Trump says he does not bear blame for attempted bombings
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lamented Friday that the news media was more focused on covering "this 'Bomb' stuff" rather than politics, a development he asserted was slowing Republican momentum ahead of the Nov. 6 midterms, and said he does not think he bears blame for the serial bombing attempts.
"No, not at all," Trump said, when asked by reporters whether he is to blame for the actions of the alleged bomber, who targeted national Democrats and figures who have been critical of Trump on television and elsewhere.
"There's no blame, there's no anything," Trump said as he left the White House for a political rally in North Carolina. He added that the gunman who shot and badly wounded Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., last year "was a supporter of a different party."
Video: President Trump's varied reactions to the mail bombs sent to multiple political figures fits into a pattern of shifting blame and casting doubt on the facts when confronted with a politically harmful story. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)
President Trump's varied reactions to the mail bombs sent to multiple political figures fits into a pattern of shifting blame and casting doubt on the facts when confronted with a politically harmful story. Photo by: Jenny Starrs — The Washington Post
"I think I've been toned down, if you want to know the truth," Trump said when asked whether he would moderate his attacks on political adversaries after the attempted bombings.
Asked about pro-Trump stickers or signs on the van allegedly driven by the suspect arrested Friday, Trump said: "I did not seem my face on the van. I don't know, I heard he was a person who preferred me over others."
Trump also said that coverage of the mail bombs had interfered with Republican "momentum" ahead of the Nov. 6 midterm elections, echoing a complaint he had earlier voiced on Twitter.
"Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this 'Bomb' stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics," Trump said in a midmorning tweet. "Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!"
His tweet came about an hour before federal authorities announced an arrest in Florida of a man suspected of sending the potentially explosive devices to public figures, the latest of whom included Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former director of national intelligence James Clapper.
As of Friday afternoon, more than a dozen devices had been found by law enforcement. None have detonated, but all have pushed officials onto high alert as they worry about additional devices being delivered.
At the outset of a White House event early Friday afternoon, Trump took a different tone than in his tweet, praising law enforcement officers for their swift work and calling for national unity.
"The bottom line is that Americans must unify, and we must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony as fellow American citizens," Trump said. "There is no country like our country, and every day we are showing the world just how truly great we are."
The president also promised the prosecution of anyone responsible for sending the explosive devices "to the fullest extent of the law."
"These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country," he said at the outset of a previously scheduled event for young conservative African-American leaders.
But a more partisan Trump soon re-emerged at the event in the East Room, where many attendees wore "Make America Great Again" hats, called out Trump's name and chanted "USA" and "Build the wall," the latter a reference to the president's long-promised wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
During his remarks, Trump, who recently declared himself a "nationalist," derided "globalists," saying: "I like the globe, too, but we have to take care of our people."
As he referenced globalists, some in the crowd called out "Soros" - a reference to prolific Democrat donor George Soros - and then chanted "lock him up!"
"Lock him up," Trump repeated from the lectern, laughing.
Soros was among those sent suspicious packages by the suspected serial bomber.
The group later cheered as Trump recounted his efforts to appeal to black voters during the 2016 campaign, including his pitch, "What the hell do you have to lose?"
Trump complained that he doesn't get the credit he deserves from the news media.
"I can do the greatest thing for our country, and on the networks and on different things it will show bad," he said. Someone in the audience then yelled out "Fake News."
The president said he wouldn't call out any specific networks for their coverage.
"I won't use examples, and today, it's just sort of a very special day because we caught somebody that hopefully, that'll all pan out to be a hundred percent, but it probably will," he said. "But today's a special day for that reason."
Trump also lamented that his announcement Thursday regarding a plan to reduce the cost of prescription drugs offered through Medicare did not get as much news coverage as he would have liked due to the attention given to the bomb threats.
"It didn't get the kind of coverage it should have, because it was a big thing," he said. "But, you know, they also were competing with this story that took place, that now our law enforcement's done such a good job, so maybe that can start to disappear rapidly because we don't like those stories."
Trump was quickly rebuked Friday morning for his tweet by the top Senate Democrat.
"Pathetic," Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote on Twitter. "When potential terrorism strikes, we should be pulling together, not playing politics."
Until his appearance at the White House early Friday afternoon, Trump had otherwise remained silent about the latest developments in an episode that has unsettled the nation.
Earlier, in a tweet posted shortly after 3 a.m., the president criticized CNN, another recipient this week of a suspicious package, saying the network had been "blaming me" for the work of a suspected serial bomber.
The individual recipients of the packages have all been outspoken critics of the president.
In separate tweets Friday morning, Trump wrote about illegal immigration and questioned whether Twitter was motivated by political bias in removing followers from his account.
He returned to the subject of the bomb investigation later, thanking law enforcement authorities involved.
"I want to applaud the FBI, Secret Service, Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorneys' Office for the Southern District of New York, the NYPD, and all Law Enforcement partners across the Country for their incredible work, skill and determination!" Trump said.
This article was written by John Wagner, a reporter for The Washington Post. The Washington Post's Seung Min Kim and Ben Strauss contributed to this report.