Trump Mixes Condemnation of Violence, Fresh Airing of Grievances
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump vowed to end political violence in the U.S. after the arrest of a suspect in a string of bombing attempts aimed at the president’s critics, then used the moment to complain about hostility directed at him.
“We must never allow political violence to take root in America,” Trump said Friday at the White House, shortly after the arrest. “I am committed to doing everything in my power as president to stop it.”
Trump complained that he’s often the target of hostility. “I get attacked also,” he said. “I get attacked all the time.” He added, “Who gets attacked more than me?”
He went on to lament that coverage of mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats and Trump critics overshadowed a speech he delivered Thursday on an initiative to reduce prescription drug costs.
Later, Trump said he had no plans to reach out to targets of the mail bombs, who included former President Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“If they wanted me to -- but I think we’ll probably pass,” Trump said as he boarded the presidential helicopter on his way to a campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The series of packages containing apparent explosive devices stirred new criticism of Trump for stoking political hostility. On Wednesday, after CNN’s offices in Manhattan were evacuated following discovery of one of the packages there, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, whose network is frequently attacked by Trump as “fake news,” laid the blame at Trump’s feet.
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Zucker said in a statement.
Trump on Friday dismissed the notion that he should tamp down his political rhetoric. “I think I’ve been toned down, if you want to really know the truth,” he said. “I could really tone it up.”
The Justice Department charged 56-year-old Cesar Altieri Sayoc of Aventura, Florida, with mailing at least 13 explosive devices. He has a record of arrests and criminal convictions, including a 2002 arrest for making a bomb threat, according to court records. He registered to vote as a Republican in March 2016.
Television images from Plantation, Florida, showed a white van covered in pro-Trump and right-wing stickers being loaded onto a flatbed truck by law enforcement officers.
Earlier in the morning Trump had complained on Twitter that news coverage of the mail-bomb attempts was slowing Republican political momentum heading into the Nov. 6 congressional elections.
“Now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics,” Trump said in a tweet Friday morning. “Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!”
Later, with a suspect in custody, Trump said he hoped to ramp up Republican campaign efforts. “Now we have to start the momentum again,” Trump said on his way to the North Carolina rally.
A dozen packages containing apparent explosive devices have been intercepted by authorities so far. The intended recipients have all been targets of conservative vitriol, with the most recent packages discovered addressed to New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The first device was found Monday after being delivered to the home of billionaire financier George Soros.
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