The White House weighed in Tuesday on Donald Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration, saying it made him unfit to serve as president and challenging Republicans to condemn his rhetoric or risk being “dragged into the dustbin of history” with him.
Speaking to reporters at his daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest called Trump’s comments “morally reprehensible” and said they ran “counter to the Constitution.”
But he also portrayed Trump’s proposal as only the latest episode of the “whole carnival-barker routine we’ve seen for some time now.”
“The impact of what he’s doing right now is corrosive,” Earnest said. “The bigger problem, in my mind, is the way the rest of the Republican party is not acting to make clear that they would never support him for president.”
Trump on Monday called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks, going beyond even his own recent vitriolic rhetoric that proposed shutting down mosques in the U.S. and “tracking” Muslims.
Earnest, in some of the most pointed political comments he’s made from the White House lectern, said Trump’s behavior is not an anomaly in the party. He twice cited the election of Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana as the House majority whip, noting Scalise’s reported comments describing himself “David Duke without the baggage,” a comparison to the former Ku Klux Klansman and white supremacist.
Earnest also noted that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said earlier Tuesday that although he repudiated Trump's remarks, he would still vote for Trump if he were the Republican nominee for president.
“That does not indicate that the Republican Party has joined the rest of us in the 21st century,” Earnest said.
The White House has expressed concern about some of the rhetoric toward Muslim Americans by Trump and others since well before the massacre in San Bernardino. President Obama condemned Republicans who he said were calling for “religious tests” of any potential refugees who might be admitted to the United States amid the heated debate that arose from the Paris attacks last month over whether to allow in refugees.
The sense that the public discourse had taken a caustic turn was something Obama sought to address Sunday when he spoke to a wider audience in primetime from the Oval Office, when he warned “that kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands” of groups like Islamic State.
Earnest also said Tuesday that Trump’s latest remarks “absolutely” were damaging to national security.
“As offensive and toxic as Mr. Trump's rhetoric is, it does not condone or justify any act of violence,” he said.
Earnest said there were no plans yet for Obama to address Trump’s new remarks. The president had no public events scheduled Tuesday.
For more White House coverage, follow @mikememoli.
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