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Trump news: President heads to El Paso after attacking Dayton mayor and being met with protests in Ohio

Follow the latest updates, as it happened

Chris Riotta
New York
,Clark Mindock,Joe Sommerlad
Wednesday 07 August 2019 21:05 BST
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Trump arrives in Dayton, Ohio following mass shooting

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Donald Trump visited El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday to pay his respects and meet with first responders following mass shootings in both communities over the weekend that left 31 dead.

As the president served his role of consoler-in-chief, he encountered a sometimes hostile reception, and went on the offensive against his critics in spite of the solemn nature of his duties.

"We had an amazing day, as you know we left Ohio and there was a lot of love, and a lot of respect," Mr Trump said in El Paso after meeting with first responders, doctors, nurses and survivors.

"There are a lot of heroes. A lot of heroes, and a lot of people who are just incredible," Mr Trump said in Texas.

Mr Trump had attacked 2020 contender Beto O’Rourke late on Tuesday night, telling him to “be quiet” after the candidate said his racist rhetoric was responsible for the massacre at a Wal-Mart in his hometown of El Paso.

Mr O’Rourke, whose hometown is El Paso, responded: “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.”

Meanwhile, in Ohio, Dayton mayor Nan Whaley also criticised Mr Trump saying “he’s made this bed and he’s gotta lie in it” while the state’s Republican governor Mike DeWine called for expanded gun laws to stop further outbreaks of violence. Protests are widely expected in both cities.

Shortly after Mr Trump's visit to Dayton, Ms Whaley signalled that Mr Trump had been respectful during his meetings with first responders and victims in her city, but called on him to pass gun control measures alongside senator Sherrod Brown.

Mr Trump later attacked Ms Whaley and Mr Brown, saying they had misrepresented their conversations.

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Hello and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the Donald Trump administration.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 09:30
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Donald Trump will visit El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday to pay his respects following the brace of mass shootings that took place over the weekend leaving 31 dead and is expected to be met with a hostile reception.

The president attacked 2020 contender Beto O’Rourke on Twitter late on Tuesday night, telling him to “be quiet” after the candidate said his racist rhetoric was responsible for the Walmart massacre.

O’Rourke responded in kind.

The presidential contender had angered Trump by stating his belief that the visit should not go ahead given the strength of feeling in the Texas town, where many believe the president's language directly inspired shooter Patrick Crusius' white supremacist manifesto, which spoke of the "Hispanic invasion of Texas", a line both Trump and his allies at Fox News have repeated regularly. 

“When he calls immigrants rapists and criminals, when he describes those who come to this country as an infestation and invasion... when he stokes this kind of fear, incites this kind of racism, invites the kind of terrorism that we saw, then we have to call him out for what he’s done, call this out for what it is,” O'Rourke told The Independent

“Donald Trump is not the first to traffic in racist tropes, but as the commander-in-chief, as the leader of this country, he has made things so much worse.

“He has given a licence for people to harm others. We have seen a rise in hate crimes for each of the three years of his administration. So we need to call this out for what it is.”

The town's Republican mayor, Dee Margo, has so far taken a more pragmatic line.

"My primary purpose is to occupy the office of mayor," he told Sky News.

"He is the president and [it is] his own personal decision to come here. I will try to comport myself, I have been on the receiving end of his rhetoric. We said Sunday night at our inter-denominational services that we will confront hate with love."

Protests are nevertheless widely expected.

Here's Andrew Buncombe's exclusive report from Texas.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 09:40
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While Trump's recent run of racial controversies have drawn headlines, they are just part of a long list of offensive comments he has made as a candidate and in office. And the president's words may finally be catching up with him.

As a newly resurfaced video reminds us, the last time he visited El Paso Trump attacked immigrants to the United States and emphasised repeatedly that some had committed “murders, murders, killings, murders”.

That remark came in the form of praise for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, which he said had picked up immigrants for tens of thousands of crimes and ticked off a list of those crimes and the stats that he claimed accompanied them.

