Democratic presidential candidates said Sunday that US President Donald Trump has created an environment of hostility and hatred that may have inspired a gunman to kill 20 people in the state of Texas.
Senator Bernie Sanders — a favorite in the race to challenge the Republican Trump in 2020 — was forceful in his critique of the president in his appearance on CNN.
"Clearly Donald Trump does not want anybody shooting down innocent people," Sanders said. He added, however, that the president's likening of immigrants and people of color to invaders may have led his followers to take up arms.
"It gives me no pleasure to say this, but I think all of the evidence out there suggests that we have a president who is a racist, who is a xenophobe, who appeals, and is trying to appeal, to white nationalism," Sanders told the broadcaster.
The senator also took to Twitter to criticize Trump's "racist, hateful and anti-immigrant rhetoric."
'Open avowed racist'
Police in Texas linked an online screed echoing the president's anti-immigrant statements posted before Saturday's shooting to Patrick Wood Crusius, who has been booked on capital murder charges and accused of killing 20 people and injuring 26. At least three victims remained in critical condition late Sunday.
The shooter appeared to have targeted people he believed to be immigrants from Mexico, and police in El Paso have looked into investigating the attack as a hate crime. Federal prosecutors said they would treat the shooting as a domestic terrorism case and consider hate crime charges, as well.
"Donald Trump is responsible for this," US Senator Cory Booker, another Democrat seeking the party's nomination to unseat the president, said on CNN's State of the Union. "He is responsible because he is stoking fears and hatred and bigotry."
Former El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke, another Democratic presidential candidate, returned to his hometown after Saturday's attack. "Let's be very clear about what is causing this and who the president is," O'Rourke told CNN. "He is an open avowed racist and is encouraging more racism in this country."
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency pledged not to conduct operations "during tragedies" such as the shooting. A spokesperson said ICE had issued its statement in an effort to dispel "false rumors."
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico would take legal action to protect Mexicans and Mexican Americans after the shooting, which killed three Mexican nationals and wounded six.
Tragedy in Ohio
Hours after the shooting in El Paso, a man carrying a rifle opened fire at people outside a bar in Dayton, Ohio, leaving nine people dead before police killed him, according the Dayton Daily News.
Authorities later said the suspect was wearing body armor and had additional magazines for the .223-caliber rifle. Police responded to the shooting within one minute; had they not, Mayor Nan Whaley said, "hundreds of people in the Oregon District could be dead today."
On Sunday, President Trump ordered flags to half-staff and vowed to "take care" of gun violence after the shootings, which killed at least 29 people and injured dozens.
"This has been going on for years," Trump told reporters. "We have to get it stopped," he added.
"Perhaps more has to be done," the president said. "This is also a mental illness problem."
Trump said he would make an announcement on Monday regarding the issue. He added that he had spoken with the FBI, Attorney General William Barr and members of Congress about possible measures to prevent such violence.
mkg/amp (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)