President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump traveled to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, Wednesday following two mass shootings over the weekend that claimed the lives of 31 people.
The president was greeted by protesters outside Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, where he and the first lady privately met with shooting survivors, medial staff, and first responders for more than 90 minutes. Demonstrators also gathered in El Paso to protest the president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, which was echoed by the suspected gunman in the massacre at a Walmart that claimed the lives of 22 people.
Prior to his stop in Dayton, where nine people were killed, Trump suggested there was a direct link between the shooter and two Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Investigators have not yet determined any motive in the Dayton mass shooting.
Trump and the first lady are expected back in Washington, D.C., shortly after 10 p.m.
Here are highlights from Trump’s trips to Ohio and Texas.
After landing in El Paso, Trump headed to the University Medical Center to meet with victims of the mass shooting.
He is also said to be meeting with law enforcement in the area amid sporadic protests in the area, with the largest happening at Washington Park.
Reports say there have been frequent altercations between Trump supporters and critics at a memorial for those lost in the Walmart shooting, as well as smaller protests around the city.
At the same time as Trump landed in the city, former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, spoke at a rival rally protesting Trump’s visit.
President Trump is visiting University Medical Center to meet with victims of the mass shooting.
A crowd of people carrying umbrellas to shield them from the sun gathered in protest at Washington Park hours before Trump arrived in the city. O’Rourke was just one of a range of speakers, including a minister.
The 2020 presidential candidate has been critical of Trump, and advised him publicly to not visit El Paso.
At the rally O’Rourke said, “At one point or another and for us it was on Saturday, that violence and that intolerance and that inaction in the face of violence and intolerance will find us, and it did.”
After departing from Dayton, Trump headed to El Paso to greet residents. On his way, he tweeted from Air Force One that he was “watching Sleepy Joe Biden” in an interview, and said the “LameStream Media” would “die” if Biden were elected.
This is on the heels of Biden and Sen. Cory Booker, along with other 2020 presidential candidates, being critical of Trump’s handling of recent mass shootings.
Prior to an event in Philly slated for Wednesday evening, Booker spoke in Charleston, N.C., at the church where nine people were killed by a white supremacist in 2015. He condemned Trump’s rhetoric, which he said fueled shootings like the one in El Paso in which the shooter’s “anti-immigrant” manifesto was found.
Biden, meanwhile, drew the president’s ire by saying that the president had “fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation” during an afternoon speech in Iowa, adding that Trump "aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation.”
Dan Scavino, the White House director of social media, went after Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley on Twitter following the president’s visit to Miami Valley Hospital, claiming they lied and mischaracterized Trump’s visit.
“The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video,” Scavino wrote.
During a press conference following Trump’s visit to the hospital, Brown told reporters the president was “received well by the patients” and that hospital staffers “showed respect for the office,” even those who admitted privately they didn’t support the president.
“He was comforting and he did the right things, Melania did the right things, It’s his job in part to comfort people,” Brown said.
The president and first lady are en route to El Paso, where they’re expected to touchdown shortly after 4 p.m. Eastern. While Trump is expected to meet with first responders and shooting survivors, he may also be confronted with recent comments he’s made about the city and the people who live there.
During a February rally in El Paso (one the city is still attempting to be paid for), Trump’s heated rhetoric about immigrants was front and center. He called migrants “dangerous criminals,” claimed immigrants had committed “murders, murders, killings, murders,” and called migrants seeking legal asylum an “invasion.”
Trump’s fixation on El Paso due to its proximity to the border also came up in his 2019 State of the Union address, where he falsely referred to it as “one of our nation’s most dangerous cities" prior to the installation of a border fence in 2008. Crime statistics show El Paso has actually been among the country’s safest cities for decades, and FactCheck.org said the city had the third-lowest violent crime rate among large U.S. cities years before the fence was installed.
The president and first lady have departed from Miami Valley Hospital and boarded Air Force One at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Their next stop is the El Paso International Airport, where they were originally scheduled to arrive at 3:45 p.m.
