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Blunt watch party in Springfield celebrating

FILE PHOTO: Roy Blunt, after his re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri’s senior U.S. senator offered a mild rebuke of President Donald Trump on Monday for saying a group of Democratic lawmakers should “go back” to their countries.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt made no mention of the racist overtones of Trump’s Sunday tweets and also criticized the bloc of four freshmen Democrats whom Trump was tweeting about, saying their “destructive” policies should be the focus of the president.

“Just because the so-called squad constantly insults and attacks the president isn’t a reason to adopt their unacceptable tactics,” Blunt said in a prepared statement. “There is plenty to say about how destructive House Democrats’ policies would be for our economy, our health care system, and our security. I think that’s where the focus should be.”

Trump tweeted Sunday that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all),” and they should “go back and help fix” the “places from which they came.”

Of the four freshman Democratic lawmakers, only the Somalia-born Omar was born outside the country.

The president’s comments were quickly attacked as racist.

Blunt’s response mirrors Trump ally U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who told “Fox & Friends” Monday that the president should “take on their policies” instead of launching personal attacks.

Missouri’s other Republican senator, Josh Hawley, did not respond to requests by the Post-Dispatch for comment, but on Tuesday criticized Democrats for focusing their criticism on Trump.

“I wish Democrats would condemn anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism with same furor that they attack the president,” Hawley said, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

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