President Trump is visiting Pittsburgh in the wake of the synagogue shooting that left 11 dead — the only problem is no one seems to want him there.
So far, numerous Pittsburgh officials, mourners, and major U.S. politicians have declined invitations to appear alongside the president on his Tuesday trip, when funerals for the first few victims are taking place.
Trump is ostensibly there to support the friends and family of the 11 people who were killed by a lone gunman who entered a Saturday morning service at the Tree of Life synagogue, armed with an assault rifle and at least three handguns. The victims ranged in age from 54 to 97 and included a married couple and a doctor who treated AIDs patients before the disease even had a name. Federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Social media posts by the gunman indicate he was motivated by reports on right-wing media about the so-called caravan of migrant "invaders" being funded by Jewish billionaire George Soros and the Jewish group HIAS that aids refugees. Trump also has painted the caravan as a major threat to national security.
The list of people who want nothing to do with Trump’s visit is growing longer by the hour, revealing a bipartisan distaste for the president’s agenda. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have all declined invitations from the president, according to CNN.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Pittsburgh County Executive Rich Fitzgerald both confirmed this week that they will not meet with the president, stressing that now is the time to focus on the victims of the Tree of Life massacre. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, will also reportedly not meet with Trump, and neither will Pennsylvania’s two senators.
"I do believe that it would be best to put the attention on the families this week, and if he were to visit, choose a different time to be able to do it," the mayor said on CNN. "Our focus as a city will be on the families and the outreach that they'll need this week and the support that they'll need to get through it."
Both men suggested Trump choose a different time to visit.
"I will not be meeting with the president,” Fitzgerald told CNN. “If the president wishes to come next week, or the next, that's something we can look at.”
The family of Daniel Stein, a 71-year-old man killed at the Tree of Life service, also declined to meet with Trump, according to Stein’s nephew, Stephen Halle. Halle says the family was offended by Trump’s comments that the synagogue should have had armed guards.
“Everybody feels that they were inappropriate,” Halle told the Washington Post. “He was blaming the community.
“A church, a synagogue, should not be a fortress. It should be an open welcoming place to feel safe,” Halle said.
And it's not just President Trump causing controversy in the wake of the shooting in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh — Vice President Mike Pence, who is an evangelical, also drew a round of criticism Monday after inviting a Christian rabbi to speak before a campaign event, where he invoked Jesus in his prayer for the slain Jewish worshipers.
Cover image: US President Donald Trump speaks to the press before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on October 27, 2018. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)