence that she has ever praised al-Qaida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.