Trump’s Allies Say his Words Didn’t Lead to Violence; But Some Want him to ‘Do More’ to Tone Down Toxic Rhetoric

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and fmr. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and fmr. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Allies of President Donald Trump rejected any link between harsh political rhetoric and a rise in violence in the U.S., even as President Barack Obama’s homeland security chief said changing the “toxic” political environment must start at the top.

The comments came after last week’s attempted pipe bombings and the mass murder at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.

Deranged individuals infused with today’s uncivil political discourse think it’s their place to bring about change in society with assault weapons or bombs, and Americans listen to their leaders — including the president, said Jeh Johnson, the former secretary of homeland security.

“Our president has the largest microphone, he has the largest bullhorn,” Johnson said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “This particular president has a particularly large voice and a large microphone, and Americans should demand that their leaders insist on change, a more civil discourse and a more civil environment generally.’’

11 Killed

The attack in Pittsburgh during Saturday services left 11 people dead, many of them elderly, in what’s being investigated as a hate crime. On Friday, a Florida man known to have attended Trump campaign events was charged in connection with mailing at least 13 suspected explosive devices that targeted high-profile Democrats, including Obama. That “should be a wake-up call to all Americans to demand change,” Johnson said.

Asked on “Fox News Sunday” whether Trump bears any responsibility for the recent incidents, Kirstjen Nielsen, the current secretary of Homeland Security, said the president “has made it extraordinarily clear that we will never allow political violence to take root in this country.”

Vice President Mike Pence also rejected the notion that confrontational rhetoric by Trump, himself and other Republican leaders has created a spike in political violence.

“People on both sides of the aisle use strong language about our political differences, but I just don’t think you can connect it to threats or acts of violence,” Pence told NBC News in an in interview on Saturday.

Can Do More

But Matthew Dowd, a Republican consultant who was chief strategist for President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, said the president needs to do more.

Trump is “not responsible” for recent violent acts by white supremacists, but he has “an obligation to try to rid us of much of this tribalism” and “he has not spoken in the right way in the course of this that it has diminished the hate,” Dowd said on ABC.

Former White House aide Anthony Scaramucci said there are problems on both sides of the political aisle but as the leader of the free world, Trump needs to “tone it down.”

“He’s the president of the United States,” Scaramucci said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “He controls the news cycle and the bully pulpit. And he could do it.”

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SOURCE: Mark Niquette