White House: Trump to travel Tuesday to Pittsburgh after synagogue massacre
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White House: Trump to travel Tuesday to Pittsburgh after synagogue massacre

President and first lady will visit Pennsylvania ‘to express the support of the American people and grieve with community,’ spokeswoman says

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2018. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 28, 2018. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP)

US President Donald Trump will visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday to show support, after a gunman killed 11 people in a massacre at a synagogue, his spokeswoman said Monday.

“Tomorrow, the president and first lady will travel to Pennsylvania to express the support of the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told journalists.

The killings on Saturday of Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue is thought to have been the worst anti-Semitic attack in US history.

Trump strongly condemned the Pittsburgh attack as an act of anti-Semitism and has denounced political violence and called for unity. But with eight days to go before the midterm elections, he has continued to hold his political rallies, complete with harsh criticism of Democrats and the media.

A survivor of the massacre said Monday that Trump wasn’t welcome in the city and compared him to Germany’s Nazi party during World War II.

In this October 28, 2018 frame from video, Barry Werber describes how he survived the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting during an interview, in Pittsburgh, US. (AP Photo/Robert Bumsted)

Asked during an interview with the Associated Press about Trump potentially visiting the community after an anti-Semitic gunman fatally shot 11 people, Barry Werber answered: “We hope he doesn’t. We have no use for him.

“It’s part of his program to instigate his base, and this base in many cases have the basest feelings in the world,” Werber said.

“He’s calling himself a nationalist. The last political group that I heard had called themselves nationalists were the Nazis,” said the 76-year-old.

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life/Or L’Simcha Congregation stands across the street from the synagogue in Pittsburgh, October 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The synagogue’s rabbi, Jeffrey Myers, by contrast, said he would be willing to sit down with Trump to talk about the shooting. “The community would welcome his presence here, because he is our president… This has nothing to do with politics in America. This is hate,” Myers told Israel’s Hadashot TV.

“We turn to the leaders of our country,” Myers also said in an AP interview. “We’ve got to stop hate and it can’t just be to say we need to stop hate. We need to do, we need to act, to tone down rhetoric. Hate is not welcome here in Pittsburgh. It should not be welcome in our borders at all.”

And a Holocaust survivor who was a few minutes late for services on Shabbat, and thus was not in the synagogue, said he was unfazed by Trump calling himself a “nationalist,” and did not believe the president was inciting anti-Semitism. “Is he a nationalist? To me, America comes first,” Judah Samet, 80, told the Washington Post. “Israel is important, but since I’ve been living here all this time, I’m very patriotic,” he added.

A woman stands at a memorial for the victims of a deadly shooting the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, on October 27, 2018. (SMIALOWSKI/AFP)

The weekend massacre heightened tensions around the country and came just a day after the arrest of the Florida man accused of sending a wave of pipe bombs to Trump critics.

The mail bomb attacks and the bloodshed in Pittsburgh set off debate over whether the corrosive political rhetoric in Washington and beyond contributed to the violence and whether Trump himself bears any blame.

Meanwhile, the man accused of carrying out the attack, Robert Bowers, appeared in a federal courthouse.

Bowers was charged Monday with 11 state counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.

Six people were injured, including four officers.

He was also charged in a 29-count federal criminal complaint that included counts of obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death — a federal hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder.

Federal prosecutors intend to pursue the death penalty against Bowers, US Attorney Scott Brady said Sunday.

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