WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump condemned the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue as an “evil anti-Semitic attack” Saturday night, but said he chose to attend a political rally because to cancel would make these “sick, demented people important.”
Speaking to a cheering crowd in an airport hangar in southern Illinois, Trump said, “the hearts of all Americans are filled with grief, following the monstrous killing.” He also said the shooting was “an assault on all of us.”
Trump told reporters before the rally that he would travel to Pittsburgh, though he did not offer details. He also sought to distance himself from the man arrested in the shooting, whose van had pro-Trump stickers, calling him “sick” and saying “he was no supporter of mine.”
Earlier in the day, the president called the shooting by the gunman that killed 11 and wounded six after he shouted anti-Semitic remarks at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, “terrible” and “devastating.” He called for a tougher, faster death penalty and armed guards in places of worship.
While saying the violence was a “shame,” Trump dismissed seeking tougher gun laws, asserting they have “little to do with it.”
“It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country, frankly, and all over the world. And something has to be done,” Trump told reporters. He said he had called Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto.
The attack came a day after the FBI arrested and charged Cesar Sayoc of Aventura, Florida, in connection with 13 improvised explosive devices sent to prominent Democrats, including two former U.S. presidents, and others this week.
“So this would be a case for: If there was an armed guard inside the temple they would have been able to stop him — maybe nobody would have been killed except for him,” Trump said of the synagogue attack.
“Isn’t it a shame that you even have to speak that way? Isn’t it a shame we even have to think of that inside of a temple or inside of a church?” he said. But Trump repeated if the temple had an armed guard, the shooter could have been stopped immediately.
Asked if all houses of worship should post armed guards, Trump said, “I hate to think of it that way, I will say that.”
Trump said such attackers should “pay the ultimate price.”
“I think one thing we should [do] is we should stiffen up our laws in terms of the death penalty,” Trump said. “When people do this, they should get the death penalty, and they shouldn’t have to wait years and years.”