Spreading conspiracy theory, Trump points finger at Soros over migrant caravan

Day after visiting synagogue where gunman angry over Jewish support for migrants killed 11, president appears to back unproven claim that Jewish billionaire behind group

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on October 31, 2018. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)
US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he departs the White House in Washington, DC, on October 31, 2018. (Mandel NGAN / AFP)

US President Donald Trump repeated his accusation that Jewish liberal billioniare George Soros could be behind a migrant caravan moving toward the US border, a day after visiting the site of a synagogue where 11 people were killed by an anti-Semitic gunman incensed over Jewish support for migrants.

Asked by a reporter outside the White House if Soros were funding the caravan, Trump responded “I don’t know who, but I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“A lot of people say yes,” he added.

Soros, who gives to liberal causes, has been a constant target of right-wing vilification, including from the president, some of which has drawn accusations of anti-Semitism.

On Sunday, Jewish billionaire Tom Steyer, a major donor to Democratic candidates, denounced as anti-Semitic a tweet by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy that accused him, Soros and Michael Bloomberg of trying to “buy” the upcoming elections for Democrats.

In this photo from January 26, 2013, George Soros attends the World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort of Davos. (Eric Piermont/AFP)

Soros has been accused without evidence by right-wing commentators and politicians of funding migrants heading to the US from Central America.

A campaign of mail bomb attacks against Trump critics attributed to a far-right conspiracy theorist earlier this month started with a pipe bomb package sent to Soros’s New York-area home.

Days later, gunman Robert Bowers massacred 11 Jewish worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in what is being called the worst attack against US Jews in the country’s history.

Minutes before entering the building, Bowers apparently took to social media to rage against HIAS, a Jewish organization that resettles refugees under contract with the US government.

“HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people,” he is believed to have written on Gab.com, a social media site favored by right-wing extremists. “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

HIAS had recently weighed in on the migrant caravan heading toward the US from Central America, urging the Trump administration to “provide all asylum seekers the opportunity to present their claims as required by law.”

Central American migrants making their way to the US in a large caravan fill the truck of a driver who offered them the free ride, as they arrive to Tapachula, Mexico, on October 21, 2018. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

The president has vilified the caravan and pledged to stop the migrants.

Trump on Tuesday flew to Pittsburgh for a brief visit to the Tree of Life Synagogue, where he lit candles for the victims and met the rabbi of the Conservative congregation.

The visit was met by large protests by locals who urged Trump to stay away as the community grieved.

“His language has encouraged hatred and fear of immigrants, which is part of the reason why these people were killed,” said Marianne Novy, 73, a retired college English professor who lives in the city’s Squirrel Hill section, the historic Jewish neighborhood where the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue took place.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump, accompanied by Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, place stones and flowers on a memorial as they pay their respects at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 30, 2018. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Speaking in Florida Wednesday evening, Trump spoke out against anti-Semitism and blamed the protest on the “far-left media,” which he said were trying to sow division.

With his eyes squarely on next Tuesday’s contests, Trump has rushed a series of immigration declarations, promises and actions as he tries to mobilize supporters to retain Republican control of Congress. His own Republican campaign in 2016 concentrated on border fears, and that’s his focus in the final week of the midterm fight.

People gather to protest the arrival of US President Donald Trump as he visits the Tree of Life Congregation on October 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

The mail bomb attacks and the bloodshed in Pittsburgh have set off debate over whether the corrosive political atmosphere in Washington and beyond contributed to the violence and whether Trump himself bears any blame because of his combative language.

Some have accused Trump of using anti-Semitic dog whistles and failing to forcefully condemn white nationalism.

“He didn’t create them. He didn’t write their script. He didn’t give them the brown shirts. But he emboldened them. He gave them the chutzpah, that it’s OK,” former ADL head Abraham Foxman told The Times of Israel this week.

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