President Donald Trump’s explosive feud with two Democratic congresswomen moved to the international stage on Thursday as Israel denied the lawmakers entry into the country just hours after Trump publicly urged Israel to block them, The Washington Post reported.
U.S. officials said the extraordinary intervention by the President was part of his strategy to sow divisions within the Democratic Party by shining a spotlight on its most liberal members.
Trump blasted the two lawmakers, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), tweeting that “they hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds.”
But the actions by Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his close ally, appeared to unite Democratic Party leaders.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the move “deeply disappointing,” and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who lobbied Israeli officials on Wednesday to allow the lawmakers to make a trip, called it “outrageous.”
A senior White House official said that Trump never directly told Netanyahu to prohibit the visit but that advisers conveyed the President’s views to the Israeli government after it initially said the women would be allowed in.
Netanyahu “was certainly aware of the President’s position,” the official said.
Like others, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations.
The President’s advisers have given him mixed views on how to deal with “the Squad” — Omar, Tlaib and Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Some Trump aides have told the President to particularly focus on Omar and Tlaib because they are the most polarizing, and poll the worst, in the eyes of his campaign advisers.
Other U.S. officials worried that Trump’s opposition to their travel would backfire, one official said. Trump dismissed those arguments, saying that Omar and Tlaib’s criticisms of Israel make them worthy targets.