WASHINGTON (AP) — The worst mass shooting in U.S. history shook the presidential campaign Monday, sending Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump scrambling to position themselves as best-qualified to lead a nation on edge over terrorism and gun violence.
In a flurry of TV interviews, Trump redoubled his call for banning Muslims who come from other countries, although the shooter in Sunday’s Orlando nightclub attack was an American citizen born in New York. While Trump focused in particular on keeping out refugees from Syria, he said a ban should apply to people from “different parts of the world with this philosophy that is so hateful and so horrible.”
The presumptive Republican nominee also appeared to suggest that President Barack Obama may sympathize with Islamic terrorists — a stunning statement about the current commander in chief.
“He doesn’t get it or, or he gets it better than anybody understands,” Trump said on Fox News Channel’s “Fox and Friends.” ”It’s one or the other. And either one is unacceptable.”
Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, warned against demonizing an entire religion, saying doing so would play into the hands of the Islamic State group. Like Obama, Clinton has often avoided using the phrase “radical Islam,” which has deeply angered Republicans. On Monday, she said “it matters what we do more than what we say.”
“We can call it radical jihadism, we can call it radical Islamism,” Clinton said on CNN’s “New Day.” ”But we also want to reach out to the vast majority of American-Muslims and Muslims around this country, this world, to help us defeat this threat, which is so evil and has got to be denounced by everyone, regardless of religion.”
She also renewed her call for an assault weapons ban that would outlaw one of the weapons used by the Orlando shooter. “We know the gunman used a weapon of war to shoot down at least 50 innocent Americans,” she told CNN,
The attack left 49 people dead and dozens injured. The gunman died in a shootout with police.
Clinton and Trump planned to address the shooting further in back-to-back speeches Monday. Clinton was speaking at an event in Cleveland and Trump in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Trump’s speech was originally supposed to focus on his case against Clinton, as well as her husband, former President Bill Clinton. But he abruptly switched his focus following the attacks on the gay nightclub in Orlando.
The horrific shooting consumed the White House race just as Trump and Clinton were fully plunging into the general election campaign. It served as a reminder to the candidates and voters alike that the next president will lead a nation facing unresolved questions about how to handle threats that can feel both foreign and all too familiar.
Authorities identified the killer in Orlando as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American-born Muslim. FBI officials said they had investigated him in 2013 and 2014 on suspicion of terrorist sympathies but could not make a case against him.
Mateen opened fire at the Pulse Orlando club with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in such close quarters that the bullets could hardly miss. He called 911 during the attack to profess allegiance to the Islamic State.
Obama said there was no clear evidence that the shooter was directed to conduct his attack or was part of a larger plot. Following an FBI briefing Monday, he said it appeared Mateen was “inspired by various extremist information disseminated over the internet.”
Trump said there were thousands of people living in the United States “sick with hate” and capable of carrying out the same sort of massacre.
“The problem is we have thousands of people right now in our country. You have people that were born in this country” who are susceptible to becoming “radicalized,” the billionaire real estate mogul said on Fox. He claimed there are Muslims living here who “know who they are” and said it was time to “turn them in.”
Trump’s longstanding proposal to temporarily ban foreign-born Muslims from entering the United States has triggered outrage from Democrats and Republicans alike, who see it unconstitutional, un-American and counterproductive. But it has helped him win over many primary voters who fear the rise of Islamic extremism and believe that “political correctness” — the fear of offending Muslims — is damaging national security.
Trump focused much of his ire Monday on Obama, raising questions about whether the president sympathizes with Islamic terrorists. Trump has long suggested Obama is a Muslim or born in his father’s homeland of Kenya, despite the president being a Christian who was born in Hawaii.
“There are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it,” Trump said on NBC’s “Today” show. “A lot of people think maybe he doesn’t want to know about it. I happen to think that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing, but there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it.”
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