Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) had said she would not “sit quietly” as President Trump made claims about her ancestry that she called racist. On Monday morning, she released a DNA test that suggested she did have a distant Native American ancestor, and by the evening, she was using the ensuing dust-up to attack Trump.
The release of the test results Monday morning called Trump’s months-long bluff, which arose at a July 5 rally in Montana when the president questioned the senator’s heritage claims.
Even then, Warren was rumored to be a likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2020. Trump, with glee, told the rally crowd he looked forward to making Warren “prove” her Native American heritage on the debate stage if the two were to square off.
“I’m going to get one of those little [DNA testing] kits and in the middle of the debate, when she proclaims she’s of Indian heritage … ‚” Trump said. “And we will say, ‘I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you’re an Indian.’ "
The crowd cheered.
“And let’s see what she does,” Trump continued. “I have a feeling she will say no, but we’ll hold that for the debates. Do me a favor. Keep it within this room?”
After that Montana rally, Warren brushed off Trump’s taunts as she had multiple times before, whenever he deployed his derisive “Pocahontas” nickname for her.
But by 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Warren took to Twitter to go after Trump, explain why she released a test that suggested she was correct about her heritage, and to reiterate that heritage played no role in her professional pursuits. She also acknowledged that tribal affiliation is determined only by tribal nations.
One hour and 28 tweets later, the senator made brief mention of the recent New York Times report implicating Trump in a tax-fraud scheme and concluded the lengthy rant with: “Tick-tock, @realDonaldTrump. November 6th is coming.”
Earlier in the day, Warren indicated that she hadn’t forgotten about Trump’s promise in July.
“Remember saying on 7/5 that you’d give $1M to a charity of my choice if my DNA showed Native American ancestry?” she tweeted. “I remember — and here’s the verdict. Please send the check to the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.”
The charity she chose is an organization that seeks to protect Native American women from violence.
“Send them your $1M check, @realDonaldTrump,” Warren added.
Warren said she took the test because she had “nothing to hide” — then dared Trump to release his tax returns.
Standing on a soggy White House lawn Monday, Trump denied he had ever made the promise.
“Who cares?” he told reporters, when asked if he had heard about Warren releasing the results of her DNA test.
Another reporter brought up his promise of a $1 million charity donation.
“I didn’t say that,” Trump said. “Nah, you’d better read it again.”
Soon after, the Hill posted a fact-checked headline: “Trump denies offering $1 million for Warren DNA test, even though he did.”
Earlier Monday, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, dismissed Warren’s DNA test as “junk science,” an early indication that Trump is unlikely to follow through on the donation promise he denies having made.
“I haven’t looked at the test. I know that everybody likes to pick their junk science or sound science depending on the conclusion, it seems some days,” Conway told reporters. “But I haven’t looked at the DNA test and it really doesn’t interest me … ”
On Monday afternoon, Trump was again asked by a reporter about the donation, and this time he said he would “only do it if I can test her personally.”
“That will not be something I enjoy doing either,” he added.
Trump has had a long history of making bold pledges to donate large sums of money to charity, without actually delivering on those promises, as The Washington Post’s David A. Fahrenthold uncovered in a series of articles that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.
Fahrenthold said he was first intrigued by the question after Trump claimed during his presidential campaign he had raised $6 million for veterans, including $1 million of his own money.
Over the course of his reporting, Fahrenthold found that Trump often did not follow through on his promised donations until pressured by the media, as evidenced by this exchange in May 2016:
On the phone, I asked Trump: Would you really have given this money away if I hadn’t been asking about it?
“You know, you’re a nasty guy,” he said. “You’re really a nasty guy.”
A few days later, Trump held a news conference in Trump Tower, where he answered my other question. Where was the remainder of the money Trump had raised from other donors, four months earlier? Turns out, it had been sitting in the Trump Foundation, unspent. In this news conference, Trump announced that he had given the last of it away — and he lashed out at the media for asking him to account for the money.
“Instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone said : ‘Who got it? Who got it? Who got it?’ And you make me look very bad,” Trump said. “I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.”
Immediately after denying he had promised to donate to a charity of Warren’s choice, Trump seemed to welcome her as an opponent in 2020.
“I hope she’s running for president because I think she’d be very easy,” Trump told reporters. “I hope that she is running. I do not think she’d be difficult at all, she’d destroy our country. She’d make our country into Venezuela. With that being said I don’t want to say bad things about her because I hope she’d be one of the people that would get through the process.”
The charity Warren selected did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Though the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center is a nonpartisan organization, the group issued a condemnation last November of Trump’s continued use of “Pocahontas” as a derisive term.
Citing statistics from the National Institute of Justice, the NIWRC stated that 84.3 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native women experience violence in their lifetime — the overwhelming majority at the hands of “non-Native perpetrators, who often act with impunity."
The president’s invocation of Pocahontas as a joke only served to promote harmful stereotypes and continued violence against Native women, the group said.
“Just as Pocahontas is deserving of respect, so too are the many American Indian and Alaska Native veterans, who have fought proudly on behalf of the United States, including the Native women who have served or continue to serve our country,” the group stated.
“The use of the name ‘Pocahontas’ in any manner other than by way of acknowledging her courage and offering a subsequent apology, by any sitting President, dehumanizes this relative who, as a child survivor of rape, experienced colonization and genocide at the birth of the United States of America.”