Over the objections of victims’ relatives, Jewish leaders, state and local officials, and tens of thousands of people in Pittsburgh, President Donald Trump visited the Tree of Life synagogue on Tuesday, three days after 11 people were murdered there by an anti-Semite.
The president, who was accompanied by his daughter and son-in-law, White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, First Lady Melania Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer, encountered large protests at the site of what was likely the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the country’s history.
— Adam Eli (@aewerner) October 30, 2018
"It's an unbelievable image that we're looking at. These are peaceful protesters, walking along, grieving about the tragic death of 11 of their neighbors in a synagogue on Saturday, and protesting the presence of Donald Trump, the president, in their community today." pic.twitter.com/AuZbQxIq0o
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) October 30, 2018
The Washington Post reports House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D), and numerous other local officials all declined to appear with Trump. “No one wants him to come here today,” said someone “involved in the planning of the events.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto had urged the president not to visit the grieving city until funeral services had been held for all 11 victims, giving them time to focus on burying the victims.
“We do not have enough public safety officials to provide enough protection at the funerals and to be able at the same time draw attention to a potential presidential visit. If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he not do so while we are burying the dead.”
NBC News’ Howard Fineman tweeted that the White House was trying to convince local officials to meet with Trump.
#Pittsburgh sources tell me that the @realDonaldTrump WH is FALSELY claiming on #Fox and elsewhere that the PA gov, pgh mayor and county exec will join him at a rally in the city on Tuesday. They all refused as of Mon night. WH also asked #Schumer and #Pelosi; they said no, too.
— Howard Fineman (@howardfineman) October 29, 2018
Just checked with sources in #Pittsburgh: the mayor, county executive and governor will NOT accompany or meet with @realDonaldTrump as he and Melania visit the city as families bury their dead after the #TreeofLife massacre. The WH tried to force officials hand with false leaks.
— Howard Fineman (@howardfineman) October 30, 2018
The shooter, Robert Bowers, reportedly hinted at his plan to kill Jewish people in a social media post shortly before Saturday’s shooting. Bowers’ social media activity contained many references to baseless conspiracy theories about a migrant caravan that have been amplified by Trump and other prominent conservatives.
Since Saturday’s mass shooting, Trump has suggested the synagogue deserved some blame for not having armed security, lamented that having to answer questions about the shooting in the rain gave him a bad hair day, and resumed tweeting about the caravan conspiracy theories that drew Bowers’ ire.
The president has claimed “a lot of people” appreciated his infamous remarks about the August 2017 white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump was widely criticized for saying there “were very fine people on both sides” of the event which culminated with a white supremacist killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 other protesters by driving his vehicle into the crowd. A petition asking Trump to denounce white supremacy before visiting Pittsburgh had been signed by nearly 80,000 people as of publication.
According to the press pool that travels with Trump, the presidential motorcade encountered numerous middle fingers and signs like “We didn’t invite you here” and “Trump loves Nazis” when he arrived in Pittsburgh.