President Trump's trip to the two cities suffering after mass shootings last weekend disintegrated into political sniping Wednesday after he was met in Dayton and El Paso by protesters. "I would like to stay out of the political fray," he told reporters as he and his wife, Melania, left the White House in the morning, the Washington Post reports. That didn't happen. Trump criticized and was criticized during a day of mourning and comforting that included charges and countercharges. The developments include:
- White House aides, and later Trump, attacked Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley for "LYING & completely mischaracterizing" what took place when the president visited a Dayton hospital, calling the two Democrats "disgraceful." But they hadn't been critical of Trump. "He was comforting. He did the right things," Brown had said at a press conference of the president. Reading Trump's tweets later, a video showed Whaley saying: “I don’t–I mean, I’m really confused. We said he was treated, like, very well."
- Trump stayed largely out of public view in Dayton. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters and photographers they couldn't go in the hospital because the event wasn't a photo-op, it was "about the victims and their families and thanking medical staff," per the Post. After Trump left the hospital, aides tweeted their own video of the visit, as well as accounts that Trump was "treated like a rock star." Grisham told reporters, "Everybody was very, very excited to see him."
- About 200 protesters waited outside the hospital, per the AP, some saying Trump wasn't welcome in Dayton because of his incendiary rhetoric. Supporters of the president gathered, as well.
- In Iowa, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination tied the shootings to Trump. "We have a problem with this rising tide of supremacy, white supremacy in America," Joe Biden said, per CBS, "and we have a president who encourages and emboldens it."
- In South Carolina, Democratic candidate Cory Booker took the pulpit at the church where nine African Americans were killed in 2015. Booker called for stronger gun-control laws to get "weapons of war" out of public places, per the State. "We can act to legislate safety even if we cannot legislate love," he said.
- In El Paso, where Trump visited a hospital and an emergency response center, protesters greeted Trump with "Racist Go Home" signs, per the AP. Supporters also demonstrated at a memorial and the hospital. Near the end of his visit, he told reporters: "We had an amazing day. As you know, we left Ohio. The love, the respect for the office of the presidency." He greeted police officers, telling one, "I saw you on television the other day and you were fantastic." Early Wednesday evening, Air Force One left El Paso for the return trip.
(A Trump opponent faced a backlash