Having first claimed early on Thursday that he was “not happy” with supporters who chanted, “Send her back,” during his scripted rant against Rep. Ilhan Omar on Wednesday night, Donald Trump abruptly contradicted himself and praised the baying mob.

“These are people that love our country,” Trump said later on Thursday — echoing his defense of the white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, who chanted, “Jews will not replace us,” as “very fine people.”

The president amplified his praise for the crowd on Friday, when asked if he regretted the tweet that inspired the chanting — in which he had first suggested that Omar, and three other Democratic congresswomen of color, should be deported for criticizing his policies. “These are incredible people,” Trump said of the “Send her back” chorus, and then withdrew his statement that he had been unhappy with them. “What I’m unhappy with,” he said, is “the fact that a congresswoman can hate our country.”

Later on Friday, Trump claimed, falsely, that the crowd’s chanting had been motivated not by his lies about Omar and her colleagues but by “terrible” things “they’ve said about our country” and Israel. “You just can’t talk about our country that way,” Trump said, “and when people are angry at them, I fully understand it.”

On Thursday afternoon, Trump also blatantly lied about what happened during the televised rally in North Carolina the night before, offering the preposterous claim that he had stopped the chanting against the Somali-American congresswoman by “quickly” speaking over the din.

In fact, when the shouts of “send her back” erupted from the crowd near the end of Trump’s three-minute diatribe, filled with distortions and lies about the Minnesota Democrat, Trump paused for 13 seconds, as the call to deport a congresswoman was repeated eight more times.

Only after the chanting died down of its own accord did the president resume his attack on Omar, whom he had encouraged to “go back” to Africa in a tweet on Sunday.

Later in the speech, Trump tried to convince his supporters that Omar — and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib — are unpatriotic for opposing his policies. Apparently unable to accept that members of the opposition party are simply doing their jobs by conducting congressional oversight of his administration, Trump told the crowd that Omar and her colleagues “hate our country.”

Omar responded by telling reporters on Thursday that it was “fascist” for Trump to claim that “because I criticize the president, I should be deported.”

She went on to accuse Trump and his supporters of distorting the very notion of the United States, which, she said, “is supposed to be a country where we allow democratic debate and dissent to take place.”

“And so this is not about me,” she added, “this is about us fighting for what this country truly should be and what it deserves to be.”

Later on Thursday, Omar did go home, to her district in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where she was met by a crowd of supporters chanting, “Welcome home, Ilhan!”

Updated: Friday, July 19, 1:42 p.m. EDT
This article was updated to report that the president of the United States amplified his praise on Friday for supporters who had chanted for the deportation of a Somali-American congresswoman during his campaign rally on Wednesday.