LAS VEGAS — President Trump on Saturday criticized Rep. Ilhan Omar, one day after a New York man was arrested and charged with threatening to kill the Minnesota Democrat.
In remarks to a conservative Jewish group, Trump thanked several Republican lawmakers for their support before mocking Omar, an outspoken critic of U.S. policy toward Israel who has also made comments that some say invoke anti-Semitic stereotypes.
“Special thanks to Representative Omar of Minnesota,” Trump told members of the Republican Jewish Coalition in a ballroom of the Venetian Resort. “Oh, I forgot. She doesn’t like Israel. I forgot. I’m so sorry.”
Patrick W. Carlineo Jr., the man charged with threatening Omar, allegedly called the lawmaker a “terrorist” and vowed to put a “bullet in her [expletive] skull” in a phone call with a member of her Washington staff, according to a statement Friday by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of New York.
A spokesman for Omar did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s remarks.
Trump’s reference to Omar came during a wide-ranging speech in which he declared that the U.S.-Israel bond “has never been stronger” and argued that Democrats “aren’t fighting for Israel in Congress.”
“Republicans believe that we must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism. We do. All of us,” Trump said. The president had previously sparked widespread condemnation after declaring that there were “some very fine people on both sides” of the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, at which neo-Nazis had shouted, “Jews will not replace us.”
Much of Trump’s speech Saturday was standard campaign-rally fare, with the president mocking asylum seekers, threatening to close the U.S. border with Mexico, attacking the Green New Deal plan to combat climate change and boasting about his relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Several of the Trump administration’s actions toward Israel have been praised by that country’s leaders, including the moving of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and a recent decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights. That disputed region was seized from Syria during the 1967 Middle East war, and most of the international community considers the annexation an illegal occupation.
Trump’s decision has particularly resonated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has sought to ally himself with the president ahead of his bid for reelection on Tuesday.
“Over the years, Israel has been blessed to have many friends who sat in the Oval Office,” Netanyahu told Trump during a visit to the White House last month. “But Israel has never had a better friend than you. You show this time and again.”
On Saturday, Trump received a standing ovation when he spoke about the embassy move. “Unlike other presidents, I keep my promises,” he said.
He made note of his relationship with Netanyahu and made a reference to the Israeli prime minister’s reelection battle, asking the crowd, “How is the race going, by the way? . . . I think it’s gonna be close.”
He touted his decision to withdraw the United States from the “disastrous” Iran nuclear deal, telling the crowd, “They wanted to kill Israel. They wanted to destroy Israel.”
And he hailed the work of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, peace envoy Jason D. Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. “I would like to see peace in the Middle East,” Trump said. “If those three can’t do it, you’ll never have it done.”
Two protesters were escorted from the venue after briefly interrupting Trump as he began his remarks, chanting, “Jews are here to say, ‘Occupation is a plague.’ ”
But overall, Trump received an enthusiastic reception from the crowd.
Las Vegas casino magnate and major Republican donor Sheldon Adelson, who is on the RJC’s board of directors, was seated in the front row for Trump’s speech. A handful of attendees were holding signs reading, “We Are Jews For Trump” and “Thank You President Trump.” Others were wearing red yarmulkes with “TRUMP” in white lettering.
The audience also gave a standing ovation to Timothy Matson, a police officer who rushed to the scene of last year’s shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and suffered gunshot wounds while saving lives. Trump had invited Matson to attend his State of the Union address in February.
Trump has seized on recent infighting in the Democratic Party over comments from Omar that were widely perceived as using anti-Semitic tropes and called on the freshman lawmaker to resign over those remarks. Late last month, Trump claimed that Democrats are an “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish” party, even though Jews have historically voted more Democratic than Republican.
While Trump has condemned Omar for evoking stereotypes about Jews and money, Trump himself had expressed similar sentiments to the RJC in 2015, when he was running for the GOP presidential nomination.
“You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” Trump said then. “But that’s okay. You want to control your own politician.”
Trump on Saturday was speaking to an audience comprising primarily American Jews. But at one point, he told the crowd that he “stood with your prime minister at the White House.” At another point, Trump warned that Democrats’ “radical agenda” in Congress “very well could leave Israel out there all by yourselves.”
Sonmez reported from Washington.