Trump Visits Pittsburgh Despite Objections From Mayor, Jewish Leaders

Updated at 4:45 p.m. ET

President Trump traveled Pittsburgh Tuesday afternoon, as the city continues to mourn Saturday’s massacre that claimed the lives of 11 worshippers at a synagogue.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the Tree of Life synagogue, lighting candles for each of the 11 shooting victims. They were accompanied rabbis and Israel’s Ambassador Ron Dermer.

The president also said he would visit the hospital where two injured police officers remain.

The visit comes despite the wishes of some political and religious leaders who felt that the president should come at a later date — or not at all. The president’s trip also comes on the same day as the first funerals for those killed Saturday.

The city’s Democratic mayor, Bill Peduto, urged the president not to come while friends and families were burying their loved ones.

“I do believe that it would be best to put the attention on families this week and if he were to visit, choose a different time to do it,” Peduto told CNN.

In an interview that aired on Fox News on Monday, Trump said he wants to go to Pittsburgh to pay his respects and to visit the police officers and injured victims in the hospital.

“I really look forward to going,” Trump said. “I would have done it even sooner, but I didn’t want to disrupt any more than they already had disruption.”

The four top congressional leaders declined an invitation to join President Trump on his trip, according to several sources. Sources point out that local officials, including the mayor, have publicly urged the president and other national figures to avoid visiting until after funerals take place, citing public safety concerns.

Speaker Paul Ryan wasn’t able to make it because of the short notice for the trip, according to Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong.

The president’s skeptics wonder how he can “express his support for the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community,” as the White House said he intends to do, while continuing to use divisive rhetoric toward those he considers political foes.

At a press briefing Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the president only wants to unite the country, noting that some of his grandchildren, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are all Jewish.

“The president cherishes the American Jewish community for everything it stands for and contributes to our country. He adores Jewish Americans as part of his own family,” Sanders said.

Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh, affiliated with the progressive group Bend the Arc, penned an open letter telling the president to stay away until he made overtures to certain communities, including those of the Jewish faith.

“President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism,” the letter said.

“Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted. You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities.”

But others have praised his reaction to the massacre.

Matt Brooks, the executive director of the D.C.-based Republican Jewish Coalition, told CNN that Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitism was “very powerful and strong.”

At a service at Carnegie Mellon University on Monday, a mile from where the shooting happened, many in the community are still in shock and greeted one another with tearful hugs.

Some simply did not want to talk about Trump’s visit, saying now is not the time for politics. Others expressed fear of confrontation between those who support the president and those who don’t want him to come.

Joel Greenhouse, a Carnegie Mellon University professor of statistics, is cautiously optimistic Trump could act as consoler in chief.

“If he could, that would be really inspirational,” Greenhouse said.

“And if that is not what will be the outcome, then it’s probably better to leave us to our own devices to come together. And we’re doing a pretty good job at it, I think.”

Kelsey Snell contributed to this report.

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