WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump and wife Melania announced plans Monday to visit the site of a synagogue massacre that left 11 people dead in Pennsylvania on Saturday.
“Tomorrow the president and first lady will travel to Pennsylvania to express the support of the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said during Monday’s press briefing.
In a series of heated exchanges with reporters that shortly followed, Sanders slammed the liberal media over their allegations that the president’s rhetoric may have influenced the synagogue shooter or a suspect who sent numerous pipe bombs in the mail to well known Democratic figures.
“The president is not responsible for these acts,” Sanders said. “Again, the very first action of the president did was condemn these heinous acts. The very first thing the media did was condemn the president and go after and try to place blame not just on the president but everybody that works in this administration.”
Sanders also responded to criticism from Jewish leaders who’ve said the president should’tt visit the city unless he condemns white nationalists.
“The president has denounced racism, hatred and bigotry in all forms on a number of occasions,” Sanders replied. “We’ll continue to do that. I’m doing it here today.”
Despite the pushback from some Jewish leaders, the synagogue’s rabbi said he’d welcome the president’s visit in the aftermath of the attack.
“The president wants to be there to show the support of this administration for the Jewish community,” she said. “The rabbi said that he is welcome as well. Certainly, we want to show our support.”
Sanders then went on to point out that his daughter, Ivanka, is married to a Jewish man and is the mother to three Jewish children.
“The president cherishes the American-Jewish community for everything it stands for and contributes to our country,” Sanders said. “He adores Jewish-Americans as part of his own family. The president is the grandfather of several Jewish grandchildren. His daughter is a Jewish-American and his son-in-law is a descendant of Holocaust survivors.”
Police say Robert Gregory Bowers killed eight men and three women inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the Pittsburgh last week.
Bowers, who appeared in federal court Monday, was charged with 29 federal counts that include obstructing the free exercise of religious belief resulting in death, and using a firearm to commit murder. Federal prosecutors said Monday that they will pursue the death penalty.
Bowers also faces 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 12 counts of ethnic intimidation.