In what many observers are calling a thinly veiled threat, President Donald Trump on Monday afternoon took his feud with California Congresswoman (and Glamour Woman of the Year) Maxine Waters to a new level with a tweet telling her to “be careful” what she wished for.
So what sparked this latest outburst? That would be the comments made by Waters during a weekend rally in Los Angeles where she called on members of the public to confront Trump administration officials if they encounter them.
“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up,” she said. “And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Waters’ remarks came after White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that she had been refused service at a restaurant because of her position in the Trump administration.
Now President Trump has responded via Twitter, writing, “Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party. She has just called for harm to supporters, of which there are many, of the Make America Great Again movement. Be careful what you wish for Max!”
Waters has yet to comment on the most recent tweet, but she previously spoke to Glamour about her thoughts on Trump’s character. “The most upsetting part is discovering that the person who won the election and became the president of the United States of America is a man who has no good values. His character astounds me,” Waters said in 2017. “I can’t believe that we have a president who would lie, who would distort, and who does not appear to have an appreciation for government and how it works.”
Rep. Yvette Clarke, a New York Democrat who holds a leadership position on the Congressional Black Caucus, told Glamour in a phone interview that the president’s Twitter attack on Waters struck her as “malicious” and “over the top.”
Clarke said that by her reading of Trump’s message, “It is very evident from what he said that he is wishing her ill… There is an implied harm that could visit her because of her statements.”
The congresswoman called it “beneath the office of the presidency to [imply] that someone could be harmed because they make a statement about what is taking place in this administration,” she said.
Clarke said she planned to discuss the Trump tweet with the CBC as well as the Congressional Caucus on Black Women & Girls: “We all have to sit up and take note. Women need to sit up and take note. He’s found ways to silence women throughout his candidacy and his presidency.”
Asked if she’d ever seen a president make a comparable statement in the past, Clarke replied, “Never, never — we are in uncharted territory where the breaking of norms [is] becoming the norm. The lack of civility, the lack of true respect for one another is leading to the point where the antagonism and the hostility is palpable.”
Additionally, Clarke said, “We have to talk to Capitol Police to ensure that there is security for Maxine Waters” given that “we’ve already seen unhinged individuals in this climate” who are willing to commit acts of violence. In one example, Clarke noted that Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson got extra security in response to death threats she received after a public disagreement with Trump last year.
As many rush to Waters’ defense, others have condemned her statements about confronting members of the Trump administration, calling it “harassment.” Prior to Trump’s latest comments, Democratic congressional leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted out a story about Waters’ comments and—without naming her directly— wrote, “In the crucial months ahead, we must strive to make America beautiful again. Trump’s daily lack of civility has provoked responses that are predictable but unacceptable. As we go forward, we must conduct elections in a way that achieves unity from sea to shining sea.”
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey made similar comments in a Monday interview with NPR when asked about Waters encouraging Americans to protest the Trump administration at every turn.
“You know, protest is good, and I’ve been encouraging people there be a lot of protests at the Mall and cities all across America protesting this really – these morally despicable actions by the Trump administration separating folks from families,” he said. “But this is also a time, I believe, as Americans who seek to create a beloved community, who believe in a more what I consider a radical love, love thy neighbor – no exceptions. And whether that person is coming over the border or whether that person is somebody who votes differently than you, we’ve got to be a nation that treats each other with our highest ideals.”
As for Trump, this is not the first time he has used Twitter to warn someone to “be careful,” Yahoo! News managing editor Colin Campbell points out.
However none of those instances used the word “harm” in the framing of the tweet, (it should also be noted that Waters did not implicitly call for any harm to come to administration officials in her speech), one denotation that many say is the clear difference between a petty insult and an actual threat.