Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

As it happenedended1565041067

Trump news: President fails to propose gun law change after mass shootings, as Obama warns leaders are feeding 'climate of fear'

Two mass shootings left nearly 30 victims dead over the weekend

Chris Riotta
New York
,Joe Sommerlad
Monday 05 August 2019 20:50 BST
Comments
Trump names wrong town when paying tribute to Dayton shooting victims

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Donald Trump referred to the shooting suspects in the El Paso and Dayton gun massacres as “mentally ill monsters”, before naming the wrong US city in Ohio.

The president blamed everything from the press to violent video games while addressing the nation after two gun attacks left nearly 30 victims dead over the weekend.

During the controversial speech on Monday, he called on the US to reject “racism” and “white supremacy,” while failing to address his own incendiary remarks launched against immigrants and his apparent opponents of colour, including Democrats Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Elijah Cummings.

Former president Barack Obama denounced the divisive language coming from “American leaders” in a statement posted to his Twitter account. In his first response to the Texas and Ohio shootings, Mr Obama says Americans must “soundly reject language” from any leader who “feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments.”

A shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday killed 22 people, and a second attack outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday killed nine people. Investigators say the suspect in the El Paso massacre posted a racist, anti-immigrant message shortly before the attack.

The statement made by Barack Obama said: “Until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.”

In his address to the nation, Donald Trump said America “must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” adding that the FBI would investigate “hate crimes and domestic terrorism.”

Pressure is meanwhile mounting on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to recall the upper chamber of Congress from its summer recess to finally vote on a universal background checks bill that was passed by the House of Representatives in February.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

US stocks plunged to their worst loss of the year Monday, as investors’ fears over Donald Trump’s trade war impact the market.

Catch-up on events as they happened

1564993800

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

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 09:30
1564994680

Donald Trump has said that “hate has no place in our country” following the two mass shootings that left 29 people dead in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend, blaming the killings on mental illness rather than white nationalism.

As the nation reeled from two mass shootings in less than a day, President Trump spent the first hours after the tragedies out of sight at his New Jersey golf course in Bedminster - where he again attended a MAGA wedding - sending out tweets of support awkwardly mixed in with posts promoting a celebrity Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bout. 

His first tweet after the El Paso shooting on Saturday was followed just 14 minutes later by another wishing UFC fighter Colby Covington, a Trump supporter, good luck in his fight that evening. That was soon followed up with a pair of retweets of African American supporters offering testimonials to Trump's policies helping black voters, though the president polls very poorly with the black community. Trump's two elder sons attended the UFC fight.

Americans did not glimpse the president in the immediate aftermath of a shooting in El Paso, Texas, that killed at least 20 people and, hours later, one in Dayton, Ohio, that claimed at least nine lives. Not until Trump and the first lady prepared to fly back to Washington late afternoon on Sunday did he appear before cameras. 

"Hate has no place in our country, and we're going to take care of it," Trump declared before boarding Air Force One. 

While connecting "hate" and mental illness to the shootings, Trump made no direct mention of gun laws, a factor brought up by Democratic officials and those seeking their party's nomination to challenge Trump's reelection next year. He also ignored questions about the anti-immigration language in a manifesto written by the El Paso shooter that mirrors some of his own. 

Trump tried to assure Americans he was dealing with the problem and defended his administration in light of criticism following the latest in a string of mass shootings. 

"We have done much more than most administrations," he said, without elaboration. "We have done actually a lot. But perhaps more has to be done." 

This was his final contribution to the day's events on Twitter last night.

Never seemingly comfortable consoling a nation in grief, Trump will be carefully watched for his response to the attacks, again inviting comparison to his predecessors who have tried to heal the country in moments of national trauma. 

Investigators focused on whether the El Paso attack was a hate crime after the emergence of a racist, anti-immigrant screed that was posted online shortly beforehand. Detectives sought to determine if it was written by the man who was arrested. 

In recent weeks, the president has issued racist tweets about four women of colour who serve in Congress and in rallies has spoken of an "invasion" at the southern border. His re-election strategy so far has placed racial animus at the forefront in an effort that his aides say is designed to activate his base of conservative voters, an approach not seen by an American president in the modern era. 

Trump has also been widely criticised for offering a false equivalency when discussing racial violence, notably when he said there were "good people on both sides" after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the death of an anti-racism demonstrator. 

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney defended the president's response on ABC's This Week yesterday, saying Trump was "a combination of saddened by this and he's angry about it." Mulvaney said the president's first call was "to the attorney general to find out what we could do to prevent this type of thing from happening." 

"These are sick people," he said. "And we need to figure out what we can do to make sure this doesn't happen again." 

But among those breaking ranks with the administration were the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and Texas senator Ted Cruz, both of whom called out the apparent white supremacist motives of the El Paso gunman.

Here's Andrew Buncombe's report on the latest senseless tragedy to strike America.

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 09:44
1564996008

On an emotional day, Trump was heavily criticised over his rhetoric in the run up to the attacks, with Democratic 2020 challenger Cory Booker accusing him of “sowing seeds of hate in this country”.

