Sen. Elizabeth Warren had largely avoided directly attacking President Donald Trump when she was testing the waters of her presidential run. But after formally launching her presidential candidacy Saturday, the senator from Massachusetts came out with guns blazing in Iowa, saying Trump may not even be in the White House by the time voters go to the ballot box. “Here’s what bothers me,” Warren said during a campaign event in eastern Iowa. “By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president. In fact, he may not even be a free person.”
Warren made the comment as she tried to argue why the campaign for president shouldn’t be dominated by the commander in chief’s attacks and what he writes on Twitter. “Every day there is a racist tweet, a hateful tweet — something really dark and ugly,” she said. “What are we as candidates, as activists, as the press, going to do about it? We’re going to chase after those every day?”
The senator made the comment shortly after Trump sparked outrage by appearing to mock the Trail of Tears in a tweet about Warren officially announcing her run for president. “Today Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!”
Many interpreted the president’s use of all caps in the word “trail” as a nod to the Trail of Tears, which refers to the forcible relocation of Native Americas from their homes in the 1800s that killed thousands. “There is little doubt here that he uses “TRAIL” to evoke the genocidal Trail of Tears, and does so to land a political jab,” tweeted writer Jamil Smith. “Warren has taken justifiable heat on this issue—but he used the murders of Indigenous people as a punchline.”
Others, however, defended the president, saying his ignorance of American history means critics were reading too much into a simple tweet. “Yes, because Trump is noted for his knowledge of 19th century American history vis a vis the native population. Jeez,” Fox News’ Brit Hume wrote on Twitter.
Yet his own son appeared to agree that the worst interpretation of his father’s tweet was the correct one. Donald Trump Jr. posted a screen grab of his father’s tweet on Instagram with a reply that read: “The Native American genocide continues with another murder by the president.” Trump Jr. commented: “Savage!!! Love my President.”
The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel put forward what he described as a “cynical theory” to explain why Warren appears ready to attack the president more directly now. “If Warren is doomed to have a “fake Indian” news cycle every few weeks, she’d rather it be a fight w Trump than a round against the press,” Weigel writes.