Reporters and photographers traveling with the president weren’t permitted to cover Trump as he greeted shooting survivors, first responders, and hospital staff for more than 90 minutes.
The president made no public comments prior to leaving Dayton, but according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, Trump said at the hospital, "You had God watching. I want you to know we’re with you all the way.”
The President and his wife arrived at Miami Valley Hospital where he is expected to meet first responders, doctors and workers, as well as some victims and families.
He arrived at the hospital to continuing protests from onlookers.
The president was greeted by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown — both Democrats — after arriving at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Wednesday morning ahead of his visit to Dayton.
Brown had said he would decline a White House invitation due to the president’s racist rhetoric and refusal to embrace any serious gun control effort.
“I wrestled with the right thing to do when Trump visits Dayton today. I decided I have a responsibility to look him in the eye and urge him to do the right thing,” Brown wrote on Twitter ahead of the tarmac meeting.
Protestors and an inflatable balloon featuring Trump as a baby await the president near Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, which he and the first lady will visit to meet survivors of the shooting and first responders.
A reporter asked Trump if he regretted the fact that he used the same “invasion” language to describe immigrants as the suspected gunman in El Paso.
Here’s Trump’s response:
Trump continued by pressing yet again for the construction of a long-stalled wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and “strong” new immigration laws.
“I believe we have to have legal immigration, not illegal immigration,“ Trump said.
The New York Times reported that Trump has run over 2,000 Facebook ads warning of an “invasion” at the southern border, the same phrase used in an online manifesto linked to the suspected El Paso shooter. Trump has also repeatedly used the phrase during his political rallies.
Speaking briefly with reporters before his trip to Dayton, Trump denied claims his negative rhetoric about immigrants and racially charged attacks on minority lawmakers have fueled division within the country.
“I don’t think my rhetoric has at all. I think my rhetoric brings people together,” Trump said. "Our country is doing incredibly well.”
Trump also refused to single out the threat of white nationalism, telling reporters he’s concerned about the rise of “any group of hate.”
“Whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy. Whether it’s Antifa," Trump said. "I’m very concerned about it and I’ll something about it.”
Trump also double-down on his comments linking the suspected gunman in Dayton to Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Investigators have not yet determined any motive in the Dayton mass shooting.
“My critics are political people... In many cases, they’re running for president and they’re very low in the polls,” Trump said. “If you look at Dayton, that was a person that supported, I guess you would say, Bernie Sanders I understood. Antifa, I understood. Elizabeth, I understood."
Just two days after calling for Republicans and Democrats to come together, Trump suggested there was a direct link between the suspected shooter who killed nine people in Dayton and two Democratic presidential candidates — Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
CNN reported Tuesday that the suspected gunman’s social media accounts included “extreme left-wing posts” and support for Warren and Sanders. But unlike the El Paso shooting, where the gunman specifically targeted immigrants, investigators have not yet determined any motive in the Dayton mass shooting.
Trump also attacked the New York Times again on Twitter, drawing a strong rebuke from the newspaper’s White House correspondent Maggie Haberman.
Complicating his trip to El Paso further is the fact that Trump still owes the city $569,204 for services related to a rally he held in the city 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, communications manager for the El Paso city manager’s office, told the Texas Tribune.
According to the El Paso Times, the city sent the Trump campaign a letter in May requesting the outstanding debt be paid. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, told reporters that despite being “disappointed” with Trump’s remarks from the White House about the shootings, she would greet the president and first lady when they arrive in Ohio Wednesday morning.
“I hope he’s coming here to add value and to help our community, and I hope it’s not about just a press hit and I hope it’s about him actually doing something,” Whaley said.
In El Paso, where the suspected gunman specifically targeted immigrants and is linked to a political manifesto with language that mimicked comments made by the president, local political leaders have made it clear Trump is not welcome in their city.
Democratic president candidate Beto O’Rourke, who was Escobar’s predecessor in Congress, has repeatedly called Trump a “racist” and said he’s unwelcome in El Paso.
“22 people in my hometown are dead after an act of terror inspired by your racism,” O’Rourke wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning in response to an attack by Trump. “El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I.”