Trump praises Pennsylvania congressman for 'inspiring' level of compassion after synagogue shooting

Trump praises Pennsylvania congressman for 'inspiring' level of compassion after synagogue shooting
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE on Wednesday praised Rep. Keith RothfusKeith James RothfusPennsylvania New Members 2019 Pennsylvania Dem: Trump has proven he's 'interested in negotiating' Trump rips pundits for not giving him ‘proper credit’ for ‘great’ midterm MORE's (R-Pa.) response to the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue over the weekend that left 11 dead while urging supporters to back the congressman's reelection bid.

"Yesterday in Pittsburgh I was really impressed with Congressman Keith Rothfus (far more so than any other local political figure). His sincere level of compassion, grief and sorrow for the events that took place was, in its own way, very inspiring. Vote for Keith!" Trump wrote.

Trump's tweet suggesting Rothfus was "far more" impressive than other local politicians comes after a number of local officials declined to meet with Trump during his visit Tuesday.

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Several local officials urged Trump to stay away from the city as the first funeral services were held for the 11 victims of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill.

Trump on Tuesday visited the Tree of Life synagogue and met with first responders and the widow of one of the 11 victims. He did not meet with local officials on the ground.

Mayor Bill Peduto (D), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald (D) and some city council members had encouraged the president not to come to the city, as it was just starting to bury the dead.

"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.

Some 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.

Rothfus is locked in a difficult reelection battle that the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates as "likely Democratic." He does not represent the congressional district that includes Pittsburgh, however.

Trump's tweet Wednesday urging followers to support the area GOP congressman promptly drew backlash on social media.

"For the love of God, somebody take his phone away," conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted. 

"There's a time and a place for everything Mr. President," Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzTrump: Troops to stay on border ‘as long as necessary’ On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report Hillicon Valley: Facebook reeling after NYT report | Dems want DOJ probe | HQ2 brings new scrutiny on Amazon | Judge upholds Russian troll farm indictments | Cyber moonshot panel unveils recommendations MORE (D-Hawaii) responded.

 

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

In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump dismissed the protest as "small" and claimed he did not see it.

"Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh," he wrote. "The Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad & solemn day. We were treated so warmly."

Neither of the president's tweets about his visit to Pittsburgh made any mention of the victims.

While the president initially condemned the shooting as an "assault on humanity," his handling of the tragedy has drawn criticism from some who felt he has not done enough to denounce anti-Semitism.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Trump "was very moved" by his time in Pittsburgh, and pushed back on suggestions he has not spoken out forcefully enough in the wake of the shooting.

"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."