Calling Trump’s attacks racist a ‘double standard,’ says White House chief of staff
Three top South Carolina Republicans defended President Donald Trump as Democrats and some in his own party criticize his continued attacks against African American U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings — seen as pattern of racist rhetoric from the White House.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who is a former S.C. congressman and state legislator, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster spoke to reporters ahead of the S.C. Republican Party’s Silver Elephant Gala Friday in Columbia.
Mulvaney said criticism of Trump’s attacks as racist have gone too far, and argued there’s a “double standard” applied to the president and Republicans when criticizing Democrats.
“Here’s what I know. If a Republican criticizes somebody because of their ideas, people immediately start looking into whether or not we’re doing it because of who they are or where they’re from and what color they are,” Mulvaney said. “If a Democrat criticizes that same person, they get treated differently.”
Mulvaney used the example of the reaction to Trump’s criticism of four minority congresswomen. Trump tweeted the four should “go back” to their countries of origin, although all are American citizens and all but one are native born.
Mulvaney contrasted to that House Speaker’s Nancy Pelosi’s own criticism of Democratic socialist U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and the other congresswomen.
“A couple days later, Nancy Pelosi criticized the same people, and the media … and the folks on the left immediately came to Nancy’s defense,” Mulvaney said. “They said it’s not possible for her to be a racist. Why? Because she’s a Democrat, and was clearly only attacking them on their ideas. If you don’t see a double-standard there, you’re not paying attention.”
Asked whether he’s concerned that Trump’s rhetoric is turning off minorities to the Republican Party and exacerbating the GOP’s diversity issues in light of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd’s announcement Thursday that he will not seek re-election, Mulvaney pointed to candidates like John James. The African American veteran and businessman is running for Senate in Michigan as a Republican.
Hurd is the only African American Republican in the House of Representatives, which would leave South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Tim Scott as the only black Republican in Congress. Hurd, too, has expressed concerns in the past about the president’s rhetoric on racial issues, as has Scott.
“Would I like to have more minorities run as Republicans? Absolutely,” Mulvaney said. “I think you’re going to see some good folks in here tonight that show the South Carolina Republican party is doing an excellent job outreaching to various minorities.”
Mulvaney said he’s disappointed to see Hurd’s departure, calling him “a good man,” and argued Republican departures are happening not so much because of frustration with the White House, but because of the caustic and polarized environment in Washington, D.C., and across the country.
“And the inability to get anything done legislatively,” Mulvaney said, using immigration reform as an example and praising Graham for advancing his controversial asylum legislation on Thursday, drawing sharp criticism from Democrats.
Mulvaney and others also fielded a question about former U.N. ambassador and S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who rebuked Trump on Twitter Friday after he tweeted “Too bad!” about Cummings’ home being burglarized.
“This is so unnecessary,” Haley replied in a tweet with an eye-roll emoji.
Later, Trump administration official Kellyanne Conway responded to Haley: “THIS is so unnecessary. Trump-PENCE2020.”
Mulvaney said he had not seen Haley’s tweet and did not have a response.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign lashed out at Mulvaney for defending his boss.
“The South Carolina GOP and Mick Mulvaney have nothing to celebrate tonight,” Biden’s campaign said in a statement. “(Mulvaney) defends the president’s racist attacks on Rep. Elijah Cumming’s district, when the conditions in Baltimore are not that different than the conditions for working people in South Carolina’s 5th district,” which Mulvaney represented before joining the White House.
Mulvaney lauded the administration’s efforts to boost the U.S. economy and lift up middle-class and working-class Americans through the 2017 tax cut law. And he also criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for saying the 2017 tax bill will lead to “nothing but crumbs” for ordinary Americans.
Mulvaney went on to say households are wealthier and wages are growing faster than they have in decades. “Those are not crumbs. That’s 7 million people lifted off food stamps. This is what this administration has been able to do.”
“Household savings is up. Consumer confidence is up. Everything is up across the board. It’s Make-America-Great-Again economics,” Mulvaney said. “And the Democrats simply refuse to get it.”
The former White House budget chief also lauded the administration’s efforts to reform a federal “regulator scheme that makes no sense.”
“When we came into office he said, ‘I want you to take off two regulations for every new that you’ve added,’” Mulvaney said. “Instead, we’ve taken off 16 for every single one we’ve added.”
He also recounted Trump asking new regulations chief Paul Ray, who is to oversee a major rollback of federal rules, “If you could be you doing this job, or you could be say Tiger Woods … who would you be?”
“And Paul Ray leans across the resolute desk … looks at the President and says, ‘Mr. President, if we can achieve everything that we achieve today in this meeting, Tiger Woods is going to want to be me,’” Mulvaney said. “That is the kind of person that you get working for you when Donald Trump is the President of the United States. There are literally thousands of men and women doing work you would do if you were there to fix this government for better.”
Harrison a ‘real opponent’
In his remarks to the crowd, Graham acknowledged he’s facing his “first real opponent I’ve ever had” in Columbia Democrat Jaime Harrison, who had record-breaking fundraising in launching his campaign.
But Graham told S.C. GOP donors and supporters there’s “not enough money in the world to beat me in the Senate in South Carolina because of you.”
Harrison responded on Twitter with a GIF taunting Graham to bring it on.