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By Jane C. Timm
President Donald Trump on Friday called the deadly shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand a “horrible, horrible thing,” saying he’d spoken with the country’s prime minister “to express the sorrow of our entire nation.”
But the president said he didn’t view white nationalism — the suspected shooter appeared to post a lengthy manifesto detailing his white-supremacist views before the attack — as a rising threat around the globe.
“I think it’s a small group of people who have very, very serious problems,” Trump said in response to a question from a reporter at the White House.
Trump made the remarks after vetoing a piece of legislation that would have terminated the national emergency he declared after Congress refused to give him the funds he wanted to build a wall on the southern border.
He said the declaration was necessary to stave off an “invasion” at the nation’s southern border.
The president had tweeted earlier in the day to offer his “warmest sympathy and best wishes” to the people of New Zealand, with many other current and former officials also using Twitter to express their dismay, condemn the attacks and offer condolences.
Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter, “We condemn this attack on people of faith in the strongest terms.”
“God be with you,” he wrote.
Former President Barack Obama issued his condolences in a tweet as well.
“We grieve with you and the Muslim community,” Obama said on Twitter. “All of us must stand against hatred in all its forms.”
First lady Melania Trump tweeted prayers as well.
“My deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the horrific shooting,” she wrote in a tweet. “We pray & grieve with you and stand against all of the hatred.”
On Thursday night, immediately after reports of the shooting surfaced, Trump tweeted a link to Breitbart News, which was posting coverage about the attacks. He later deleted the tweet; his Friday morning tweet was his first comments.
On Friday, 49 people were murdered in what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.” One 28-year-old man was charged with murder and is due in court on Saturday. Three other people have also been arrested.
Arden said it was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days.” New Zealand’s national security threat level has been raised to high.
Some Democrats touched on the suspected shooter’s apparent manifesto that details a white supremacist worldview and includes a sprawling array of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and white-supremacist references.
Although not confirmed by authorities, the 74-page manifesto titled “The Great Replacement” was posted online beforehand and matched several known details about the suspect and the attack.
Democrats zeroed in on Islamophobia in particular.
“The rising tide of white supremacy and Islamophobia around the globe must be met with our determination to work against hate,” Democratic presidential contender Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., wrote in a tweet.
That message was echoed by another 2020 contender, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, said her “heart breaks for New Zealand.”
“We must continue to fight the perpetuation and normalization of Islamophobia and racism in all its forms. White supremacist terrorists must be condemned by leaders everywhere. Their murderous hatred must be stopped,” she tweeted.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who is Muslim, tweeted to encourage people to embrace each other.
Another 2020 hopeful, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tied the attack to U.S. shootings at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“Everyone should have the right to worship without fear, and an attack on a place of worship is terrorism perpetrated against all of us. My heart goes out to the people of New Zealand today,” she said in a tweet.
Other Trump administration officials reacted Friday, as well.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen expressed sympathy for the victims and families, and said on Twitter that there are no threats against the U.S., but encouraged vigilance.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders also released a statement.
“The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate,” she said.