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Trump Calls For Unity In The Wake Of Las Vegas Massacre

Oct 2, 2017
Originally published on October 2, 2017 11:58 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

President Trump observed a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House this afternoon in honor of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.

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MCEVERS: Trump will travel to Las Vegas on Wednesday. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has more on the president's response.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: There are times when words seem inadequate. And yet it is the president's job to say something.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: My fellow Americans, we are joined together today in sadness, shock and grief.

KEITH: President Trump read prepared remarks from the Diplomatic Room at the White House.

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TRUMP: It was an act of pure evil.

KEITH: Trump praised first responders who he said saved lives with their quick action, and he tried to offer comfort to the hundreds of Americans now mourning the loss of a loved one.

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TRUMP: I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos, some kind of light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy.

KEITH: Trump has at times struggled to find the appropriate response to a tragedy. Take his initial remarks after the death of a counter-protestor at a white supremacist march in Charlottesville and his apparent criticism of the people of Puerto Rico wanting everything done for them. Today Trump was thrust into the position of responding to another crisis. And like presidents before him, he sought to be consoler in chief.

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TRUMP: Scripture teaches us the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. We seek comfort in those words, for we know that God lives in the hearts of those who grieve.

KEITH: There is a grim ritual of presidential remarks in the hours following a mass shooting.

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BILL CLINTON: Saint Paul reminds us that we all see things in this life through a glass darkly, that we only partly understand what is happening.

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GEORGE W BUSH: And we ask a loving God to comfort those who are suffering today.

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BARACK OBAMA: And in the words of scripture, heal the brokenhearted, and bind up their wounds.

KEITH: That was President Clinton after Columbine, President Bush after Virginia Tech and President Obama after Sandy Hook, each mass shooting more shocking than the last. Obama didn't stop with prayers, though, and called for, quote, "meaningful action to prevent more tragedies." Today a handful of prominent Democrats pointedly called for new gun control legislation. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said it would be premature to discuss policy.

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SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: There's a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country. There is currently an open and ongoing law enforcement investigation.

KEITH: Sometimes presidents set the agenda, and sometimes the agenda sets itself. Now is one of those times. President Trump travels to Puerto Rico tomorrow to survey hurricane recovery efforts. Then Wednesday, he flies out to Las Vegas. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.