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Trump defends rhetoric ahead of trips to Texas and Ohio

President Trump said while leaving the White House on Wednesday to visit Ohio and Texas that he doesn't think his rhetoric has contributed to violence, even though some of his words mirror language linked to one of the weekend's shooters.

Posted: Aug 7, 2019 10:34 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on President Donald Trump's visit to Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas (all times local):

10:20 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker says racism and white supremacy are "issues of national security."

The New Jersey senator didn't mention President Donald Trump by name in South Carolina on Wednesday but used some of the president's own words to call out the racism Booker says underlies much of the violence in the country, including recent attacks that killed 31 in El Paso and Dayton.

Booker said white supremacy "allows political leaders to promise to 'build the wall' - while not building hospitals, schools, or infrastructure." Trump has pushed to build a wall along the Mexico border.

Booker made his address in the sanctuary of Mother Emanuel AME, a historic South Carolina church where nine Bible study participants were slain in a 2015 racist attack.

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10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is defending his incendiary rhetoric in the wake of two mass shootings.

Trump said while leaving the White House on Wednesday to visit Ohio and Texas that he doesn't think his rhetoric has contributed to violence, even though some of his words mirror language linked to one of the weekend's shooters.

The Republican president says, "No, I don't think my rhetoric has at all." He claims his rhetoric "brings people together."

Democrats vying to challenge Trump in the 2020 election have been nearly unanimous in excoriating Trump for rhetoric they say nurtured the racist attitudes of the El Paso shooter.

Trump also says he is "concerned about the rise of any group of hate," whether it's white supremacy, "any other kind of supremacy" or anti-fascist groups.

Trump says he's going to "do something about it," but he doesn't say what.

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9:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump is claiming that there is a "very strong" political appetite in Congress for bipartisan legislation that would address background checks or some restrictions for gun users.

The House passed legislation in February that would require federal background checks for all firearms sales and transfers, including those sold online or at gun shows. Another bill allows an expanded 10-day review for gun purchases. The bills have languished in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Another bipartisan proposal is gaining momentum to create a federal grant program to encourage states to adopt "red flag" laws to take guns away from people believed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Trump told reporters as he left the White House Wednesday to visit Ohio and Texas, the scene of weekend mass shootings, that he has had "plenty of talks" with lawmakers. He claimed, "There's a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks. And I think we can bring up background checks like we've never had before."

Earlier this week, Trump claimed he favored "strong background checks" but never provided details.

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8:10 a.m.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke is attending an El Paso, Texas community rally timed to serve as counterprogramming to President Donald Trump's visit.

An El Paso native, O'Rourke will address the #ElPasoStrong event at a park Wednesday afternoon, during Trump's visit. O'Rourke is also attending a morning remembrance at a high school and making an evening visit to a makeshift memorial outside the Walmart where a gunman killed 22 people.

In February, during a packed Trump rally in El Paso supporting a U.S.-Mexico border wall, O'Rourke drew thousands with his own counter speech across the street.

Trump tweeted that he had "trounced" O'Rourke at those dueling February events, adding that O'Rourke should respect victims and law enforcement and "be quiet."

O'Rourke tweeted: "El Paso will not be quiet and neither will I."

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12:05 a.m.

President Donald Trump's plan to carry a message of national unity and healing to the sites of the most recent mass shootings in America is drawing skepticism from some local residents as well as Democratic candidates.

Trump is expected to visit Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday morning and El Paso, Texas, in the afternoon to praise first responders and console family members and survivors. A White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, says Trump also wants to have a conversation about ways to head off such violence in the future.

Critics of the president point to his own divisive language and his anti-immigrant rhetoric that sounds much like that of the El Paso gunman. Some go so far as to say he has helped to create the hatred that made the shootings possible.

(Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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