WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Sunday “hate has no place in our country,” in response to back-to-back mass shootings that claimed the lives of 29 people over the weekend.
Trump, speaking to reporters after spending the weekend at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, promised to speak more on the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in a White House address on Monday.
“I just want to say that these are two incredible places,” Trump said. “We love the people. Hate has no place in our country, and we’re going to take care of it.”
The president said “mental illness” was to blame for Saturday’s shootings. His assessment came as Democratic lawmakers on Sunday squarely blamed Trump for inciting violence through his racially divisive rhetoric. Democrats also revived their calls for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to act on proposed gun control legislation passed by the Democrat-majority U.S. House earlier this year.
Earlier in the day, on the Sunday show talk show circuit, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney asserted that “no politician is to blame” for the shootings.
Mulvaney, appearing on ABC's "This Week," hours after a gunman killed 20 victims at a Walmart in El Paso and another gunman killed nine others in Dayton, signaled that the White House was open to renewing discussions on the issue of gun control.
"This was a sick person, the person in Dayton was a sick person," Mulvaney told ABC News White House correspondent Jonathan Karl. "No politician is to blame for that. The person who was responsible here are the people who pulled the trigger. We need to figure out how to kind of create less of those kinds of people as a society and not trying to figure out who gets blamed going into the next election."
Federal authorities have said they are treating the El Paso shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and potential hate crime, with local officials saying the 21-year-old shooter was likely targeting Hispanics. An online manifesto that El Paso police said is “solidly” believed to be written by the shooter listed grievances against immigrants and contended there was a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Mulvaney, when asked by Karl if Trump’s frequent use of the word “invasion” to describe illegal immigration, and his calls for four congresswomen of color to “go back” to other countries, were dangerous, replied: "There's no benefit here to trying to make this a political issue ... This is a social issue."
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), in a statement released Sunday, called on McConnell (R-Ky.) to call back the Senate from its monthlong recess “for an emergency session to put the House-passed universal background checks legislation on the Senate floor for debate and a vote immediately.”
Other Democrats on the Sunday political show circuit repeated Schumer’s call including Ohio lawmakers Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan, who is also running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in a tweet echoed the call to action.
The field of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, in denouncing Saturday’s attacks, also sought to tie the El Paso shooting to Trump’s rhetoric.
Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, told CNN’s “State of the Union” the president “doesn’t just tolerate — he encourages the type of open racism” that leads to violence. O’Rourke said Trump’s characterization of white nationalist protesters as “very fine people" following deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 “sends a message of what is permissible and what he encourages."
"Let's be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is. He is an open avowed racist and encouraging more racism in this country," O'Rourke said on CNN.
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told CNN Trump "is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry." Sen. Kamala Harris of California, appearing on the same show, when asked about Trump, said, "I believe there's consequence to his words."
Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” said Trump “very early on made the choice to divide people for his own political benefit, and these are some of the consequences we're seeing of that."
"There's one person that's directly responsible for the shooting in El Paso, and that's the shooter," Castro said. “At the same time, as our national leader, you have a role to play in either fanning the flames of division or trying to bring Americans of different backgrounds together.”