Democratic presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Beto O'Rourke. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A group of 2020 Democrats have called President Trump a "white supremacist," an extraordinary charge at an extraordinary moment in American politics.

Why it matters ... This is a big shift from calling the president a white nationalist. Check out Merriam-Webster's definition of white supremacist: "a person who believes that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races."

  • Elizabeth Warren told the New York Times "without hesitation" that Trump gave white supremacists aid and comfort. "He’s done the wink and a nod," she said. "He has talked about white supremacists as fine people. He’s done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country."
  • Beto O'Rourke told MSNBC Trump made it "very clear" that he's a white supremacist.
  • Bernie Sanders told CNN's Jake Tapper over the weekend that he believes Trump is a white supremacist.

The big picture: 2020 Democrats have been driving the national conversation in the wake of last weekend's twin mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, calling for more gun restrictions and directing much of their criticism at Trump.

  • O'Rourke has been one of the most vocal anti-Trump figures since El Paso's massacre Saturday. The former Texas congressman has said previously that Trump is a "white nationalist" who encourages racism and violence in the U.S.

What he's saying: Trump denies he's racist. He told reporters Wednesday he's "concerned about the rise of any group of hate." "Whether it's white supremacy, whether it's any other kind of supremacy. Whether it's Antifa," he said, referring to the far-left, anti-fascist movement. "Whether it's any group of hate."

  • Trump later tweeted: "The Dems new weapon is actually their old weapon, one which they never cease to use when they are down, or run out of facts, RACISM! They are truly disgusting! They even used it on Nancy Pelosi. I will be putting out a list of all people who have been so (ridiculously) accused!"

What’s next: This will put pressure on other Democrats to agree with a charge not made in a generation of American politics: that their opponent, the sitting president, believes whites are the dominant race and should control other races. 

  • While former Vice President Joe Biden has not called Trump a white supremacist, he did say earlier Wednesday that the president "has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper:

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
Please enter a valid email.
Please enter a valid email.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Subscribed! Look for Axios AM and PM in your inbox tomorrow or read the latest Axios AM now.

Go deeper

Updated 17 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: New York reports most COVID cases since MayStudies show drop in coronavirus death rate — The next wave is gaining steam.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.
  5. World: Spain becomes first nation in Western Europe to exceed 1 million cases.
2 hours ago - Podcasts

House antitrust chair talks USA vs. Google

The Justice Department filed a 63-page antitrust lawsuit against Google related to the tech giant's search and advertising business. This comes just weeks after the House subcommittee on antitrust issued its own scathing report on Google and other Big Tech companies, arguing they've become digital monopolies.

Axios Re:Cap talks with Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), chair of the subcommittee on antitrust, about Google, the DOJ's lawsuit and Congress' next move.

2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Boeing research shows disinfectants kill virus on airplanes

Electrostatic spraying of disinfectant. Photo: Delta Air Lines

Boeing and researchers at the University of Arizona say their experiment with a live virus on an unoccupied airplane proves that the cleaning methods currently used by airlines are effective in destroying the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why it matters: Deep cleaning aircraft between flights is one of many tactics the airline industry is using to try to restore public confidence in flying during the pandemic. The researchers say their study proves there is virtually no risk of transmission from touching objects including armrests, tray tables, overhead bins or lavatory handles on a plane.