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Washington — After an outcry from some corners, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib is defending her campaign's sale of T-shirts emblazoned with her rallying cry to "impeach the mother (expletive)," referring to President Donald Trump.

Tlaib, a Detroit Democrat, said Friday on Twitter that the shirts were an effort to bring "levity" to her supporters, stressing that she understands the seriousness of impeachment, which she has called for since the days of her 2018 campaign.

"Instead of the t-shirts, focus on this President’s criminal, impeachable behavior," Tlaib said. 

"Impeachment is serious - I know this. But it is a mistake to try to equate t-shirts with the destruction of our democracy or try to paint those who’ve risked our safety calling for it, as not taking it seriously," Tlaib wrote. 

"If there is anyone who takes impeachment seriously it is myself & the people I fight for everyday. Whether or not you agree with the expression, the t-shirts are to bring levity to my supporters. A senior in my district said, 'It feels liberating.'

"Not only has this President personally targeted my faith, but he has been making decisions as a CEO of the Trump Corp., not as someone looking out for what is best for the American people," wrote Tlaib, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.

"Focus on why people are so angry with this President and his administration." 

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. 

Michigan Republican Party chairwoman Laura Cox criticized the shirt sales. 

"Rashida Tlaib's efforts to sell pro-impeachment T-shirts shows that these inquiries are nothing more than a partisan ploy by Democrats to fill their campaign coffers and appease the radical base," Cox said.

"The American people deserve real results, not another witch hunt Democrats want to go through."

Michigan colleague Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland slammed the T-shirts as inappropriate. “Can you imagine the outrage if I had put a T-shirt together like that for impeaching President Obama?” Huizenga told The Detroit News. 

Tlaib's campaign advertised the shirts Thursday after momentum to impeach the president gained momentum among House Democrats this week. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday launched an impeachment inquiry after a whistleblower alleged that Trump sought help from a foreign government to dig up dirt on a political rival. 

Priced at $29 each, the "impeach" T-shirts come in six designs sporting Tlaib's now- infamous call for Trump’s impeachment as part of an American flag or as a hashtag. A spokesman said the campaign sold over 1,000 shirts since 3 p.m. Thursday. 

The shirts were inspired by Tlaib's first day in office when a video of her speaking at a Washington party went viral and catapulted her into the headlines. 

The video starts with Tlaib recounting her son telling her, “‘Look, Mama, you won. Bullies don’t win.’ And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t because we’re going to go in there, and we’re going to impeach the mother (expletive),’” as the crowd around her cheers. 

At the time, her remark drew criticism from the Trump himself, who called them "disgraceful," as well as her new colleagues in Congress, including fellow Democrats.

Tlaib has since been the subject of death and other threats, including 60 received just in the two weeks following her swearing-in in January.

She is one quarter of what's become known in the media as "the squad" — a female foursome of progressive Democratic freshmen who back impeachment and whom Trump and the GOP have repeatedly attacked. 

The president in August urged Israel to deny Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota entry into Israel for trip over their support for the Israel boycott movement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu subsequently blocked their travel

mburke@detroitnews.com

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