Holocaust survivor who escaped Pittsburgh shooting invited to State of the Union

Judah Samet, who defended the US president after the attack, will join several other guests, including police officer wounded in shootout with attacker

In this October 29, 2018 photo, Holocaust survivor Judah Samet, 80, sits in his living room in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)
In this October 29, 2018 photo, Holocaust survivor Judah Samet, 80, sits in his living room in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed)

A Holocaust survivor who narrowly escaped last year’s deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue will be one of US President Donald Trump’s personal guests at Wednesday’s State of the Union address.

Hungarian-born Judah Samet, who survived the Bergen-Belsen death camp and later lived in Israel and the US, was four minutes late to Shabbat service at the Tree of Life synagogue on October 27. He witnessed police’s exchange of fire with shooter Robert Bowers from outside. Eleven people were killed.

Samet later defended Trump from accusations he is inciting anti-Semitism and increased nationalism and said: “I love him for what he’s doing.”

Another guest is Timothy Matson, a Pittsburgh police officer and SWAT team member who was shot multiple times while responding to the deadly shooting at the synagogue.

A makeshift memorial stands outside the Tree of Life synagogue in the aftermath of a deadly shooting in Pittsburgh, on October 29, 2018 in which eleven Jews were killed while at Shabbat services. (AP/Matt Rourke)

Others in the varied group of guests, who will sit with First Lady Melania Trump for the address, include a woman freed from federal prison after Trump cut short her life sentence for drug offenses and a Delaware boy allegedly bullied because his last name is Trump.

Alice Marie Johnson, 63, served more than two decades of a life sentence without parole before Trump commuted her sentence last year. Johnson’s case had been championed by reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, who personally lobbied Trump in the Oval Office.

Delaware’s Brandywine School District said last year that steps had been taken to support Joshua Trump, a middle-school student who reportedly had been bullied for years because he shares the president’s last name.

Guests the White House invites to the State of the Union typically serve to help put a face on policies the president will promote in the nationally televised address.

Johnson’s case spotlights legislation Trump signed into law last year to address concerns about the criminal justice system, including giving judges more discretion in sentencing some drug offenders. Bullying prevention is a key element of an initiative Mrs. Trump named “Be Best.”

Other guests will represent Trump’s opposition to illegal immigration, his push to halt human trafficking across the US-Mexico border, efforts to stem the deadly opioid addiction epidemic and his economic policies.

The remaining guests are:

— Debra Bissell, Heather Armstrong and Madison Armstrong, the daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter, respectively, of a Reno, Nevada, couple allegedly killed in their home last month by a person illegally in the US.

— Matthew Charles, a Tennessee man who was among the first prisoners released under the First Step criminal justice legislation Trump signed in December.

— Grace Eline, a 9-year-old brain cancer survivor.

— Ashley Evans, a former opioid addict nearing one year and one month of sobriety who hopes to be reunited with her daughter full-time.

— Elvin Hernandez, a special agent with the Homeland Security Department’s human trafficking unit.

— Roy James, plant manager of a lumber facility in Vicksburg, Mississippi, that the White House says was reopened under provisions in Trump’s tax cut legislation.

— Tom Wibberley, father of Navy seaman Craig Wibberley, who was killed in the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

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