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Why Rep. Gallego says Republicans should be ‘ashamed’ of silence over Trump tweets

A political firestorm has erupted over tweets from President Trump telling four American women of color in the House to “go back” to where they came from. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what Trump is trying to achieve with his inflammatory rhetoric, why Republicans who don’t condemn his tweets “should be ashamed" and how the president has “broken the border.”

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We will now hear from two lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on their reaction to the president's comments, as well as the administration's immigration crackdown.

    First, I spoke this evening with Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona. He's a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

    Representative Gallego, thank you very much for joining us.

    What do you make of the president's comments and his tweets and what he's saying in person today?

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.:

    Well, look, no one should be surprised.

    This is the president that, for years, started a rumor about our first black president being born in Africa and snuck into this country, clearly a very racist trope that he was using to stoke anger and to win the conservative base.

    Then he started his campaign talking about Mexicans as rapists, and has continued on and on, talking about a judge and questioning his loyalty to this country. So none of us should be surprised.

    What we should be surprised is the silence of the Republican Party. This is the party that tries to claim that they're a big tent. And, essentially, what they're doing, they're abdicating their whole party to this type of white nationalism that this president is pushing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I just want to read you some of what — just a part of what the president said.

    He talked about Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, the other congresswomen. He talked about them being communist. He said they're anti-Semitic, they hate Israel. And then he's gone on, on several occasions to say they hate their own country.

    He's referring to comments they have made critical of the United States.

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.:

    Well, I mean, look, what the president is trying to do is to frame generally conversation, dialogues that people are having about what needs to be fixed in this country, much like the president also says there are things that need to be fixed in this country.

    But no one says the president hates his country because he wants to fix certain things. And though we may have different points of views — and I think the women that he's questioning have definitely different points of view, they do not hate their country.

    The only reason he tries to use that is because they're women of color. And if they weren't women of color, he wouldn't be attacking them. And he knows that attacking them helps his base and distracts from all of the problems that he has within his administration.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You mentioned Republicans, you're disappointed they are not speaking out. How do you know what they actually believe? Have you talked to some privately?

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.:

    It doesn't matter.

    I don't understand this distinction the press wants — that cares about what they think about privately or not. We're public officials. What you wear on your sleeve is what you are.

    And the fact you're not speaking out against the president and his racist rhetoric means that you are a coward, and you should be ashamed of yourself, and you don't represent the core principles of what the Republican Party used to be.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What are you hearing, Congressman Gallego, from constituents, from people in your own district?

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.:

    Well, people in my own district, mind you, have lived through some of the most anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric that's ever seen in this country, especially considering that we were the same state that passed SB-1070, that had to live under the rule of Jan Brewer, who basically used racism and a lot of rhetoric to basically stoke anger.

    We all remember, during that time, when many of us were told to go back to Mexico. And of course this hurts. It hurts that the president is using the same rhetoric that we know many racists that we grew up with were using. And we know that now that's only going to encourage more of it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman, I also want to ask you about what the president's been talking about for a number of days.

    And that is his intention to have the government round up undocumented immigrants in a number of cities around the country, by the thousands. We have been told this was coming. It did not materialize over the weekend.

    What does that all add up to for you?

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.:

    Well, look, this is just him trying to scare two populations, number one, the immigrant population, and, number two, his own population of Trump supporters and trying to get them to believe that there's this massive amount of people that need to be rounded up.

    If you're under deportation orders, there is no necessity for you to declare that you're going to go round up people. Under — while you're under deportation orders, ICE could just be doing — conducting this in a very professional manner and go out and get those people.

    The only thing that, I think, many of us worry about is to make sure that, while ICE is actually conducting this, that they're conducting this with everything in mind concerning everyone still has constitutional duties.

    Also, we do know that a lot of these people under these deportation orders have not had a chance actually for them to speak to a judge. And so our concern at the end of the day is that the president is just using this, again, to scare people. And, to that degree, he has succeeded.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, to the extent there are people who are undocumented, who are wherever they are living around the country, is he not saying to them, you should be coming forward, and, if you don't, we're going to hold you legally to your deportation — to whatever our deportation laws are?

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.:

    Well, I think the problem with the president is, he doesn't really understand how deportation laws or immigration laws work.

    Many of these men and women did not even have their day in court because they received their notice at the wrong address. So they should at least have the ability to present themselves to actually make an argument.

    And what the president's asking them to do is actually to turn themselves in, which automatically gives up their opportunity to appeal.

    And, look, at the end of the day, we do believe, as Democrats, that we need to have control over who comes into this country and who doesn't. But we also need to make sure that we honor our laws. And part of that is due process, and these immigrants do have due process.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman, one other thing. What do you make of the president's efforts to tighten the interpretation of the asylum laws in this country, making it harder for people to apply for asylum?

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.:

    Well, I think, number one, it's illegal. And we will be taking that to court, and I think he will be defeated in court.

    But, two, this is him again just trying to consolidate his base. Many of the people on the right that helped him get elected are actually severely disappointed that he's succeeded on all fronts when it comes to immigration — or — quote, unquote — "immigration."

    For example, the fact that he hasn't built any significant portion of the border wall, that he's not actually been able to bring down illegal border crossings, which tells you a lot about this president.

    The one campaign promises that he's had, he's already ruined, much like everything else in his career. He has broken the border. And at the end of the day, the way to fix it is to work with Democrats to have comprehensive immigration reform. But that's something that just his base will never live with.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Congressman Ruben Gallego, we thank you.

  • Rep. Ruben Gallego:

    Thank you.

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