Officials dismiss criticism that Trump rhetoric to blame for New Zealand attack

Officials dismiss criticism that Trump rhetoric to blame for New Zealand attack
© Greg Nash

Trump administration officials on Sunday pushed back against the suggestion that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMueller report findings could be a 'good day' for Trump, Dem senator says Trump officials heading to China for trade talks next week Showdown looms over Mueller report MORE’s rhetoric is partly to blame for the attack at two New Zealand mosques that left 50 people dead.

The main suspect in the shooting, which happened Friday, wrote in his manifesto that he supported Trump — something acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyWhite House rejects Dem request for documents on Trump-Putin communications Consumer bureau chief reverses efforts to sideline advisory panels Mulvaney poised to become permanent White House chief of staff: report MORE and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown downplayed Sunday.

But a range of Democrats — including Rep. Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibRashida Tlaib celebrates Purim gift from progressive Jewish activist group House Dems unveil measure to reject anti-Israel boycotts Dems concerned impeachment will make Trump 'appear like a victim,' says pollster MORE (Mich.) and Sens. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDem senator wants Trump to extend immigration protections to Venezuelans Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE (Va.) and Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHere's what the Dem candidates for president said about the Mueller report Booker takes early lead in 2020 endorsements Harris wants Barr to testify on Mueller report as 2020 Dems call for its release MORE (Minn.) — were critical of Trump, who has sometimes refused to criticize white supremacists.

Trump said Friday following the shooting that he didn’t believe white nationalism is a rising threat. 

“I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing," the president said.

In a manifesto that was more than 70 pages, the suspected shooter in the attack wrote that he supported Trump “as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” but not as a “policy maker and leader.”

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Mulvaney rejected any link between Trump and the suspect despite the manifesto.

Mulvaney declared that Trump is “not a white supremacist” and said attempting to blame Trump for the shooting “speaks to a politicization of everything that I think is undermining sort of the institutions that we have in the country today.”

"Let’s take what happened in New Zealand yesterday for what it is — a terrible, evil, tragic act — and figure out why those things are becoming more prevalent in the world," he said. "Is it Donald Trump? Absolutely not."

Brown also pushed back against the manifesto, saying during an interview on CNN's “State of the Union” that he gives no credibility to the suspect or the manifesto.

"I don’t give any credibility whatsoever to the ramblings of somebody who’s rotten to the core and clearly is an extremist of the worst kind who could walk into two mosques and, without any care whatsoever, kill people," Brown said.  

"I don’t give any credibility to it. I’m not going to read it. I encourage others not to read it. I’m not going to give him the time of day," he added.

Some Democrats, however, said Trump’s rhetoric has contributed to the rise of white nationalism and white supremacist violence. 

Tlaib, appearing on “State of the Union,” said that trend will continue if Trump and his administration “continue to stay silent.”

“The leadership, the administration, when they continue to stay silent, it's going to increase,” she said. 

“It will not stop until we send a loud signal and put the resources together to combat it and to stop it,” she added.

Kaine said during an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Trump needs to do more to call out white supremacy.

Kaine also criticized Trump’s rhetoric, saying the president uses language "very similar to the language used by these bigots and racists" and that he has emboldened white nationalists.

"When you see church shootings in Charleston, a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, you see this hate-filled manifesto of the shooter in New Zealand who is murdering Muslims, we have to confront the fact that there is a rise in white supremacy, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim attitudes," Kaine said. 

"The president uses language often that’s very similar to the language used by these bigots and racists, and if he’s not going to call it out, then other leaders have to do more to call it out," he added.

Klobuchar, who is running for president in 2020, said she doesn’t think “you can … say what role Donald Trump played” in the New Zealand attack and other hate crimes that have happened during his presidency. 

But Klobuchar added that Trump’s rhetoric “doesn’t help” and that “at the very least, he is dividing people.”

“And he, at the very least, should be giving strong statements, public speeches defending Muslims in this world," she said during an interview on "State of the Union."

Without naming Trump, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said U.S. leaders should "adopt a more civil tone" following the New Zealand shootings.

“There's a role for our leaders to play in raising the level of civil dialogue in our country and lowering the levels of extremist speech,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Americans do listen to their leaders,” Johnson added. “And so as we enter this election season, I believe that the voters should demand that a prerequisite for office … is that our leaders adopt a more civil tone in what they say.”