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Lawmakers seek to quell partisan tensions after week of violence

Lawmakers seek to quell partisan tensions after week of violence
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Lawmakers sought to ease tensions on Sunday in calls for unity and an easing of political hostilities as the nation reels from a string of attempted bomb attacks and the killing of 11 people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Republicans and Democrats alike agreed tensions reached a breaking point following a week of violence, and conceded both parties must do their part to dial back the fierce rhetoric that has defined the Trump presidency and ongoing midterm campaign thus far.

"No one should be politicizing what happened this week," Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday."

"We should come together as a country," he added. "This should not be a political response, but rather a response at how we can further bring us together."

Rep. Steve StiversSteven (Steve) Ernst Stivers Conservative magazine posts recording of King using derogatory language against immigrants Steve King accuses Weekly Standard of trying to ‘advance a Leftist agenda’ Conservative groups call for new slate of House GOP leaders MORE (R-Ohio), the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), echoed Luján, emphasizing that Democrats are merely political opponents, not enemies.

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"We need to come together and do what’s in the best interest of America," Stivers said on Fox. "No matter who wins in 10 days I believe we can come together and make that happen."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump to oust Nielsen as early as this week: report California wildfire becomes deadliest in state’s history Sinema’s Senate win cheered by LGBTQ groups MORE and members of both parties have widely condemned the explosive devices addressed to former President Obama, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSinema invokes McCain in Senate acceptance speech Sinema defeats McSally in Arizona Senate race Hillicon Valley: Social media struggles with new forms of misinformation | US, Russia decline to join pledge on fighting cybercrimes | Trump hits Comcast after antitrust complaint | Zuckerberg pressed to testify before global panel MORE, Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersJudd Gregg: With the midterms over, opportunity knocks April Ryan: Trump relishes verbal attacks against women of color CNN's Kirsten Powers: Trump knocking black reporter for 'stupid question' is 'classic white supremacy' MORE (D-Calif.) and others, as well as the murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, the latter of which was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

But the Sunday discussions also revealed partisan alliances, as both sides were quick to downplay accountability for the state of affairs as the midterm campaign enters its final full week before Election Day on Nov. 6.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Stivers defended an NRCC advertisement linking Minnesota Democratic candidate Dan Feehan to billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is described in an ominous voiceover as the donor who "bankrolls the 'resistance.' "

Soros was one of several prominent Democrats targeted by a pipe bomb last week and is frequently the subject of conspiracy theories and criticism from conservatives and far-right personalities. 

"Well, you know, our independent expenditure arm is independent," Stivers said. "But, you know, that ad is factual. And, you know, it also has nothing to do with calling for violence. That ad is a factual ad."

Stivers later attacked Luján over "sleazy" Democratic ads running in Colorado and Washington.

Luján hit back over "racist ads" he said the NRCC placed in New York and California.

"I just think on all sides that everyone should monitor the tone here,” he said. "Again, no more finger-pointing, Steve."

Finger-pointing has persisted, however, in the days following the bomb threats against prominent Democrats.

Trump's rallies have been marked by the usual chants of "lock her up" and "CNN sucks," and the president himself has continued to attack the media and Democrats both in person and via Twitter.

Trump told reporters before departing for one of those rallies that he could felt he had been restrained in his rhetoric.

"I could really tone it up because, as you know, the media's been extremely unfair to me and to the Republican Party," Trump said.

Stivers and Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordThe Hill's Morning Report — Split decision: Dems take House, GOP retains Senate majority Midterm vote to set cyber agenda The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Trump divides Republicans ahead of midterms MORE (R-Okla.) were among those who said Sunday that while Trump's rhetoric can be problematic, it is not to blame for the violent actions of two individuals in the past week, just as Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersVoters chose the politics of inclusion Ojeda announces bid to challenge Trump in 2020 Former Army paratrooper and congressional candidate Richard Ojeda files papers to run for president MORE (I-Vt.) was not to blame when one of his supporters opened fire on a group of GOP lawmakers during softball practice last year.

Stivers said he sometimes disagrees "with the way the president treats people," but felt Trump has set the right tone in the aftermath of the crises well thus far.

Lankford conceded that the president "doesn't need to be as caustic in his rhetoric," but likened it to liberal activists who confronted Republican lawmakers over Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughScalise: Investigations into Trump by House Democrats could backfire Schumer’s headaches to multiply in next Congress Top Judiciary Dem: No plans to investigate or impeach Kavanaugh MORE.

"That doesn't help in our basic dialogue and I think the president should, and I think all of us that are in Congress, and anyone in public life, should set a good role model example of what it means to have respectful dialogue," Lankford said.

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsIs Matthew Whitaker stooge or savior? His actions will tell us Dem senators urge Pompeo to reverse visa policy on diplomats' same-sex partners 15 Saudis identified in disappearance of Washington Post columnist MORE (D-Del.) worried that the pipe bombs and synagogue shooting are tied to the level of political discourse at a national level.

"I am concerned that this hateful, deranged act by a man acting on his anti-Semitic hatred is just the latest in a series of violent incidents this past week that shows that our national political culture is motivating folks who are inspired by hate, by fear, by bigotry to take up and act on their deranged ideas," Coons said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"I think there's a responsibility for all of us to lower the tone of of hatred and division in our country," he added.

Coons said he disagreed with Waters, the California Democrat, when she urged supporters to confront Trump administration officials in public. But he was quick to note that her calls for public protests and the furor surrounding the Kavanaugh hearings are far different from the man who mailed out a dozen explosive devices to Democratic officials

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffIncoming N.J. Dem lawmaker says she won't vote for Pelosi as Speaker Whitaker saying he won’t cut Mueller funding: report Incoming Intelligence chair wants to release interviews to aid Mueller probe MORE (D-Calif.) said on CNN's "State of the Union" that he was unsatisfied by the president's calls for unity, suggesting that Trump had sowed such division in the first place.

"Honestly, I think this president’s whole modus operandi is to divide us," said Schiff, one of Trump's most outspoken critics. "He gets up in the morning with new and inventive ways to divide us. And it’s not enough that on the day of a tragedy he says the right words, if, every day of the year, he’s saying things to bring us into conflict with each other."

As the midterm campaign enters the home stretch, Democratic and Republican leaders are likely to trade blows for at least a few more days. The president is scheduled to campaign in Florida and Missouri this week, setting up at least a few more potentially heated rallies.

But Luján and Stivers said taking a more civil tone shouldn't have to wait until control of Congress is settled, even as the two men spoke over one another to get the final point in.

"It doesn't have to wait, Chuck. We can start today," Luján said as anchor Chuck Todd began to end the segment.

"You should, Ben,” Stivers chimed in.

“We should, Steve. We should," Luján shot back.

“We both should," Stivers concluded.