He claimed the women “originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe”, before suggesting they “go back”.
The tweet was directed at a group of four congresswomen of colour; three were born and raised in the US while the fourth moved to the US as a child.
Republican Party representatives kept quiet amid a wave of criticism.
The congresswomen – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar, who came to the US as a refugee aged 12 – have all called the president racist, and have been backed by members of the Democratic Party.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx in New York, approximately 12 miles away from the Queens hospital where Mr Trump was born.
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May said President Trump’s remarks were “completely unacceptable”.
What did the president say?
In a three-tweet thread, Mr Trump accused the congresswomen of “viciously” criticising him and the US.
The president did not explicitly name the women he was talking about, but the context – and references to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – made a clear link. He said Ms Pelosi would happily organise for them to leave the country.
A week ago, Ms Pelosi clashed with the four women – sometimes nicknamed “the squad” – but she has since come to their defence following his tweets.
The president wrote: “So interesting to see ‘progressive’ Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.
“These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
There have been internal feuds among Democrats over a border funding package, with Ms Pelosi arguing in favour of the package, and the four women – all newcomers to Congress with a progressive agenda – voting against.
Last week, Ms Ocasio-Cortez accused Ms Pelosi of singling out women of colour for criticism.
What has the response been?
Ms Pelosi quoted Mr Trump’s tweets and described them as “xenophobic”.
“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again. Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power,” she wrote.
Ms Tlaib, congresswoman for Michigan’s 13th district, tweeted calling for Mr Trump’s impeachment.
“Want a response to a lawless and complete failure of a president? He is the crisis. His dangerous ideology is the crisis. He needs to be impeached,” she wrote.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez tweeted at Mr Trump: “On top of not accepting an America that elected us, you cannot accept that we don’t fear you either.”
Ms Omar told the president that he was “stoking white nationalism because you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda”. And Ms Pressley shared a screenshot of Mr Trump’s tweet, adding: “THIS is what racism looks like. WE are what democracy looks like.”
Candidates for the Democrat presidential nomination, including Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke and Bernie Sanders, condemned Mr Trump’s remarks as racist.
Representative Justin Amash – who quit the Republican Party earlier this month to became an independent, in protest against the president – called the comments racist and disgusting.
Democratic representative Don Beyer – who was born in Italy and is white – pointed out that he had never been targeted with similar criticism from the president.
Mr Trump has tweeted since, further criticising “people who speak so badly of our country”.
What sparked Trump’s tweets?
Mr Trump did not specifically mention a link to recent news events, but immigration at the southern border was a dominant topic in US news at the weekend. On Friday, Ms Ocasio-Cortez, Ms Tlaib and Ms Pressley testified to a House committee about conditions in a migrant detention centre they had visited. They expressed horror about alleged mistreatment happening “under American flags”.
Ms Ocasio-Cortez said migrants told her they had drunk water from toilets because sinks were broken.
Vice-President Mike Pence also toured a facility on Friday. He said everyone was being “well cared for”.
The president tweeted that children’s detention centres had had “great reviews” and the adult male areas were “loaded up with a big percentage of criminals”.
The president on race
Mr Trump has been accused of racism many times in connection with different incidents.
For years, he made false claims that former President Barack Obama was not born in the US – propagating the racist “birther” conspiracy. He has also made numerous slurs against Central American migrants, calling them criminals and rapists. In 2018, he faced criticism from both Democrats and Republicans after reports said that during a meeting at the White House he called African nations “shitholes”.
When white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in the death of 32-year-old counter protester Heather Heyer, the president said there were “good people on both sides”.
Mr Trump and his father Fred Trump were sued by the Department of Justice in 1973 for discrimination against African Americans in their renting practices. They settled the case without admitting guilt in 1975 but were accused again by the justice department in 1978 of an “underlying pattern of discrimination” against black tenants.