Donald Trump has said his rhetoric “brings people together” in the wake of mass shootings, as the president’s critics say his incendiary comments have contributed to a rise in deadly white supremacist violence.
The president spoke with reporters before departing from the White House for Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, to serve in his role as consoler-in-chief in the wake of deadly mass shootings that struck both communities over the weekend.
Mr Trump said there was “no appetite” on Capitol Hill for gun control reform in the wake of the latest gun violence that has become all too common in America, but that he was “looking to do background checks” and focus on mental health initiatives.
“You have to have a political appetite within Congress and so far I have not seen that,” the president said.
When asked about criticism over his rhetoric — 2020 Democratic candidates and others have connected Mr Trump’s controversial statements about Mexicans and immigrants to the Texas gunman’s reported anti-immigrant sentiments — the president said his rhetoric is not divisive but rather “brings people together”.
“I am concerned about the rise of any group of hate,” he said, “whether it’s white supremacy, or any other kind of supremacy.”
Mr Trump then added he was also concerned about antifa, the anti-fascist movement. He appeared to be conflating the left-wing group with violence caused by apparent white nationalists, despite FBI director Chris Wray saying in a Senate hearing last month that a rise in domestic terrorism was directly linked to a rise in deadly white supremacist violence.
Mr Trump has attempted to reassure the nation he would work to address the apparent rise in deadly shootings, while focusing on everything from violent video games to mental health — instead of action on gun control legislation.
He said he has scheduled a meeting with Congress to discuss the issue, and stressed that he did not want “sick” people having access to weaponry. His critics have said the focus on video games and mental health detracts from an urgent need to address America’s gun violence.
Local leaders in Texas and Ohio have met the president’s visits with hesitancy.
“He’s coming out here on Wednesday,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said to reporters on Monday night. “And I want to clarify for the political spin that this is the office of the mayor of El Paso in an official capacity welcoming the office of the president of the United States, which I consider is my formal duty.”
Mr Trump is widely expected to be met with protests in both cities.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies