‘Of Course He’s Racist’: 2020 Democrats Criticize Trump After Shootings

SAN DIEGO — Democratic candidates for president excoriated President Trump and his Republican allies anew on Monday in frustration over rampant gun violence, the racist and divisive culture they accuse him of fostering, and his early-morning suggestion to tie background checks on gun purchasers to immigration legislation.

After a taxing weekend filled with frayed nerves, anger and tears, Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who hail from the states where two gunmen killed 31 people this weekend, strongly condemned Republican inaction.

Speaking with CNN Monday morning from Dayton, Ohio, where one of the shootings killed nine people, Mr. Ryan demanded that Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, “do something.”

“People are getting killed in the streets in America and nobody is acting,” Mr. Ryan said.

[For the latest updates, read our live briefing on the Dayton and El Paso shootings.]

Mr. O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, where the other shooting killed 22 people, continued to focus on a question he had been asked late Sunday about whether there was anything Mr. Trump could do to make things better in the wake of the shootings.

Mr. O’Rourke, who remained equal parts upset and incredulous, said in an interview Monday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the president had exhibited “open racism” — an “invitation to violence.”

“Anyone who is surprised” by the violence, Mr. O’Rourke said, “is part of this problem right now — including members of the media who ask, ‘Hey Beto, do you think the president is racist?”

“Well, Jesus Christ, of course he’s racist,” he said. “He’s been racist from day one.”

[How gun control groups are catching up to the N.R.A.]

On Monday morning, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that “We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain” and called on Republicans and Democrats to come together to pass background checks, potentially combined with immigration reform legislation — a stipulation that would make Democrats likely to oppose it.

In additional comments later Monday, Mr. Trump condemned white supremacy but did not repeat his call for background checks. Instead, he called for stronger action to address mental illness and argued that the internet can “radicalize disturbed minds.”

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger,” he said, “not the gun.”

That contention, said Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, was Mr. Trump’s attempt “to avoid truth.”

“There’s mental illness&hate throughout world, but U.S. stands alone w/high rate of gun violence,” Ms. Klobuchar said on Twitter. “When someone can kill 9 people in a minute, that gun should never have been sold.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also took issue with Mr. Trump’s framing of the situation.

“White supremacy is not a mental illness,” she said Monday afternoon. “We need to call it what it is: Domestic terrorism. And we need to call out Donald Trump for amplifying these deadly ideologies.”

At a gathering of UnidosUS, a major Latino civil rights organization, fury with Mr. Trump was palpable as activists convened at a sun-drenched convention center in San Diego on Monday. Janet Murguía, the group’s president and C.E.O., called on Mr. Trump to “rebuke,” “condemn” and “apologize for this climate that he has created,” drawing a direct link between his rhetoric and the shooting in El Paso.

“Hateful words have hateful consequences,” she said at a news conference hours before several Democratic presidential candidates were to address the forum. “President Trump’s bigoted and hateful words have resulted in hateful and deadly consequences. And he can try to distract and deny all he wants, but we’re seeing the direct impact of his promotion of a climate of fear and hate and division taking hold in our country. And we want to make sure that he understands that he has to take some ownership over this.”

She went on to call him the “radicalizer-in-chief.”

Officials with the organization walked reporters through a poll of 1,854 eligible Latino voters, conducted in June. Of them, 78 percent said they were frustrated with how Mr. Trump and his allies treated immigrants and Latinos, and that they were worried those dynamics would get worse. Officials said they also saw that combating gun control was rising in importance for Latino voters.

Yvette Bello, a conference attendee from Hartford, Conn., said Mr. Trump had been “inciting” violence.

“He’s the leader of hate speech,” said Ms. Bello, 41, who is considering supporting Mr. Sanders and Ms. Klobuchar in the Democratic primary — Mr. Sanders for his bold progressive ideas and Ms. Klobuchar because of her ability to reach across the aisle. Of Mr. Trump, she continued, “he racialized politics from the very beginning of his campaign.”

Not everyone at the conference who criticized Mr. Trump’s rhetoric was an enthusiastic Democratic voter.

David Zumaya, a board member of the San Diego County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he was independent-minded, and pointed to former President George H.W. Bush as his favorite former commander-in-chief. But Mr. Zumaya, who said he had supported neither Mr. Trump nor Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent in 2016, suggested that to support the president now would be difficult, and a “disgrace to my ethnicity, because of his attacks toward Latinos.”

Presidential candidates expected to address the conference Monday afternoon included former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, Senator Kamala Harris of California, Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Sanders.

Earlier Monday, Ms. Warren and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York were among the candidates who called on Mr. McConnell to bring lawmakers back into session to vote on gun safety measures. In a CNN interview, Ms. Gillibrand called Mr. Trump’s suggestion that gun measures be tied to immigration reform “absurd.”

“He’s linking the issue of basic, common-sense gun reform, that we should be going back into the Senate today to vote on, with this issue of immigration because, again, he continues to try to demonize people seeking asylum,” she said.

By Monday afternoon, one more high-profile Democrat had weighed in. “No other nation on Earth comes close to experiencing the frequency of mass shootings that we see in the United States,” former President Barack Obama said in a statement posted to Twitter. “No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do.”

He called on the public to push for tougher gun laws and urged law enforcement and internet companies to work to reduce the influence of groups that espouse hate.

Mr. Obama did not call out Mr. Trump by name, but he said: “We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life.”

“It has no place in our politics and our public life,” he added. “And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of good will, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”

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