During a campaign rally in Montana on Thursday night, Donald Trump returned to some of his most abiding talking points: sexual assault and Elizabeth Warren.
In a typically rambling speech, Trump played to his base by taking a swing at Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, particularly her incorrect claim that she had Cherokee heritage. During her 2012 Senate race against Scott Brown, Warren’s debunked claims became a feature for conservatives who took to calling her “Pocahontas.” Trump has been fond of reiterating that line of attack—he did so on the campaign trail and, more recently, during a White House ceremony honoring three surviving Navajo Code Talkers.
On Thursday, Trump returned to Warren’s false claims of Native American heritage, mixing it up with a bit of #MeToo talk. “We will take that little kit,” Trump told the audience, referring to a DNA kit, “but we have to do it gently because we’re in the #MeToo generation, so we have to be very gentle.” He continued: “We will very gently take that kit and slowly toss it, hoping it doesn’t hit her and injure her arm.”
Trump added that he would give Warren “a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows that you’re an Indian.” The offer for money in return for submitting to Trump’s will echoed his offer to Barack Obama, first in 2012 and again in 2014, that he would donate large sums—the sums shifted—to a charity of the former president’s choice if he would prove he was born in the United States. As recently as late last year, Trump remained mired in racist birther conspiracies even as he publicly acknowledged that Obama was a native-born citizen.
Just as Trump has questioned the veracity of Obama’s birth certificate, he has also questioned the authenticity of the Access Hollywood tape. Trump, who has been accused of sexual harassment by numerous women, has used #MeToo to further his own political aims—including supporting the women who accused former Senator Al Franken of sexual harassment.
On Thursday, he returned to such rhetoric, employing #MeToo as a talking point to contrast the perceived fragility of his opponents and his own natural power. The comments were typical of Trump—as he asserted his own authority to physically coerce Warren. He reduced #MeToo—an international reckoning with abuse and power—to little more than the “snowflakes” he’s regularly conjured up since assuming office. But, as always, it speaks to Trump’s broader perception of his power—both unchecked and limitless.
The emphasis on his unlimited right to knowledge through invasive DNA testing drew an accidental parallel to the administration’s plan to DNA test migrant children who have been separated from their parents. In both cases, Trump asserts that the physical body and the knowledge it supposedly contains falls under the purview of presidential power, or at least how it’s both perceived and wielded by Trump.