Elizabeth Warren hits US campaign trail amid questions over whether she can shrug off 'Pocahontas' row




 

Elizabeth Warren, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, hit the campaign trail for the first time on Sunday hoping to shake off criticisms of her questionable past claim to Native American heritage that could undermine her White House bid.

The Massachusetts senator, regarded as a top tier contender for the nomination but facing an increasingly crowded Democratic field, immediately took aim at Donald Trump, who she said could be in jail come election day.

"By the time we get to 2020, Donald Trump may not even be president," Ms Warren said. "In fact, he may not even be a free person."

Ms Warren, 69, travelled to the critical electoral state of Iowa less than 24 hours after officially launching her candidacy. In Cedar Rapids, she spoke of rebuilding the middle class through economic equality and challenging corporate wrongdoing.

"I want to be clear on this. I'm not taking one thin dime of PAC money. I'm not taking one thin dime of federal lobbyist money. And I'm not going out kissing up to a bunch of billionaires hoping they'll fund a super PAC for me," she said.

Despite her unquestionable popularity within her party, the progressive democrat has been dogged by accusations that early in her career she misrepresented her heritage as Native American to take advantage of affirmative action. Ms Warren has denied such an intention.

With a crowded and talented field vying for the nomination - to which Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was also expected to officially join late on Sunday - the issue could be too big a hurdle for her to overcome.

Speaking on CNN, Liz Cheney, a Republican member of congress, said: "The notion that anybody of any political party would pretend that they were a member of a tribe or pretend they were Native American and would do it as she seems to have done it in order to get benefits, that is, in my view, the disgrace."

Last week Ms Warren apologised after the Washington Post unearthed her handwritten registration for the State Bar of Texas on which she identified as "American Indian".

"I can't go back," she told the newspaper. "But I am sorry for furthering confusion on tribal sovereignty and tribal citizenship and harm that resulted."

Last year she released the results of a DNA test which did indeed showed distant Native American lineage, six to 10 generations ago. But proof of that tenuous link did nothing to dampen the flames.

Just as Mr Trump latched on to Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server in the 2016 race, he has zoned in on Ms Warren's assertion that she descends from the Cherokee nation, repeatedly calling her Pocahontas.

On Saturday, he was widely criticised for a tweet in which he jokingly referenced the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native Americans from their ancestral homeland to reservations in the 1800s. Thousands died of exposure, disease and starvation on the journey.

Shortly after Ms Warren declared, he wrote: "Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!"

On Monday the president will travel to El Paso in Texas where he will hold his first rally of the year, as Beto O'Rourke, another potential presidential contender, joins an anti wall march less than a mile away.

On Sunday it emerged that talks to over border security funding have stalled, with Mr Trump's chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, saying he "absolutely cannot" rule out another government shutdown.

With Friday's deadline fast approaching, Democrats want to place a limit on the number of beds at detention facilities as a way to stop overly aggressive arrests by ICE, the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Mr Trump tweeted: "I don't think the Dems on the Border Committee are being allowed by their leaders to make a deal. They are offering very little money for the desperately needed Border Wall and now, out of the blue, want a cap on convicted violent felons to be held in detention."

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