President Trump shakes hands with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as they attend the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Washington on May 15. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

In the latest chapter of President Trump’s love-hate relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the president said Friday that Pelosi “is not a racist,” defending her against comments made earlier this week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).

Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump was asked to weigh in on the clash between Pelosi (Calif.) and Ocasio-Cortez’s “Squad,” which includes Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

“I deal with Nancy Pelosi a lot, and we go back and forth and it’s fine, but I think that a group of people is being very disrespectful to her,” Trump said. “I’ll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi, she is not a racist, and for them to call her a racist is a disgrace.”

Ocasio-Cortez accused Pelosi of “the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color” after Pelosi chided them in a caucus meeting for an offensive tweet Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff wrote and then deleted comparing moderate Democrats to Southern Democratic segregationists. This came after Pelosi downplayed the influence of Ocasio-Cortez’s group, saying their power is only four votes.

Later, Ocasio-Cortez told CNN that she doesn’t think Pelosi is a racist or has racial animus, but that it’s worth asking why Pelosi targets her and her friends for criticism.

Trump’s strong defense of Pelosi comes as their relationship has significantly soured since the beginning of the year.

In the early days of her speakership, it seemed Trump was holding back his normal chastising and name-calling. But that ended as more Trump associates received subpoenas from House Democrats, budget talks fell apart and Pelosi showed she was not going to withhold criticism of him.

In May, Trump called her “a mess” and “Crazy Nancy.” She suggested that his family stage “an intervention for the good of the country.” Then in June, while in France for D-Day celebrations, he called her a “disgrace” and “nasty, vindictive, horrible person.”

Still, Pelosi is the person standing between Trump and impeachment proceedings. Despite entreaties from her Democratic caucus, Pelosi has remained firm in her belief that impeachment would not be politically advantageous, effectively shielding Trump from that process.