President Donald Trump said in formal remarks Monday that, in the wake of this weekend’s deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, “now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside.”
That window of bipartisanship lasted less than two days. By Wednesday morning, the president had begun lashing out at his Democratic opponents, including trying to blame them for some of the recent tragedies.
Trump tweeted a quote early on Wednesday from conservative news site One America News suggesting that the Dayton, Ohio, shooter was motivated by his support for liberal candidates and causes, including Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“’Meanwhile, the Dayton, Ohio, shooter had a history of supporting political figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and ANTIFA.’ @OANN I hope other news outlets will report this as opposed to Fake News. Thank you!” he wrote.
“Meanwhile, the Dayton, Ohio, shooter had a history of supporting political figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and ANTIFA.” @OANN I hope other news outlets will report this as opposed to Fake News. Thank you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 7, 2019
Later Wednesday morning, Trump referenced the shooter’s support for Sanders and Warren three more times, but insisted he wasn’t trying to blame the senators for the shooting. He claimed that his critics were simply trying to “make political points” by attacking him. “I don’t think it worked because, you know, I would like to stay out of the political fray.”
White House staffers Kellyanne Conway and Hogan Gidley had both been on Fox News a day earlier to argue similar claims — that Trump could try and link the Dayton attacker to liberal politicians but would never actually do that — and say that Trump was uniting the country.
The El Paso shooter left behind a manifesto specifically using Trump’s racist rhetoric on immigrant “invasions” to explain his motivations. So far, no evidence has yet connected the Dayton shooter’s political beliefs to a motive.
The reference to the Dayton shooter’s politics on Wednesday was one of several partisan attacks Trump launched this week. He also condemned “Radical Left Democrats” for criticizing a New York Times’ headline that read, “Trump Urges Unity vs. Racism” and lashed out at former Texas congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, mocking him for having a “phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage” and telling him to “be quiet!”
O’Rourke was not inclined to oblige. “22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism,” he tweeted. “El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I.”
22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism. El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I. https://t.co/dakFPKj0vJ
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 7, 2019
Trump’s partisan attacks come just hours ahead of planned stops in both Dayton and El Paso, where he said he hopes to meet with “First Responders, Law Enforcement, and some of the victims of the terrible shootings.” Residents of both cities, however, have voiced strong objections to Trump’s visits for reasons that extend beyond the divisiveness of his racist rhetoric.
During his remarks Monday, he appeared to forget which Ohio city he was discussing, offering his sympathies instead to the people of Toledo. In the past, he has falsely claimed that El Paso is “one of the most dangerous cities” and has taken credit for his border wall making it safer — even though the city’s violent crime rate plummeted long before Trump was even elected.
There are other reasons the president might not receive a warm welcome in El Paso: Trump’s presidential campaign also still owes the city $569,204 (including late fees) for public safety services provided for a rally he held there back in February. O’Rourke had held a rally the same day, but his campaign covered his expenses in full.