Sessions jokes to conservative group: 'Anybody been to Russia?'
Trump: 'America is truly a nation in mourning'
President Trump met with victims and first responders of the nation's worst-ever mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Wednesday, marking the second consecutive day the president has dealt with Americans impacted by national tragedy.
Trump struck a somber tone reading a statement at the Las Vegas police department, where he recounted stories of "tremendous bravery" and tragedy from Sunday night's shooting, which left 58 dead and more than 500 wounded.
Surrounded by first responders, local and national officials and First Lady Melania Trump, the president said, "America is truly a nation in mourning."
"Many families tonight will go to bed in a world that is suddenly empty. The people they so dearly love were torn away from them forever," Trump said. "Our souls are struck with grief for every American who lost a husband or a wife, a mother or a father, a son or a daughter. We know that your sorrow feels endless. We stand together to help you carry your pain. You're not alone."
Calling it a "very sad day for me personally," Trump descended from Air Force One early in the day wearing a dark suit and holding hands with the first lady, who was clad in all black.
They spent about five minutes on the tarmac at the McCarran International airport huddling with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-Nev.), Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman (I), and Clark County sheriff Joe Lombardo, before departing for the University Medical Center to meet with wounded victims and medical staff.
"The patients, the bravery," Trump said at the hospital. "Some were very, very badly wounded. They were badly wounded because they refused to leave. They wanted to help others because they saw people going down all over. It's an incredible thing to see. Tremendous bravery."
"I have to tell you it makes you very proud to be an American," Trump said.
Later, Trump met with law enforcement officials at the Las Vegas police department, where he praised the efforts of first responders and said they had saved countless lives.
"You have been a real inspiration," Trump said. "This is a rough time, but if you didn't get up there so quickly, it could have been worse, a lot worse. We just want to thank you. The whole world is watching. They've seen professionalism like you rarely see. I want to thank you very much."
Law enforcement officials have so far been at a loss to explain what led alleged shooter Stephen Paddock to rain down bullets on a country music festival from his hotel room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay.
Trump on Wednesday called Paddock "demented" and a "very sick man."
The FBI interviewed Paddock's girlfriend, Marilou Danley, at a field office in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Paddock had flown Danley to her home country of the Philippines weeks earlier and wired her more than $100,000.
For Trump, it was the second day in a row he was thrust into the role of consoler-in-chief.
On Tuesday, the president travelled to Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by Hurricane Irma.
There, the president met with government officials about relief and rescue efforts and handed out supplies to those impacted by the storm.
The White House has been criticized for responding too slowly to the developing humanitarian crisis. Trump has also come under fire for remarks that many viewed as tone-deaf or hostile toward the suffering of Puerto Ricans.
On Wednesday, Trump offered only praise and admiration for those impacted by the shooting.
"The only message I can say is that we're with you 100 percent," Trump said. "In fact, I invited a lot of them over to the White House. If you are ever in Washington, come over to the Oval Office. Believe me, I'll be there for them."
Democrats are pushing for stricter gun laws in the wake of the shooting. There are demands for lawmakers to outlaw "bump stocks," which the shooter allegedly used to make his semi-automatic rifle fire automatically.
But Trump avoided talking about the politics of the shooting on Wednesday. When asked if the nation has a "gun violence problem," the president responded: "We're not going to talk about that today."
Still, Trump could not escape politics completely.
Cable news outlets ran footage of Air Force One landing in Las Vegas on a split-screen next to a press conference being conducted by Senate Intelligence Committee leaders Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), who were telling reporters that the question of whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russians remained an open part of their investigation.
And as Trump flew on Air Force One en route to Las Vegas, secretary of State Rex Tillerson conducted a dramatic press conference to dispute an NBC News report claiming that Vice President Pence had to convince him not to leave the Cabinet.
The story highlighted months of disagreements between Trump and Tillerson over staffing, as well as how to deal with nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran.
Standing at a lectern at the State Department, the notoriously press-shy Tillerson called the report "erroneous" and expressed frustration with the Washington media.
Tillerson did not address the claim in the NBC report that he had called Trump a "moron," with the Texan saying that "the places I come from, we don't deal with petty stuff like that." A State Department spokeswoman later denied that Tillerson ever disparaged Trump or used that kind of language.
At the hospital in Las Vegas, Trump said he has "full confidence in Rex" and ripped NBC for the "phony" report.
"It was fake news," Trump said. "It was a totally a phony story ... It was made up. It was made up by NBC. They just made it up."
"Total confidence in Rex. I have total confidence," he added.