Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (D) said he quickly ended a phone call with President Trump that took place shortly after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue because Trump began complaining about death penalty laws.
Peduto told The Washington Post on Saturday that he was standing outside of the synagogue where a gunman had killed 11 worshippers — the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history — when he received a call from the president.
Trump began by offering his thoughts and prayers and vowed to help the mayor with anything he needed.
The president then told Peduto that the country needs harsher death penalty laws as a method of deterring mass murderers.
Peduto said he was so stunned by Trump’s remarks, he could not find the words to respond.
“I’m literally standing two blocks from 11 bodies right now. Really?” Peduto thought at the time. He told the post he felt numb after his remarks.
The mayor thought that talking about the death penalty wasn’t “going to bring them back or deter what had just happened.”
“I ended the conversation pretty quickly after that,” he added. Peduto told the Post that the conversation lasted for about three minutes.
Peduto’s version of the phone call was strikingly similar to remarks Trump made to reporters hours after the shooting while he was heading for a campaign rally in Illinois.
“Anyone who does a thing like this to innocent people … they should really pay the ultimate price,” Trump said, before insisting that an armed guard inside the synagogue would have prevented the shooting.
The mayor, who did not meet with Trump when he visited the synagogue last week, had asked the president to postpone his trip so that it would not interfere with the funerals for the victims.
“It could have been avoided,” Peduto told the Post about protests during Trump’s visit. “He could have chosen to go to the Holocaust Museum and lay a wreath with his wife. Or put together a fund in order to memorialize the 11 people whose lives were lost for perpetuity, in the museum.”