Trump Attacks Critics as He Heads to Dayton and El Paso

WASHINGTON — President Trump began a day set aside for healing by delivering a series of political grievances against liberals and the media, once again using Twitter on Wednesday to exhibit the divisive language that has prompted some in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, to protest his visits after horrific shootings in those cities.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to arrive in Dayton by 10:30 a.m. and will visit El Paso later in the day. The White House has not released a full schedule of his activities in the two cities, but on Tuesday evening, the president’s press secretary declared that the day would “be about honoring victims, comforting communities and thanking first responders and medical professionals for their heroic actions.”

That wasn’t the message that Mr. Trump wanted to deliver Wednesday morning as he ignored calls from community leaders and residents to stay away. Around midnight, he attacked Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic presidential candidate, on Twitter, mocking him for having a “phony name to indicate Hispanic heritage” and boasting that he “trounced him” when Mr. Trump held a rally in El Paso in February.

In a tweet on Wednesday morning, the president attacked the “Failing New York Times” and the “Radical Left Democrats” over a headline in The Times. A few minutes later, Mr. Trump quoted a conservative television news outlet’s reporting that “the Dayton, Ohio, shooter had a history of supporting political figures like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and ANTIFA.”

“I hope other news outlets will report this as opposed to Fake News,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Thank you!”

As he left the White House to travel to the two cities, Mr. Trump dismissed his critics as nothing more than “political people that are trying to make points” and mocked them for being “very low in the polls.”

Ignoring the tweets he had sent out just hours before, Mr. Trump claimed that “as much as possible I try to stay out of that,” adding that “I don’t think it works. I would like to stay out of the political fray.”

But the president’s Twitter outbursts underscored the complaints of Mr. O’Rourke and others who have said Mr. Trump was unwelcome in their communities because his presence would inflame tensions rather than soothe them. If the president has heard those complaints, he declined to change the combative tone he has embraced since the earliest days of his presidency.

On Monday, Mr. Trump delivered a short speech from a teleprompter in which he condemned “racism, bigotry, and white supremacy” and said that “hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul.”

Before he departed on Wednesday, he said that “we’re going to take the opportunity to really congratulate the first responders.” And he dismissed criticism about his use of divisive language. “I think my rhetoric brings people together,” he said. “Our country is doing really well.”

It is unclear which president will show up in Dayton and El Paso — a healer in chief who brings a disciplined embrace of consolation and a rejection of hate, or a politically divisive chief executive who has spent years railing about the dangers from illegal immigrants and stoking fear to rally his supporters.

Before leaving, he lashed out at the mayor of Dayton, calling her a supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders and of antifa, a radical leftist group. The president also rejected calls to abandon the way he talks about immigrants, saying that “illegal immigration is a terrible thing for this country” and insisting that “we have very many people coming in. They are pouring in to this country.”

Mr. Trump also used language that echoed his “both sides” comments after the neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville in 2017, saying on Wednesday that “I’m concerned about the rise of any type of hate. I don’t like it. Any type of supremacy, whether it’s white supremacy or antifa.”

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday prepared to ratchet up his criticism of Mr. Trump after the El Paso massacre carried out by a suspect who the authorities say wrote a white supremacist screed.

“In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” Mr. Biden will say, according to excerpts of remarks he planned to make in Burlington, Iowa.

“We have a president who has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation,” Mr. Biden will say. He will also say that Mr. Trump “offers no moral leadership,” has “no interest in unifying the nation” and that there is “no evidence the presidency has awakened his conscience in the least.”

“Instead,” Mr. Biden will say, “we have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division.”

At the White House, Mr. Trump was asked to respond to another comment by Mr. Biden in which he said the president has more in common with George Wallace than George Washington.

“Well, Joe is a pretty incompetent guy,” Mr. Trump said. “I’ve watched his interviews. I’ve watched what he said and how he said it. And I wouldn’t have rated him very high in the first place. But Joe Biden has truly lost his fastball, that I could tell you.”

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, another Democratic candidate vying for the 2020 nomination, also spoke Wednesday morning at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, where a white supremacist killed nine people in 2015.

Mr. Booker urged Americans to embrace “courageous love” and appeared to choke up as he read the names of those who had died in the shooting four years ago. “It’s with faith in God, in one another, and in who we can be that we come here together today,” he said, “not because of hate, but because of love.”

Ninety minutes before his plane was scheduled to land, there were few obvious signs in downtown Dayton of a presidential visit on the horizon.

At the Courthouse Square, where some protesters had discussed gathering later in the morning, only a handful of reporters were milling around at 9 a.m. South of Dayton, in suburban Miami Township, a video sign on the side of the road said “Welcome President Trump” and “#DaytonStrong.”

Many details of the president’s visit remained unclear even as his arrival grew imminent. There had been no announcement from city officials on where he would go, and whether he would speak publicly, during his time in the city.

A day earlier, Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, a Democrat, said she planned to greet Mr. Trump, but also confront him about “how unhelpful he’s been on this.”

“His comments weren’t very helpful to the issue around guns,” Ms. Whaley told reporters on Tuesday. “His rhetoric has been painful for many in our community.”

Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a Republican, said Tuesday that he supported the president’s decision to visit.

“I think it’s always appropriate for a governor, a president to go where there’s sorrow, go where people are hurting,” Mr. DeWine said.


Mitch Smith contributed reporting from Dayton, Ohio, and Matt Stevens from New York.

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