US President Donald Trump denied accusations of racism on Tuesday after launching an attack on four minority Democratic lawmakers, saying he does not have "a racist bone in my body."
Trump tweeted out a defense of his incendiary remarks about the congresswomen as the House of Representatives was poised to vote on a resolution condemning his "xenophobic tweets."
In a series of weekend tweets attacking the four lawmakers -- who are of Hispanic, Arab, Somali and African American origin -- Trump urged them to "go back" to their countries of origin.
He doubled down on the provocative comments Monday and again Tuesday. "Our Country is Free, Beautiful and Very Successful. If you hate our Country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!" the president tweeted Tuesday morning.
Democratic leaders have roundly condemned Trump's remarks, and rallied round the lawmakers -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley -- who with the exception of Omar were born in the United States.
Slamming the "so-called vote" scheduled for later Tuesday as a "Democrat con game," Trump urged his fellow Republicans not to "show 'weakness' and fall into their trap."
"Those Tweets were NOT Racist. I don't have a Racist bone in my body!" Trump said ahead of the vote in the Democratic-led House.
"This should be a vote on the filthy language, statements and lies told by the Democrat Congresswomen, who I truly believe, based on their actions, hate our Country," the president wrote.
"Nancy Pelosi tried to push them away, but now they are forever wedded to the Democrat Party," Trump added, in a jab at the House speaker who has had a tenuous relationship with the four left-leaning first-term congresswomen.
Trump's repeated attacks appear to be aimed at galvanizing his mostly white electoral base ahead of the 2020 presidential vote -- while also stoking racial tensions and divisions among his political opponents.
"See you in 2020!" said Trump, who before becoming president pushed the racist "birther" conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
- 'All About Politics' -
While some Republican members of Congress have condemned Trump's remarks, House Republican leaders closed ranks behind the president and said they would oppose the resolution.
"This is all about politics," said House Republican minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.
"Our opposition to our colleagues' beliefs has absolutely nothing to do with race or gender or religion," said Rep. Liz Cheney.
"We oppose them and their policies because their policies are dangerous and wrong and will destroy America," the Republican from Wyoming said.
Senator Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republican majority in the Senate, has not commented so far on Trump's remarks but several other Republicans have spoken out.
"The comments are unnecessary and wrong by their very nature," Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio told CNN.
"Three of four of these women of course were born in the United States, so all of them are American citizens as much as I am," Portman said.
"My view is that what was said and what was tweeted was destructive, was demeaning, was disunifying, and frankly it was very wrong," said Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah.
"There is no excuse for the president's spiteful comments -- they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop," said Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska.
Obama's former vice president Joe Biden, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, denounced Trump as the most "openly racist and divisive" president in US history.
"Go home to your country? It's sickening, it's embarrassing," Biden said.