In addition to his recent "go back" diatribe against the Squad and his attack on veteran black congressman Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore, Trump has previously described groups of immigrants as "infestations," declared in his campaign kick-off that many of those coming from Mexico were "rapists," deemed a caravan of Hispanic migrants as invaders and wondered why the United States accepted so many immigrants from "s***hole countries" like Haiti, El Salvador and African nations. Critics also point to his campaign proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, his suggestion that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and his administration's efforts to curtail asylum and separate immigrant children from their parents at the border. 

"You reap what you sow, and he is sowing seeds of hate in this country. This harvest of hate violence we're seeing right now lies at his feet," the New Jersey senator said on NBC's Meet the Press. "He is responsible." 

El Paso native Beto O’Rourke agreed on CNN's State of the Union: "He is encouraging this. He doesn't just tolerate it; he encourages it. Folks are responding to this… He is an open, avowed racist and is encouraging more racism in this country. And this is incredibly dangerous for the United States of America right now."

Pete Buttigieg, also talking to CNN, said Trump is "condoning and encouraging white nationalism": "It is very clear that this kind of hate is being legitimised from on high."

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders meanwhile tweeted: "We must come together to reject this dangerous and growing culture of bigotry espoused by Trump and his allies. Instead of wasting money putting children in cages, we must seriously address the scourge of violent bigotry and domestic terrorism." 

Writing in The New York Times, former FBI director James Comey said the president was stirring the “radioactive racist soup in the centre of our national life”.

"Every American president, knowing what lies deep within our country, bears a unique responsibility to say loudly and consistently that white supremacy is illegitimate, that encouraging a politics of racial resentment can spawn violence, and that violence aimed at people by virtue of their skin color is terrorism," Comey wrote.

"Mr President, because of what you have done, you owe us more than condolences sent via Twitter. You must stop trying to unleash and exploit the radioactive energy of racism."

Here's Peter Stubley and Zamira Rahim on the Democratic reaction.

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 10:06
1564997144

"What do you think? You know the s*** he has been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I mean members of the press – what the f***?! " an exasperated Beto O'Rourke said yesterday when challenged by reporters about his assertion that Trump is to blame for inciting the mass shooting in El Paso with his racist rhetoric.

O'Rourke later attended several vigils on Sunday night, where he spoke passionately about the city, its people and the problems they had endured over the years.

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 10:25
1564998000

"This Anglo man came here to kill Hispanics. I'm outraged and you should be too. This entire nation should be outraged. In this day and age, with all the serious issues we face, we are still confronted with people who will kill another for the sole reason of the colour of their skin,” El Paso sheriff Richard Wiles wrote on Facebook yesterday after a white mass shooter opened fire at a Walmart in the Cielo Vista mall on Saturday, with six Mexican nationals among the 20 dead.

Here's Zamira Rahim with a reminder that Trump joked with the crowd at his rally in Florida about precisely this happening just three months ago.

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 10:40
1564998900

Clark Mindock has the latest on the Ohio massacre, where the suspect's own sister was among the dead.

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 10:55
1564999800

Alessio Perrone has more on how Trump spent his Saturday night. Compare this with, say, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern's compassionate and dynamic response to the Christchurch slayings earlier this year.

Or, for that matter, George W Bush visiting a mosque days after 9/11 to stand up for Muslims in the United States and Obama speaking emotionally after mass shootings at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut, and Charleston, South Carolina. 

White House officials say there were no immediate plans for Trump to address the nation though we can expect a statement this morning, apparently.

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 11:10
1565000700

In Washington, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is facing demands from the chamber's most senior Democrat, Chuck Schumer, to call an emergency session to put a House-passed bill on universal background checks - known as HR8 - up for debate and an "immediate" vote as the argument over gun control in America kicks off anew. 

The House of Representatives approved its bill in February and 2020 contenders Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were among those calling on McConnell to summon senators back from their month-long summer recess to vote on it, with congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacking the Republican big wig for "sitting on" the legislation and putting it off with "bogus excuses".

Meanwhile, #MassacreMitch is trending on Twitter, with users expressing their frustration at McConnell over his ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 11:25
1565001600

One group that has taken action is US web platform Cloudflare, which has stopped hosting 8chan, a forum popular with white supremacists that has been linked to a number of far-right shootings.

"While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online," Cloudfare CEO Matthew Prince wrote in a commendably honest blog post. "In taking this action we've solved our own problem, but we haven't solved the Internet's." 

"Almost exactly two years ago we made the determination to kick another disgusting site off Cloudflare's network: The Daily Stormer," he continued his warning, referring to the neo-Nazi website. "That caused a brief interruption in the site's operations but they quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor."

Prince noted 8chan has proven itself "to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths." 

"Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit."

Andrew Griffin has this report.

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 11:40
1565002500

The Republicans have already begun the well-rehearsed business of looking for alternative scapegoats for the killings (other than the gun lobby) and have turned to that trusty old mainstay: video games.

Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick told Fox News: "We’ve always had guns and evil... I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill." 

He also stated that the El Paso shooter cited Call of Duty in the manifesto he is believed to have written but neglects to mention that Oliver North, until recently the president of the NRA, was so involved with that same franchise that he actually appears as a character in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

Patrick also attacked the climate of bullying on social media, which is a more interesting argument but a hard one to make when you're speaking for the party led by Donald Trump, who engages in trolling in a daily basis.

Narjas Zatat has this report.

Joe Sommerlad5 August 2019 11:55

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in