Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Squad Call Trump's "Go Back" Tweets a "Distraction"

CBS This Morning - Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley- Publicity-H 2019
Lazarus Baptiste/ CBS This Morning

Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley spoke to Gayle King about the president telling the group of lawmakers to "go back" to where they came from on Wednesday's episode of 'CBS This Morning.'

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley sat down with Gayle King during Wednesday's episode of CBS This Morning to discuss Donald Trump's racist tweets targeted at them.

The freshmen congresswomen, who are collectively known as "The Squad," were targeted by Trump when he tweeted that they should "go back" to their home countries despite the fact that all four of the women are U.S. citizens and three were born in the country.

On Tuesday, the Democratic-led house voted to condemn Trump's comments by a 240-187 vote.

"We can talk about and spin out on hate — about hateful words, which are a predictable prompt by the occupant of this White House," Pressley said about Trump. "He is only occupying the space. He does not embody the principles, the responsibility, the grace, the integrity of a true president and so for that reason, I'm not dishonoring the office. He does, every day. This is a distraction, this is a disruption on our leading and legislating and governing on the issues of care and concern and consequence of the American people."

The congresswomen also shared their reactions to reading the tweet for the first time.

"I'm hearing about this from folks saying, 'Did you see what the president just said?' at the same time that I'm getting text messages from people saying, 'Rashida, what can we do? I heard ICE is now knocking on doors without warrants,'" said Tlaib. "I'm trying to represent my district, a very diverse district with 20 different ethnicities. And I'm trying to fight on their behalf, trying to make sure that they have a voice here. At the same time, I'm dealing with the biggest bully I've ever had to deal with in my lifetime and trying to push back on that and trying to do the job that we all have been sent here to do, which is centered around the people at home."

She added that Trump's tweet was a "distraction." She continued, "This is a person that really wants to vilify, demonize, not only immigrants, but even communities of color as many of my sisters here have been talking about. It is very much a distraction, getting us unfocused."

Tlaib explained that the squad felt Trump was distracting the country from what the congresswomen are fighting for, which includes Medicare for all and the end of mass incarceration.

Pressley added that the women have no plans to revolt against the government and instead are working together solely based on their shared values and policy priorities. "There is no insurgency, and there's nothing conspiratorial," she said. "What we are are four lawmakers who happened to land in the same place on the same issue time and time again."

Omar also addressed the charges of anti-Semitism against herself. The congresswoman has been criticized for making comments that suggested some politicians' support for Israel was directly related to money. Lawmakers on both sides denounced the comments as anti-Semitic.

"Oftentimes there are things that you might say might not hold weight for you but to someone else, right? The way that we hear and consume information is very different from how the next person might," said Omar.

She added that she doesn't regret her comments. "I am grateful for the opportunity to learn how my words made people feel and have taken every single opportunity I've gotten to make sure that people understood that I apologize for it," she said.

Omar concluded that she is not anti-Semitic. "Nothing I said, at least to me, was meant for that purpose," she said.

King later asked the congresswomen what they had to say to critics that think they should hold back pushing their progressive ideas until they "understand how Washington works."

"Not just me, but the entire freshman class I would argue, regardless of ideology, was sent here because Americans are sick of how Washington works. So why would I learn a broken playbook, where lobbyists have taken over this place? Where they influence all the bills?" Ocasio-Cortez responded. "Where we vote on things because that's how things have always been done here. Americans are not getting wage increases. Our government is continuing to sow dysfunction. Why would we operate business as usual when business as usual is not serving the public?"

Ocasio-Cortez also reflected on the squad's relationship with Nancy Pelosi.

"I think that just as there were members of Congress that did not vote for the speaker on the House floor the day of our swearing in, just as there are members who challenge her conclusions who disagree with her, so do we from time to time. But that does not mean that there is a fundamental fracture or a dehumanizing going on within our caucus," she said.

The women added that their teams have been in communication with Pelosi's team, though they have not spoken in person.

"She has every right to sit down with her at any moment, any time, with any of us. She is speaker of the House. She can ask for a meeting to sit down with us for clarification," Tlaib said. "Acknowledge the fact that we are women of color, so when you do single us out, be aware of that and what you're doing, especially because some of us are getting death threats, because some of us are being singled out in many ways because of our backgrounds, because of our experiences and so forth."