GREENVILLE, N.C. -- President Donald Trump returned to North Carolina on Wednesday night for a campaign rally in a likely presidential battleground state that he won in 2016.
Trump rallied Republican supporters, harshly criticizing four left-wing congresswomen of being un-American and claiming they are the face of the Democratic Party that will ruin the country.
"I think in some cases they hate our country," Trump said to the crowd on the ECU campus.
Trump's jabs were aimed at the four freshman Democrats, self-described as "the squad," who have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All were born in the U.S. except for Omar, who came to the U.S. as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.
Trump recently tweeted that the Democratic congresswomen should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came." Trump said the four have been "spewing some of the most vile, hateful and disgusting things ever said by a politician" and has told them, "If you hate our Country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!"
When he named them at Wednesday's rally, the crowd booed and launched into chants of "Send her back!"
"Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down," Trump told the Greenville crowd. "They never have anything good to say. That's why I say, 'Hey if you don't like it, let 'em leave, let 'em leave.'"
Before he left Washington, Trump said he has no regrets about his ongoing spat with the four. Trump told reporters he thinks he's "winning the political argument" and "winning it by a lot."
"If people want to leave our country, they can. If they don't want to love our country, if they don't want to fight for our country, they can," Trump said. "I'll never change on that."
Trump's harsh denunciations were another sign that the nation is in store for a combative presidential election.
His speech was filled with Trump's trademark criticisms about the news media, which he said sides with liberals, and special prosecutor Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Mueller had been scheduled to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, but it was postponed. Trump brought him up anyway. "What happened to me with this witch hunt should never be allowed to happen to another president," he said.
He also talked about illegal immigration, a main theme of his first presidential bid that is taking center stage in his reelection campaign.
The Democratic-led U.S. House voted Tuesday to condemn Trump for what they considered "racist comments," in his attacks against the freshman Democratic congresswomen. Nearly all the GOP members in the House opposed the condemnation, and Trump responded by insisting that he doesn't have a "racist bone" in his body.
Trump wasn't rattled by the House rebuke and called an impeachment resolution that failed in Congress earlier in the day "ridiculous."
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The condemnation carries no legal repercussions and his latest harangues struck a chord with his die-hard conservative base. Trump's comments about it in Greenville only fired up the crowd, whose chants of "Four more years!" and "Build that wall!" bounced off the rafters.
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Vice President Mike Pence spoke in Greenville ahead of Trump. Pence came to ECU after spending the day in Fayetteville and Fort Bragg.
"North Carolina and American needs four more years," Pence said.
Pence attended a private fundraiser for 9th Congressional District candidate Dan Bishop in Fayetteville and spoke to Fort Bragg military personnel and guests before joining Trump in Greenville.
Pence said the Democratic Party is increasingly led "by left-wing liberals who ridicule this country."
Pence also said the truth is "jobs are back, confidence is back" and "America is back."
It was Trump's sixth visit to the state as president and his first 2020 campaign event in North Carolina, where he defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Before Trump arrived, Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, spoke at a rally in Greenville and called Trump "just another corrupt snake oil salesman."
"From sparking a harmful trade war that puts our farmers in the crosshairs, to giving corporations a billion-dollar giveaway at the expense of our middle class, to repeatedly pushing to end protections for pre-existing conditions and raise health care costs, his broken promises have hurt hard-working families across North Carolina," Goodwin said.
The Republican National Committee, however, saw the event as evidence that Trump will again carry North Carolina.
"With over 175,000 jobs created in the state since his election and the unemployment rate continuing to drop, it's no surprise thousands of North Carolinians came out tonight to show support for President Trump and his booming agenda," said RNC spokesperson Kevin Knoth. "The president's 'promises made, promises kept' approach has produced prosperous results for the Tar Heel State, and North Carolina voters are eager to return the favor and send him back to the White House in 2020 for another four years."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.