Democrats point to Trump rhetoric on immigration in wake of two mass shootings

Congressional Democrats and 2020 presidential hopefuls on Sunday sought to tie President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump watching 'very closely' as Portland braces for dueling protests WaPo calls Trump admin 'another threat' to endangered species Are Democrats turning Trump-like? MORE's rhetoric on immigration to a massacre at a store in a Texas border city that is a shopping destination for Hispanic Americans and Mexicans.

The mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on Saturday killed 20 people and left 26 others wounded. It came about 13 hours before a second mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, left nine people dead and 27 wounded.

Patrick Wood Crusius, 21, the accused gunman in the El Paso shooting, is the purported author of a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto. Officials said Sunday they were treating the massacre as a case of domestic terrorism and exploring federal hate crime charges.

Authorities said the suspected shooter drove eight hours from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to El Paso, which is directly across the border from Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez and is about 80 percent Hispanic. The alleged manifesto describes fears of a Latino “invasion,” which Trump critics were quick to note echoes rhetoric the president has used about migrants, particularly ahead of the 2018 midterms.

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Presidential candidate and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), who left the campaign trail to return to his hometown of El Paso after the shooting, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that racist rhetoric from the president had contributed to the climate leading to the attack.

"Let's be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is. He is an open, avowed racist and encouraging more racism in this country," O'Rourke said Sunday.

"This cannot be open for debate, and you as well as I have a responsibility to call that out to make sure the American people know what is being done in their name," O'Rourke told CNN’s Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperFormer acting solicitor general: 'Literally unfathomable' that Trump would retweet conspiracy theory about Epstein death Consoler in Chief like Biden is the perfect antidote to a Divider in Chief like Trump Democrats blast Trump's Epstein conspiracy theory retweet as Conway defends the president MORE. "He doesn't even pretend to respect our differences or understand we are all created equal. He is saying some people are inherently defected."

Fellow 2020 candidate and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro was similarly condemnatory.

"There's one person that's responsible directly for that shooting in El Paso, and that's the shooter. At the same time, as our national leader, you have a role to play in either fanning the flames of division or trying to bring Americans of different backgrounds together,” Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, told ABC’s “This Week.”

"This president very early on made a choice to divide people for his own political benefit, and these are some of the consequences that we're seeing of that,” Castro added.

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Steve King to Gillibrand: Odds of me resigning same as yours of winning presidential nomination We need a climate plan for agriculture MORE (D-N.J.), who is also running for president, tied the shooting to Trump’s rhetoric as well.

“When you have the president, from the highest moral office in our land, talking about invasions and infestations and shithole countries, the kinds of things that come out of his mouth that so harm the moral fabric of our nation, he is responsible,” Booker said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“He's responsible when he has taken no action whatsoever to even condemn white supremacy, even when his own FBI is talking about this being sourcing major parts of our problem,” Booker added, referencing testimony in July from FBI Director Christopher Wray that the majority of domestic terrorism cases investigated in fiscal 2019 involved white supremacist violence.

O’Rourke’s successor in the House, Rep. Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarCongressional Hispanic Caucus calls for answers on Mississippi ICE raids Consoler in Chief like Biden is the perfect antidote to a Divider in Chief like Trump Democratic senator on possibility of Trump standing up to the NRA: 'That's just such BS' MORE (D-Texas), also took a dig at Trump’s rhetoric on immigration, albeit in less forceful terms than her predecessor.

"To be a safe community, we have to treat people with dignity and respect," Escobar said on ABC’s "This Week." "We have a very different philosophy in El Paso from the philosophy that emanates from the White House. We embrace one another and take care of one another."

Escobar said the shooting illustrates that "we have a gun violence epidemic, but we also have a hate epidemic," adding that "until we confront that hate and until we confront the weak gun laws that we have, we're going to keep seeing this."

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegVolatile presidential polls spark new round of anxieties British Bookmaker: Warren has replaced Biden as Democratic primary favorite The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape MORE (D), who on Saturday called the shooting “white nationalist terrorism,” struck a similar note on “Fox News Sunday.”

"It is very clear that the loss of American life ... is symptomatic of the effects of white nationalist terrorism," Buttigieg, who is running for president, told host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceDemocrats point to Trump rhetoric on immigration in wake of two mass shootings Buttigieg addresses backlash after police shooting: 'The badge has a history' Top aide: China must end 'Seven Deadly Sins' to stop trade war MORE. "There’s no question white nationalism is condoned at the highest levels of our government."

Both Buttigieg and O’Rourke cited remarks by Trump following the “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Va., in which the president claimed that some participants in the white supremacist rally, which killed a counterprotester, were “very fine people” protesting the proposed removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape Dayton Democrat launches challenge to longtime GOP rep Dayton mayor: Trump visit after shooting was 'difficult on the community' MORE (D-Ohio), meanwhile, took aim at what he called Trump's and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAre Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' Churches are arming and training congregants in response to mass shootings: report MORE's inaction on gun control.

"I know white supremacists feel empowered by this president," Brown said on CNN's "State of the Union." "I do know we've had two preceding presidents who dealt with [shootings] and tried to heal ... and this president doesn't."

Brown further called for McConnell to bring the Senate back into session to vote on a universal background check measure that has already passed the Democratic House.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid The Hill's Morning Report - How will Trump be received in Dayton and El Paso? Democratic lawmaker criticized for tweeting names of Trump donors MORE defended Trump on Sunday, insisting that the issue was that both shooters were “sick people.”

"This is a serious problem — there's no question about it — but they are sick, sick people, and the president knows it," Mulvaney said on ABC's "This Week." "I don't think it's fair to try and lay this at the feet of the president."

Pressed by guest host Jonathan Karl on Trump’s rhetoric about immigration, Mulvaney said Trump has condemned white nationalism.

"This was a sick person. The person in Dayton was a sick person. No politician is to blame for that. The people responsible here are the people who pulled the trigger," he said. "We need to figure out how to create less of those kinds of people as a society and not trying to figure out who gets blamed going into the next election."

Mulvaney also defended Trump’s record on gun control, noting he imposed a ban on so-called bump stocks and took action to strengthen the background check system.