8/7/2019 1:02:00 PM Trump heads to Ohio, Texas after tragedy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is inviting internet and technology companies for a roundtable discussion on violent extremism online.
The meeting to be held on Friday follows a pair of mass shootings that some believe were fueled by online violence and hate.
The White House did not immediately release the names of the companies invited to the meeting, which will be led by White House staff. President Donald Trump is not expected to attend.
Trump this week directed the Justice Department to work with online platforms and state and local governments to “develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.”
Some Republicans have blamed the shootings on video games and internet culture. Democrats point to Trump’s rhetoric as fostering an environment of hate that led to violence.
In the meantime, President Trump headed to El Paso and Dayton today to offer a message of healing and unity, where he was expected to be met by unusual hostility in both places by people who fault his incendiary words as a contributing cause to the mass shootings .
The mayors of both cities are calling for Trump to change his rhetoric about immigrants. Democratic presidential candidates continue to criticize the president, including former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, whois holding a counter-rally in his hometown of El Paso during the president’s visit.
As the president left the White House, he strongly criticized those who say he bears some responsibility for the nation’s divisions, returning to political arguing even as he calls for unity.
“My critics are political people,” Trump said. “These are people that are looking for political gain.”
He mentioned the apparent political leanings of the shooter in the Dayton killings, suggesting the man was supportive of Democrats.
But the president also said that Congress was making progress on possible new gun legislation.
“I’m looking to do background checks,” Trump said. But he would not embrace a call for an assault weapons ban, saying that there was no political appetite for it.
He said anew that the most important thing is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
It is a highly unusual predicament for an American president to at once try to unite a community and a nation at the same time he is being criticized as contributing to a combustible climate that can spawn violence.
Some 85% of U.S. adults believe the tone and nature of political debate has become more negative, with a majority saying Trump has changed things for the worse, according to recent Pew Research Center polling.
And more than three quarters, 78%, say that elected officials who use heated or aggressive language to talk about certain people or groups make violence against those people more likely.
White House officials said Trump’s visits would be similar to those he’s paid to grieving communities including Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas, with the Republican president and the first lady saluting first responders and spending time with mourning families and survivors.
“What he wants to do is go to these communities and grieve with them, pray with them, offer condolences,” White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Tuesday. He said Trump also wants “to have a conversation” about ways to head off future deadly episodes.
“We can do something impactful to prevent this from ever happening again, if we come together,” the spokesman said.
That’s a tough assignment for a president who thrives on division and whose aides say he views discord and unease about cultural, economic and demographic changes as key to his reelection.
Trump, who often seems most comfortable on rally stages with deeply partisan crowds, has not excelled at projecting empathy, mixing what can sound like perfunctory expressions of grief with awkward offhand remarks. While he has offered hugs to tornado victims and spent time at the bedsides of shooting victims, he has yet to project the kind of emotion and vulnerability of his recent predecessors.
Barack Obama grew visibly shaken as he addressed the nation in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre and teared up while delivering a 2016 speech on new gun control efforts. George W. Bush helped bring the country together following the Sept. 11 attacks, notably standing atop the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center, his arm draped over the shoulder of a firefighter, as he shouted through a bullhorn. Bill Clinton helped reassure the nation after the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City and the mass school shooting at Columbine High School.
Trump, too, has been able to summon soothing words. But then he often quickly lapses into divisive tweets and statements — just recently painting immigrants as “invaders,” suggesting four Democratic congresswoman of color should “go back” to their home countries even though they’re U.S. citizens and deriding majority-black Baltimore as a rat-infested hell-hole.
In the Texas border city of El Paso, some residents and local Democratic lawmakers said Trump was not welcome and urged him to stay away.
“This president, who helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible, should not come to El Paso,” O’Rourke tweeted. “We do not need more division. We need to heal. He has no place here.”
Trump, on the eve of his El Paso trip, snapped back on Twitter that O’Rourke “should respect the victims & law enforcement - & be quiet!”
In Dayton, Mayor Nan Whaley said she would be meeting with Trump on Wednesday, but she told reporters she was disappointed with his scripted remarks Monday responding to the shootings. His speech included a denunciation of “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” and a declaration that “hate has no place in America.” But he didn’t mention any new efforts to limit sales of certain guns or the anti-immigration rhetoric found in an online screed posted just before the El Paso attack.