GREENVILLE: President Donald Trump moved to galvanise his core supporters on Wednesday (Jul 17) after sparking outrage with attacks on ethnic minority Democrats, as an opposition bid to launch impeachment proceedings was shot down in the US Congress.
Trump ignited a firestorm with a volley of tweets and comments, deemed racist by many critics, in which he accused liberal congresswomen of colour of hating America and urged them to "go back" to their countries of origin.
But even as anger raged in Democratic ranks, many in the party joined Republicans in the House of Representatives in voting to block a resolution to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump over his remarks.
Liberal congressman Al Green had forced a vote on the articles which said Trump is "causing such harm to the society of the United States, is unfit to be president and warrants impeachment, trial and removal from office."
The vote was a striking moment on the floor that Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress, had sought to avoid.
With 95 Democrats voting in favour of considering impeachment, far more than previous efforts in 2017 and 2018, some in the party are making it clear they are itching to move forward with punitive action against Trump.
Instead the president put a victorious spin on the proceedings as he arrived in Greenville, North Carolina for an evening rally - his first since announcing his 2020 re-election bid.
"We have just received an overwhelming vote against impeachment," he told reporters. "And that's the end of it. Let the Democrats now go back to work."
Eager to marshal his base, Trump promised earlier that his speech in North Carolina would address both "people who love, and hate, our Country."
His appearance comes a day after the House's stunning repudiation of his attacks on four first-term progressive lawmakers, and hostile language targeting immigrants.
While Trump's characteristically divisive rhetoric has enraged liberals, just four Republicans voted with the 235 Democrats to condemn him for "racist comments that have legitimised and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of colour."
'THOSE WORDS ARE RACISM'
Democratic leaders united in denouncing Trump's remarks and rallied around the lawmakers - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley.
All are American citizens and Omar, who is of Somali origin, is the only one of the four born outside the US.
Trump's four-day attack - including taunts like "if you hate our Country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!" - and the Democratic response have laid bare deep rifts in Washington.
Pelosi stood by the resolution condemning Trump's language. "By its definition, those words are racism," she said.
But she told reporters she would rather see ongoing investigations of Trump play out before launching any divisive impeachment effort.
"We have six committees who are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest," she said of congressional investigations of the president, including on Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
Trump has a long history of pandering to white grievance, and the resolution criticized him for "saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants ... do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America."
The president - who before becoming president pushed the "birther" conspiracy that Barack Obama was not born in the United States - has insisted that his tweets were not racist, saying: "I don't have a Racist bone in my body!"
But he also gave credence to the notion that his attacks are part of an aggressive 2020 strategy, telling reporters he was "enjoying" his battle with the congresswomen "because I have to get the message out to the American people."
His approval rating among Republicans rose five points to 72 per cent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday.
But his latest outbursts may also backfire. A new poll released on Wednesday shows that 59 per cent of Americans believe his tweets were "un-American."
According to the USAToday/Ipsos poll, two-thirds agree that telling minority Americans to "go back to where they came from" is racist.