When he got to murder - claiming there were 4,000 immigrant murderers swept up by ICE in the previous two years, in spite of a lack of a national database comparing crimes to immigration status - the president belaboured the point.

Here's Clark Mindock's report.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 09:55
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If all of that weren't enough to provoke a city in mourning, it turns out the Trump campaign also owes it $569,204.63 (£468,350) in the shape of an unpaid policing bill for his Make America Great Again rally there back in February.

“The city staff have followed the process and procedures as it relates to any invoicing that we provide, and we will continue to do so accordingly as per city and state policies,” Laura Cruz-Acosta, the communications manager for the El Paso city manager’s office, told The Texas Tribune, confirming the outstanding invoice.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 10:10
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With the president under renewed pressure to "do something" about gun control (the phrase became a trending hashtag on Monday night after a frustrated heckler shouted it at Ohio's governor Mike DeWine while he addressed a candle-lit vigil), popular Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has added her voice to the chorus of condemnation of Trump's response.

"He is directly responsible for what happened in El Paso,” AOC told The New York Daily News.

Clearly energised by the recent tragedies and the need for change, the New York congresswoman has also spoken passionately about the need to to engage with white supremacists, telling them, "Come back. It's not too late".

Clark Mindock has this on her uncompromising stand against Trump.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 10:25
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His reception is likely to be little warmer in Dayton, Ohio, where Democratic mayor Nan Whaley questioned whether the presidential visit will help and expressed disappointment in Trump's remarks in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, which included an erroneous reference to Toledo instead of Dayton.

 "I can only hope that as president of the United States that he's coming here because he wants to add value to our community and he recognises that that's what our community needs, she said.

"Everyone has it in their power to be a force to bring people together, and everybody has it in their power to be a force to bring people apart - that's up to the president of the United States."

Ohio's Republican governor Mike DeWine meanwhile bucked his party to call for expanded gun laws on Tuesday.

DeWine urged the GOP-led state Legislature to pass laws requiring background checks for nearly all gun sales and allowing courts to restrict firearms access for people perceived as threats. 

Persuading the Legislature to pass such proposals could be an uphill battle, however. It has given little consideration this session to those and other gun-safety measures already introduced by Democrats and DeWine's Republican predecessor, John Kasich, also unsuccessfully pushed for a so-called red flag law on restricting firearms for people considered threats. 

"We can come together to do these things, to save lives," DeWine said.

As the city reels from Sunday's tragedy, Dayton native Damon Davenport - who lost two of his cousins in the killings - has offered his own message to Trump.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 10:40
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More details continue to emerge about Connor Betts, the 24-year-old who opened fire in Dayton's Oregon entertainment district in the early hours of Sunday morning, killing nine people including his own sister Megan, 22. He was shot dead by police within 30 seconds of the start of his rampage.

The FBI yesterday announced it has opened an investigation into the killer, his desire to commit a mass shooting and his interest in violent ideology, as indicated by a Twitter account linked to him in which he identified as a "leftist" opposed to Trump and ICE and in favour of Antifa and Elizabeth Warren.

State governor DeWine said it is clear Betts exhibited anti-social behaviours in high school, which should have alerted those around him to a problem. Two former classmates told the Associated Press that Betts was suspended from Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom. That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault, according to the two classmates.

But Betts had no apparent criminal record as an adult and police said there was nothing that would have prevented him from buying a gun (hence DeWine's call for change).

Special agent Todd Wickerham, who announced the FBI investigation, did not say if agents are looking at whether the Dayton shooting should be treated as domestic terrorism, as the agency has done in the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Gilroy, California. He said Betts had not been on the FBI's radar.

Meanwhile, a woman who said she briefly dated Betts spoke to reporters and wrote an online essay, saying the two bonded over struggles with mental illness. Adelia Johnson, 24, said they met in a college psychology class. Johnson said she was in treatment but that Betts "didn't want to seek help because of the stigma." He told her he thought he had mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, she said.

"When he started joking about his dark thoughts, I understood," she wrote. "Dark thoughts for someone with a mental illness are just a symptom that we have to learn how to manage."

