An echo, then an atrocity
The gunman who shot up a Pittsburgh synagogue in the deadliest anti-Semitic violence in U.S. history was "no supporter of mine," as President Donald Trump correctly pointed out. Indeed, the social media ravings of the charged neo-Nazi, Robert Bowers, depict Trump as a fake "white racist" surrounded by an "infestation" of Jews who use him to give whites false hope before they are outnumbered.
Trump forcefully condemned the killings. “It will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism,” Trump said. To be president at such a time, he said, is to experience "a level of terribleness and horror that you can't even believe. It's hard to believe."
Yet, as some of Trump's equally horrified critics took note, the Pittsburgh killer — along with Cesar Sayoc, the pro-Trump Florida man accused of sending 14 pipe bombs to the president's political foes — seem to have been reading off similar cue cards. Bowers' last post before the synagogue massacre blamed Jews for the caravan of Central American migrants in Mexico — "invaders" who aim to "kill our people."
Trump has been pumping up fear about the caravan for weeks as an "onslaught of illegal aliens" including "many criminals" — and openly touting it as a winning Republican issue in the midterm elections. Trump and his allies have stated, without evidence, that sinister outside forces are behind it, including their all-purpose bogeyman, Jewish billionaire and liberal donor George Soros.
"The numerous statements he’s made, calling himself a ‘nationalist,’ crowds at his rallies chanting threats against George Soros — it’s all connected,” Cecilia Wang, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Washington Post.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denounced the newspaper for reporting about those who put blame on Trump for a toxic environmental that foments extremist violence.
"Is there any tragedy The Washington Post won’t exploit to attack President @realDonaldTrump? The evil act of anti-Semitism in Pittsburg was committed by a coward who hated President Trump because @POTUS is such an unapologetic defender of the Jewish community and state of Israel," she tweeted.
If it plays, it stays
In between appearances on Saturday in Indiana and Illinois, Trump said he was toning himself down for the moment, but no one should expect that to last because it's how he wins. Also, as always, blame the media.
"We want to win and we’re going to win and we’re fighting to win and that’s what you have to do and you have to," Trump said. "If the press was fair, I’d have a much different tone all the time. But I’m fighting the media. ... The media is not being honest and I’m fighting that lack of honesty, so I have to have that tone."
He wasn't specific about the dishonesty. The Post, a frequent target, has calculated that Trump has made more than 5,000 false or misleading statements since taking office.
On Friday, after the arrest in the pipe bomb case, but before the Pittsburgh attack, Trump said, “Well, I think I’ve been toned down, if you want to know the truth. I could really tone it up."
Pick your poison
Trump toned it up in a Sunday night tweet:
"The Fake News is doing everything in their power to blame Republicans, Conservatives and me for the division and hatred that has been going on for so long in our Country. Actually, it is their Fake & Dishonest reporting which is causing problems far greater than they understand!"
The company he keeps
It's been a rough week for the Trump cheerleaders in right-wing media, including those like Fox Business Network's Lou Dobbs, who tried to promote a "false flag" theory that left-wingers staged the pipe-bomb scare to help Democrats.
Dobbs has also been a prolific promoter of Soros conspiracy theories, which came back to bite him after the synagogue attack. A guest on his show Thursday — Chris Farrell of the conservative activist group Judicial Watch — said the caravan was being funded by the "Soros-occupied State Department" — a variation of a longtime neo-Nazi trope of a "Zionist occupied government."
An FBN spokesman said, "We condemn the rhetoric by the guest on ‘Lou Dobbs Tonight.’ ”The episode won't appear again," nor will Farrell, Fox said. Judicial Watch has been a Trump ally in efforts to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Trump is a Dobbs fan and has quoted him on Twitter dozens of times.
Commiserator in chief? Nah
What should a sitting president say to a former president who was the target of a murder plot?
In 1993, when the United States determined that Saddam Hussein's agents tried to kill former President George H.W. Bush in Kuwait with a car bomb, President Bill Clinton ordered a retaliatory missile attack against Iraqi intelligence headquarters. He also called Bush right away to let him know.
That's not Trump's style. Asked if he would reach out to Clinton or Barack Obama about the bombs that were mailed to their homes, Trump said, "If they wanted me to, but I think we'll probably pass."
Trump also isn't granting temporary immunity from political attacks to those names who were on the bomb packages. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) got a mention at Saturday night's rally in Illinois, and a Trump tweet Sunday trashed Tom Steyer, a California billionaire who has been running pro-impeachment ads. "He comes off as a crazed & stumbling lunatic who should be running out of money pretty soon," wrote Trump.
Janison: Meanwhile, Mueller
The midterm elections will be in the rearview mirror by the middle of next week, and Mueller's investigation will be looming again on the horizon.
Newsday's Dan Janison catches us up on the probe's multiple strands and where they stand.
The view from the cheap seats
Second-guessing is second nature to Trump, but it was still a surprise Saturday night, especially after that morning's tragedy, when he weighed in about Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts' decision to lift starter Rich Hill in the seventh inning of World Series Game 4. The Dodgers' bullpen went on to blow a 4-0 lead, and Boston won 9-6.
"Watching the Dodgers/Red Sox final innings. It is amazing how a manager takes out a pitcher who is loose & dominating through almost 7 innings, Rich Hill of Dodgers, and brings in nervous reliever(s) who get shellacked. 4 run lead gone. Managers do it all the time, big mistake!" Trump tweeted.
Roberts reacted mildly, saying, "That's one man's opinion." It turned out that Hill tipped Roberts before the inning that he was tiring, and the pitcher threw heat when asked about Trump’s tweet on Sunday.
“There was a mass shooting yesterday," Hill told the Los Angeles Times. "The focus, in my opinion, of the president is to be on the country, and not on moves that are made in a World Series game.”
What else is happening:
- Trump said Saturday he would visit Pittsburgh, but plans were uncertain Sunday. “That’s really up to the families themselves,” Mayor Bill Peduto said on NBC's "Meet the Press".
- Defending his decision to go ahead with the rally Saturday night after the mass shooting, Trump compared the decision to the New York Stock Exchange opening for business the day after the 9/11 attacks. Except that didn't happen — the NYSE remained closed until Sept. 17, 2001.
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Trump for his "unequivocal" response to the Pittsburgh attack.
- A group of Pittsburgh Jewish leaders said Trump wasn't welcome there if he didn't denounce white nationalism and stop "targeting and endangering all minorities.”
- Alleged bomber Sayoc's family members urged the Trump adherent to get professional help and "not just listen to anyone."
- The White House is lowering expectations that Republicans will maintain control of the House in the midterm elections, while positioning Trump to claim credit for any gains in the Senate, Politico reports.
- As many as six Trump Cabinet officials may depart after the midterms, according to Politico. They are Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Jim Mattis at Defense, Ryan Zinke at Interior, Wilbur Ross at Commerce and Kirstjen Nielsen at Homeland Security. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has already announced that she's leaving.
- Trump 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, who has never run a political race before, is profiled by The New York Times. “I might not be the right choice for everyone, but I am the right choice for him,” the professional marketer said.
- Trump on Sunday approvingly retweeted Dinesh D'Souza, a far-right author and filmmaker who the president pardoned earlier this year for a campaign finance violation. A video posted by D'Souza compares Democratic opposition to Trump to the "berserk" opposition Abraham Lincoln faced after his election in 1860.