Trump visits Florida to console shooting victims
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — President Trump on Friday visited a South Florida hospital to comfort the victims of Wednesday’s school shooting and thank the medical staff who are caring for them.
“It’s sad something like that could happen,” Trump said after meeting with victims and families at the hospital.
After visiting Broward Health North medical center, the president and first lady Melania Trump traveled to the Broward County Sheriff’s office to meet with law enforcement officials who he said were doing “an incredible job and everybody’s talking about it.”
Trump is assuming the role of consoler in chief after a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., killing 17 people and wounding more than a dozen others.
But the president’s public comments mostly focused on thanking first responders and police, rather than consoling those mourning loved ones or weighing in on the renewed debate over the nation’s gun laws.
Trump joked with Officer Michael Leonard, the Coconut Creek, Fla., police officer who apprehended the accused shooter, saying he should be less “modest” about it.
“That was so modest, I would have told it much differently,” Trump joked to Leonard after he acknowledged the arrest. “I would have said without me, they never would have found him.”
He also complimented the FBI, despite the agency’s admission earlier in the day that the bureau did not follow correct protocol following a previous tip on the suspected shooter.
“Great job. Really great job,” Trump told a special agent at a roundtable with local law enforcement following the hospital visit. “We had a lot of FBI guys down here quickly. So great job, thank you very much.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), who was also present at the roundtable, has called on FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign over the revelation that the bureau failed to act on a January tip regarding the 19-year-old suspect Nikolas Cruz.
In addition to the first lady, the president was accompanied by chief of staff John Kelly and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R). An emotional Rubio said Florida is in “great pain” after the shooting.
“This is a community and a state that is in deep pain and they want action to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” the senator said.
“You can count on it,” Trump responded.
The hospital Trump visited treated eight victims after the shooting, in addition to the suspected gunman. Two of the victims have since died, according to officials.
Trump met with two victims, a boy and a girl, at the hospital, according to the White House. At the sheriff’s office, Trump spoke about the girl he met, saying she had been shot four times and that her life was saved because first responders rushed her to the hospital.
The president also called doctors at the hospital “incredible.”
He also complimented the response of emergency personnel as “record-setting” and “in one case 20 minutes.”
“Thank you all very much. Fantastic job. Thank you,” Trump told law enforcement officers. “Incredible job and everybody is talking about it.”
He noted that the parents of victims he met at the hospital were among the grateful.
“I’ll tell you who appreciates it too is the parents,” he said. “Because I was at the hospital with the parents and they are very very thankful for the job. They’re in really great shape considering most people would not have been. They are really thankful.”
Trump tweeted earlier Friday that he would be in Florida “to meet with some of the bravest people on earth – but people whose lives have been totally shattered.” He added that he was “working with Congress on many fronts” after the shooting.
The president’s visit came a day after he spoke out at length in an effort to comfort the nation’s youth who may have been shaken by the “scene of terrible violence, hatred and evil” on Wednesday.
“We are all joined together as one American family, and your suffering is our burden also,” Trump said from the Diplomatic Room of the White House.
“No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school,” Trump said.
The president said during his remarks that he would focus on tackling “the difficult issue of mental health” but did not weigh in directly on the debate over gun control. He did not address questions on the possibility of changing regulations to reporters at the hospital on Friday.
The trip followed a similar pattern for Trump, who visited the wounded in the hospital last fall after a gunman shot and killed 58 people at an open-air concert in Las Vegas in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Trump also met and thanked first responders, but did not make lengthy public remarks and declined to detail what if any policies he would support to prevent future massacres.
The president and first lady made the stop after landing on Air Force One in West Palm Beach for them to spend the holiday weekend at their nearby Mar-a-Lago estate.
The trip came after a tumultuous day, dominated by fresh indictments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and a report that Trump had an extramarital affair with a Playboy model in 2006.
The president did not offer any in-person comments on those issues, but did say he was eager to visit the people affected by the Parkland shooting.
“This was supposed to take place on Sunday or Monday,” he said. “And I said, ‘No way,'” Trump said. “We didn’t want to wait.”
— John Bowden contributed to this report which was updated at 9:13 p.m.