President Donald Trump will travel to Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the White House said on Monday, after a mass shooting this weekend killed 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said he would be accompanied by his wife, Melania, "to grieve with the Pittsburgh community." Sanders also said that Trump cherishes the American Jewish community and that the shooting was "a chilling act of mass murder, an act of hatrred."
Eleven worshippers at the Tree of Life congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood were shot dead by a gunman identified as Robert Bowers in what is believed to be the worst attack in history against the American Jewish community.
On Monday a group of Jewish leaders told Trump in an open letter that he was "not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism."
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Trump condemned the shooting as an "evil anti-Semitic attack." Trump said "the hearts of all Americans are filled with grief, following the monstrous killing." He also sought to distance himself from the man arrested in the shooting, calling him "sick" and saying "he was no supporter of mine."
The slaughter at a baby-naming ceremony followed a tense week dominated by a mail bomb plot with apparent political motivations and served as another toxic reminder of a divided nation.
Trump offered an unsparing denunciation of anti-Semitism, which he said was the motive behind the attack, in contrast to remarks after clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville last year. Then, he only inflamed tensions by blaming both sides for the violence.
A Jewish progressive nongovernmental organization, Bend the Arc, published a scathing letter to Trump denouncing his embrace of white nationalism and launched a petition with a series of demands.
The letter said that Trump is not welcome in the city until he meets these demands.
The petition, which has gained over 21,000 signatures, demands: “You and the Republican Party: Fully denounce white nationalism, stop targeting and endangering all minorities, cease your assault on immigrants and refugees, and commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.”
Earlier in the day, Trump speculated that the death toll in Pittsburgh would have been curbed if an armed guard had been in the building. With both the number of deaths and details of the synagogue's security still to be disclosed, Trump said gun control "has little to do with it" but "if they had protection inside, the results would have been far better."