Bullock on whether Trump is to blame for mass shootings: 'I reject the question'

Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrats worry about diversity on next debate stage The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached Steve Bullock exits: Will conservative Democrats follow? MORE (D), a 2020 presidential contender, criticized President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE’s rhetoric in light of two mass shootings over the weekend, but stopped short of saying whether the president's rhetoric was responsible for inspiring the suspected El Paso, Texas, shooter.

“Do you think he’s responsible for what happened in El Paso,” asked Hill.TV co-host Jamal Simmons.

“I reject the question,” Bullock responded.

“There’s people in the community torn apart from a horrible, violent and tragic act,” he continued. “The language that he has used is inappropriate, given license to people at times that may think has his back is inappropriate, but I wouldn’t try to say here’s who is responsible, I’d say let’s moving forward try to have this dialogue again.”

Bullock maintained that Trump is a racist, saying the president has used race "to divide us as a country."

“I don’t know what’s in his heart but in his actions what he says and what he performs is certainly racist,” he said.

A number of Democrats, including 2020 Democratic contenders, condemned Trump’s response to the deadly mass shootings over the weekend that left more than 30 dead.

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Corey Booker (D-N.J.) have also said the president helped contribute to the violence, pointing to his rhetoric on immigration.

"I want to say with more moral clarity that Donald Trump is responsible for this," Booker told CNN's "State of the Union" a day after the tragedies. "He is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry." 

President Trump on Wednesday pushed back against this criticism from Democrats, insisting that his rhetoric has been a unifying force.

“I don’t think my rhetoric does at all,” Trump told reporters at the White House on whether his rhetoric contributed to the violence in El Paso. “I think my rhetoric brings people together.”

Federal authorities are treating the El Paso shooting as a case of domestic terrorism and are considering bringing hate crime against the gunman, who shot and killed 22 people after allegedly posting a manifesto warning of a “Hispanic invasion.”

The motive behind the Dayton, Ohio shooting that left 9 dead remains less clear. Authorities have yet to determine the shooter’s motive, though the FBI said investigators discovered evidence that the suspected gunman may have been motivated by “violent ideologies.”

⁠—Tess Bonn