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Trump meets with widow of Pittsburgh shooting victim

Trump meets with widow of Pittsburgh shooting victim
© Stefani Reynolds

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichael Cohen: I pray Michelle Obama's words will unite country again Michelle Obama: ‘I stopped even trying to smile’ during Trump’s inauguration Trump wants to end federal relief money for Puerto Rico: report MORE met Tuesday with the widow of one of the 11 people killed inside a Pittsburgh synagogue, during a trip to the city where he was welcomed by some local leaders and spurned by others.

After visiting the synagogue and meeting with first responders at the hospital, Trump privately spent an hour with the widow of Richard Gottfried, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

"She said that she wanted to meet the president to let him know that people wanted him there," Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One.

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The White House did not identify the woman Trump spoke with, but multiple news outlets have identified her as Peg Durachko. Gottfried, 65, was a dentist in the community. He and Durachko were married in 1980.

Sanders said Trump called it a "great honor" to be in Pittsburgh with "such incredible people who had shown such bravery."

Trump visited Pittsburgh three days after what the Anti-Defamation League called the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.

Police said Robert Bowers opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue during Saturday morning services, and spewed anti-Semitic slurs as he was being treated for injuries. Prosecutors have said they intend to seek the death penalty for Bowers.

Trump's visit divided a grieving city, as Mayor Bill Peduto (D), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (D) and other local officials lamented that the president's visit was too soon and that the community had just begun burying the victims.

“I do believe that it would be best to put the attention on the families this week and if he were to visit choose a different time to be able to do it,” Peduto said.

Hundreds of protesters gathered near the synagogue, singing and carrying signs expressing disapproval with Trump's visit and rhetoric.

Other officials, including Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, welcomed the president's visit. Myers met with Trump as he paid his respects outside the synagogue on Tuesday and lit candles inside the vestibule for each of the victims.

Sanders defended the timing of Trump's visit to reporters, saying the president wanted to "represent the country in this moment and be there to show our support."

She also pushed back against suggestions that Trump has not done enough to condemn anti-Semitism and hateful rhetoric after he offered no such words upon his visit.

"Look, the president has been very clear on that and spoken on it a number of times," Sanders said. "He wanted today to be about showing respect for the families and the friends of the victims as well as for Jewish Americans."

Trump condemned the shooting and anti-Semitism after it took place on Saturday, calling it an "assault on humanity." The president went ahead with a planned campaign rally that night, despite criticism that his tone and remarks at such events further inflame hostilities in the country.

The president has been criticized at times for failing to unequivocally condemn white nationalism and anti-Semitism, such as in the wake of last year's violent "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Trump defended some of the rallies attendees as "very fine people," even after a woman was killed following a clash between white nationalists and protesters.