Less than 24 hours after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, left 29 dead and more than 50 wounded, President Donald Trump blamed the attacks on “a mental illness problem.”
“This is also a mental illness problem,” Trump told reporters. “If you look at both of these cases, this is mental illness. These are really people that are very very seriously mentally ill.”
1. There is no correlation between mental illness and the prevalence of mass shootings in the US relative to other countries. https://t.co/HdWuK7XfDx
2. Trump has instructed his DOJ to support a lawsuit
that would remove ACA mental health access to millions. https://t.co/jNqPePkhAJ
— Don Moynihan (@donmoyn) August 4, 2019
The Justice Department is treating Saturday’s mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas that killed at least 20 people as a “domestic terrorism case” and exploring a hate crime connection.
The suspected shooter, identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, posted a 2,300-word manifesto online minutes before the shooting that featured anti-immigrant and white supremacist rhetoric, a federal law enforcement official confirmed to the New York Times.
The manifesto stated, in part, “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The shooting suspect later told investigators he wanted to shoot as many Mexicans as possible, two law enforcement officials told ABC News.
Trump has refused to acknowledge white nationalism as a growing threat in the United States. He has also refused to stop using anti-immigrant rhetoric and calling Central American refugees “invaders.”
When a reporter asked the president in March if he saw a rise in white nationalism around the world hours after a deadly mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand, Trump said he did not.
“I don’t really,” Trump responded. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess. If you look what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case. I don’t know enough about it yet. … But it’s certainly a terrible thing.”
In July, a reporter asked the president if it concerns him that many people saw his tweet telling a group of minority congresswomen to “go back” to the countries they came from “as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?”
“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump replied. “And all I’m saying — they want to leave, they can leave!”
“Now, it doesn’t say leave forever,” he later continued. “It says leave, if you want. John, what that says is, if they’re not happy with the United States, if they’re doing nothing but criticizing us all the time, you see these people walking down criticizing the United States.”
Trump was widely condemned for his response to the violence and the death of a young woman at the hands of a white nationalist during Charlottesville protests in August 2017. Trump at the time argued that those marching with the Nazis and Confederacy defenders and those marching in opposition to them were engaged in violence and that there were “fine people” in both groups.
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently told the public that a majority of domestic terrorism cases are motivated by white supremacy.
Six former National Security Council Directors for Counterterrorism across three administrations released a statement on Sunday urging the Trump administration to prioritize homegrown terrorism as a national security emergency.
Important statement from six former NSC Directors for Counterterrorism across three administrations. Home grown terrorism must be as high a USG priority as ISIS/AQ. It’s a national security emergency. Enough. 💯 @NicholasRasmu15 @JenEasterly @jgeltzer @LukeHartig pic.twitter.com/aaPD6AaFLU
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) August 4, 2019
Democratic presidential candidate and El Paso, Texas, native Beto O’Rourke said that the president was a white nationalist after the mass shooting in El Paso.
CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday asked O’Rourke on Sunday: “Do you think President Trump is a white nationalist?”
“Yes. I do,” O’Rourke said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The Democrat also referenced Trump’s record of insulting Mexicans as “rapists” and describing asylum seeking migrants as an infestation.
“The things that he has said both as a candidate and then as the President of the United States, this cannot be open for debate,” he said.
“We have a problem with white nationalist terrorism in the United States of America today,” O’Rourke said, adding that “these are white men motivated by the kind of fear that this President traffics in.”
O’Rourke argued that it would take “all of us — Republicans, Democrats, independents alike — rising up, standing up to be counted against what this President is doing, against this white nationalist racism, against this violence and getting this country back.”