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Trump amplifies incendiary tweets about Nancy Pelosi after her comments on Iran protests

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) arrives at the U.S. Capitol on Friday. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

President Trump on Monday retweeted a volley of incendiary posts accusing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of downplaying protests in Iran and supporting the regime.

One of them, a fake photo of Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) wearing photoshopped Islamic head coverings and standing in front of the Iranian flag, drew swift condemnation. “DEMOCRATS 2020” read the text below the image, which was originally tweeted by an anonymous user with the caption, “The corrupted Dems trying their best to come to the Ayatollah’s rescue.”

Among those denouncing the tweet was Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League.

“It’s outrageous that @realDonaldTrump elevated such repulsive anti-Muslim bigotry,” he tweeted. “#Islamophobia is offensive & unbecoming of any leader, let alone @POTUS. When #hate & division are on the rise, this is the opposite of what we need from the President. An apology is in order ASAP.”

Hend Amry, a prominent Muslim voice on Twitter, wrote on Twitter that Trump’s tweet had “used the way I and millions of other Americans dress and the beliefs that we hold as a slur.” She called on members of Congress to condemn it.

Schumer soon weighed in.

“President Trump: How low can you go?” he tweeted. “Republicans: How long can you cover up for and defend the president’s actions?”

Asked about the criticism during a Fox News appearance, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham backed Trump’s decision to amplify the tweet. She said he did so to make a point.

“I think the president is making clear that the Democrats have been parroting Iranian talking points and almost taking the side of terrorists and those who were out to kill the Americans,” she said. “I think the president was making the point that the Democrats seem to hate him so much that they’re willing to be on the side of countries and leadership of countries who want to kill Americans.”

Other tweets Trump shared Monday included one showing a graphic picture of what appeared to be a man’s body, along with the claim that Pelosi “supports this mullahs’ crime.” The tweet was later removed from Twitter and replaced with a note saying it “violated the Twitter Rules.”

“The Iranian people are being killed in the streets by the Islamic Republic, but Nancy Pelosi in the USA supports those who kill the Iranian people,” read one of the other posts amplified by the president. “Why?”

Another one of the president’s retweets was more pointed.

“While the Iranian people are being killed by the mullahs in the protests, you are lying to the American people!” it said. “The real people of Iran don’t want the Democrats-backed terrorists. Shame on you for playing with the blood of Iranian people.”

Trump’s spree of retweets came in apparent response to Pelosi’s remarks on the Sunday edition of ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” Host George Stephanopoulos asked whether she supported the anti-regime protests, which erupted after Iran’s military admitted, following days of denial, that it shot down a Ukrainian airliner it mistook for hostile aircraft. He also asked if it would be “a good thing if they brought the regime down.”

“Well, the regime — the protesters are — are protesting, as I understand it, this brand of protesters, about the fact that that plane went down,” Pelosi responded. “And many students were on that plane. And these are largely students in the street. I think the Iranians should have not had commercial flights going off when there was — ”

Stephanopoulos cut in, noting: “They’re calling out the regime for lying.”

The protesters who have flooded the streets since the government’s Saturday admission have chanted against the country’s military chiefs and its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Videos showed demonstrators fleeing tear gas and, in one instance, a woman bleeding from a leg — an injury protesters said was caused by live ammunition. Tehran’s police chief denied claims that police shot at demonstrators.

Previous protests have drawn an aggressive response. Security forces killed at least 200 protesters during dissent over cuts to fuel subsidies across Iran in November, rights groups said. The Trump administration has claimed the death toll was higher, at 1,500.

The unrest over the downed airplane stood in contrast with widespread mourning in Iran after a U.S. drone strike killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a prominent military leader.

“The fact is this, the — there were protesters in the streets before against the regime,” Pelosi told Stephanopoulos. “After the taking out of Soleimani, there were protesters in the street, joined together, as you know, against us. That wasn’t good. Taking down this plane is a terrible, terrible tragedy. And they should be held accountable for letting commercial flights go at a time that was so, so dangerous.”

“But there are different reasons why people are in the street,” she added. “Of course we would love to see the aspirations of the people of Iran realized with a better situation there, but escalating the situation — unless we’ve exhausted every other remedy.”

She continued: “There are a lot of bad actors who are doing bad things and threatening bad things to us. We know that. Iran being one of them. And it being a — it’s proxies doing bad things to our interests throughout the world. But how do we deal with that in a way that calms rather than escalates?”

Critics, including the research arm of the Republican National Committee, seized upon her comments as a defense of the regime, despite her condemnation of the Iranian government allowing commercial air traffic and her assertion that she would love to see the Iranian people’s aspirations realized. The hashtag #NancyPelosiFakeNews trended Monday on Twitter.

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