Johnson said on their first date, Betts showed her a video of last October's Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in which a man shouting anti-Semitic slurs opened fire and killed 11 people.

The family of Betts and his sister released a statement through police on Tuesday night, saying they are devastated and co-operating with the investigation.

It is unknown whether any of the Dayton victims were specifically targeted. Besides Megan Betts, 22, the others who died were Monica Brickhouse, 39; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Derrick Fudge, 57; Thomas McNichols, 25; Lois Oglesby, 27; Saeed Saleh, 38; Logan Turner, 30; and Beatrice N Warren-Curtis, 36.

Betts was white and six of the nine killed were black, but police said the speed of the rampage made any discrimination in the shooting seem unlikely. Hospital officials said 37 people have been treated for injuries, including 14 with gunshot wounds.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 10:55
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If you needed a single image to encapsulate the anger, pain and division of America right now, this tweet by Iowa local journalist Douglas W Burns says it all.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 11:10
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Away from the shootings, Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and the Republican Party have sued California over its new law requiring political candidates to release their tax returns before running in the state primaries.

One of the suits contends California’s law is “a naked political attack against the sitting President of the United States”, a line Trump himself took on Twitter last night, quoting lawyer John Yoo on Laura Ingraham's Fox News show.

The law signed last week by Democratic governor Gavin Newsom is aimed at prying loose the president's tax returns, which he has refused to release, saying they are under audit. 

Here's Chris Riotta's report.

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 11:25
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Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has challenged the Trump administration's broad expansion of deportation powers, alleging in a federal lawsuit on Tuesday that it violates constitutional rights and could lead to errors, including deporting US citizens. 

The lawsuit called the extension of the policy allowing immigration officers to deport migrants without requiring them to appear before judges as "dramatic" and "illegal." Previously, the policy applied to those caught within 100 miles of the US border and who had been in the country under two weeks. Last month, the Trump administration announced that immigration agents can now apply it anywhere nationwide to those in the country illegally less than two years. 

The ACLU, along with the American Immigration Council, argued in the lawsuit that the expansion essentially gives low-level immigration officers the power to indiscriminately deport anyone without meaningful review, like a hearing or having an attorney. 

"A closed proceeding without any external scrutiny will always be arbitrary," said Anand Balakrishnan, an attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project. "It will always be unchecked and create too much room for error." 

The complaint cites several instances where federal agents using the initial "expedited removal" authority wrongly deported US citizens, including a case in 2000 involving a US citizen who was mentally disabled. The woman was unable to convince immigration agents that she was an American citizen after returning from visiting relatives in Jamaica and was deported. 

Filed on behalf of immigrant advocacy groups in Texas, New York and Florida, the lawsuit names the heads of the Department of Homeland Security and several agencies it oversees. That includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. Messages left with agency spokesmen weren't immediately returned Tuesday. 

So-called "expedited removal" authority gives immigration authorities wide deportation power with limited exceptions, including if individuals express fear of returning home and pass an initial interview for asylum. The policy, which has been around since 1996, has become a central part of immigration enforcement in the last decade. 

President Donald Trump first announced he would expand such powers just after taking office as part of his promise to crack down on illegal immigration. Last month, acting Department of Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan touted the expansion as a way to address an "ongoing crisis on the southern border" by freeing up beds in detention centers and reducing the immigration courts backlog. 

However, critics have said it gives immigration officers too much power and could embolden them to indiscriminately round up immigrants. The announcement left immigration attorneys scrambling, with some advising their clients to collect as much documentation as possible to prove they've been in the US. 

Roughly 300,000 immigrants living in the country illegally could be affected, according to the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. The complaint alleges that US permanent residents and asylum seekers are at risk. 

"Hundreds of thousands of people living anywhere in the US are at risk of being separated from their families and expelled from the country without any recourse," Balakrishnan said. "This is a dramatic - and illegal - escalation in the Trump administration's attacks on immigrant communities." 

AP

Joe Sommerlad7 August 2019 11:40

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