White House Defends Trump’s Rhetoric, Says He’ll Meet Shooting Victims’ Families

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Tuesday following an attack at the Tree of Life synagogue, where a gunman killed 11 people on Saturday, the White House said.

“Anti-Semitism is a plague to humanity,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said during a press conference Monday. Trump and his wife, Melania, she added, will be expressing "the support of the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community.”

She said that the president would be meeting with relatives of the victims.

Sanders rejected as “outrageous” suggestions that Trump bears some responsibility for a wave of violence in the U.S. that also included a series of more than a dozen mail-bombs that were sent to some of Trump’s most prominent critics. The acts have stirred criticism of the president’s polarizing rhetoric, which has intensified as the November midterm elections draw nearer.

“The very first thing the president did was condemn the attacks, both in Pittsburgh and in the pipe bombs,” Sanders said. “The very first thing the media did was blame the president and make him responsible for these ridiculous acts. That is outrageous that would be the very first reaction of so many people across this country.”

Trump blamed the news media for fomenting public anger and on Monday revived his characterization of the press as the “Enemy of the People.”

Trump has stoked conservative anger at political rallies across the country in advance of the elections.

In recent weeks, he has labeled Democrats “the party of crime” and warned they “want to unleash violent predators and ruthless killers” onto American streets. He suggested Democratic financier George Soros was secretly behind protests of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation -- a phenomenon Trump has derided as violent mobs. He’s mocked Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California as “low IQ.” And earlier this month, Trump denounced former Attorney General Eric Holder as himself spouting “very dangerous” rhetoric.

Soros, Waters and Holder -- all regularly invoked as bogeyman by Trump -- were among the targets in the wave of suspicious packages reported Tuesday and Wednesday.

The attack on the Pittsburgh synagogue during Saturday services is being investigated as a hate crime. The suspect allegedly posted on social media blaming a Jewish nonprofit that helps resettle refugees for bringing “invaders in that kill our people.”

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