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Trump pushes back on criticism over New Zealand shootings

President Donald Trump at a briefing on drug

President Donald Trump at a briefing on drug trafficking at the Southern border, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on March 13. Credit: The Washington Post/Jabin Botsford

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday addressed criticism that his rhetoric and immigration policies helped fuel Friday’s fatal shootings at two New Zealand mosques.

“The Fake News Media is working overtime to blame me for the horrible attack in New Zealand,” Trump tweeted. “They will have to work very hard to prove that one. So Ridiculous!”

The 28-year-old man charged in the shooting spree that killed 49 Muslims, praised Trump in a 74-page manifesto calling the president "a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”

Trump on Friday offered condolences on Twitter shortly after the shooting, but has come under criticism from several Democrats, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who argue the president did not strongly condemn the shooter’s underlying white supremacist ideology.

Asked by a reporter on Friday if he believed white nationalism was a growing threat, Trump said: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case … it’s certainly a terrible thing.”

White House officials have also pushed back on the criticisms. The president’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney called any attempts to tie Trump to the shooting “absurd” during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters at the White House on Monday that the criticisms were “predictable and outrageous.”

Also Monday, Trump took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden, calling him a “low I.Q. individual” after the Democrat hinted at a possible presidential run during a speech at a Delaware Democrats gala on Saturday.

“Joe Biden got tongue tied over the weekend when he was unable to properly deliver a very simple line about his decision to run for President,” Trump tweeted. “Get used to it, another low I.Q. individual!”

Trump was referring to Biden’s slip of the tongue on Saturday in which he told Delaware Democrats he has "the most progressive record of anybody running for the … anybody who would run" for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Trump previously said Biden would be his “dream” candidate to run against in 2020.

“I dream about Biden. That's a dream," Trump told CBS News last July. "Look, Joe Biden ran three times. He never got more than 1 percent and President Obama took him out of the garbage heap, and everybody was shocked that he did. I'd love to have it be Biden."

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