NEW YORK (AP) — With Election Day looming, President Donald Trump on Tuesday sought to console a community shattered by anti-Semitic violence just hours after he unveiled a divisive immigration proposal that raised new questions about the definition of American citizenship.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited PIttsburgh as the first funerals were held for those killed in a weekend synagogue shooting that killed 11 people. With Election Day one week away, however, neither the president nor his adversaries took a pause from politics.
Before consoling those rattled by the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, Trump lashed out at Democrats on social media as he endorsed vulnerable GOP House candidates.
He also unveiled a plan to end the constitutional right to citizenship for babies of noncitizens and unauthorized immigrants born in the United States, injecting new energy into his hard-line conservative base.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden condemned the surge in hate-fueled violence in recent days as he rallied young voters in Wisconsin. The Democrat said “words matter” as he condemned Trump’s rhetoric against the media and his political adversaries.
“I am sick and tired of this administration,” Biden said. “I am sick and tired of what’s going on. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I hope you are, too.”
A look at other midterm campaign developments Tuesday:
A day after deciding to deploy 5,200 troops to the southern border to stave off what he calls “an invasion” of Latin American immigrants, Trump disclosed a plan to end what is commonly referred to as “birthright citizenship.”
It’s unclear whether he has the constitutional authority to do so single-handedly, but that may not be the point. The plan, revealed in an interview with “Axios on HBO,” was immediately cheered by his hard-line conservative base.
The president needs his most passionate supporters to vote in great numbers to preserve the GOP’s House and Senate majorities next week.
Any surge in enthusiasm may help Republican Senate candidates running in GOP-leaning states, however, as opposed to his party’s many House candidates fighting for re-election in the suburbs.
“This is yet another unconstitutional power-grab from a man who is desperate to whip Republicans into an anti-immigrant frenzy in advance of the midterm elections,” said Heidi Hess of the pro-immigration group CREDO Action. “Trump’s racist attempt to attack birthright citizenship is especially vile after a week filled with right-wing, white nationalist violence that he himself fomented.”
Trump justified his plan by saying, falsely: “We’re the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States.” A 2010 study showed that 30 countries offered birthright citizenship.
The super PAC allied with House Speaker Paul Ryan says the fight for the House majority will come down to 20 races that remain too close to call.
But in those races, it’s warning that Republican candidates’ overall financial situation “remains alarming.” Democrats have outraised Republicans in 90 percent of the competitive House races, writes super PAC executive director Corry Bliss in a memo obtained by The Associated Press.
He notes that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently changed his party affiliation from independent to Democrat ahead of a possible presidential run, is giving tens of millions of dollars to Democrats’ midterm efforts.
Bloomberg is spending $110 million this midterm season, according to a spokesman. The biggest portion is going to the House, including $10 million for a national advertising campaign. He’s also given $20 million to the Democratic-allied Senate Majority PAC.
“Even in this environment, we can win the close races,” Bliss writes. “Despite the Democrats’ fundraising advantage and the additional outside money being spent by Mayor Bloomberg, the races that will determine control of the House are too close to call.”
Some Republican candidates are downplaying the threat from improvised explosive devices mailed to several Trump adversaries in recent days.
Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart of Virginia retweeted a post questioning the authenticity of pro-Trump stickers on the suspect’s van. He later deleted the tweet. Several prominent conservatives, including radio host Rush Limbaugh, have raised similar questions recently.
Virginia House candidate Denver Riggleman, a Republican, told a radio host that the devices “don’t much look like pipe bombs to me.” He called the explosives, sent to former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and CNN, among others, “an evil sort of hideous prank.”
New Jersey House candidate Seth Grossman, another Republican, openly questioned whether the explosives were part of a liberal conspiracy.
“I have to ask, ‘What was the purpose of sending those packages? To act to hurt somebody or influence the election? Who benefits, Republicans or Democrats?’ Look at the motive,” he said in a recent debate, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel addressed the issue directly in an Associated Press interview.
“No, I do not think this is part of a liberal conspiracy,” she said.
But she took issue with Democrats who have increasingly confronted Republican leaders in public places.
“I have differences of opinion with many Democrats, but I am not calling for mobs or attacking people at restaurants or escalating vitriol,” McDaniel said. “It’s incumbent on all leaders — and the president has called for unity — all leaders to try to tamp down the tensions we’re feeling in this country.”
BIDEN: ‘WORDS MATTER’
The former vice president lashed out at the rise of hate-fueled violence as he rallied Democrats in Wisconsin.
In addition to the bombs and the synagogue shooting, authorities are investigating the shooting of two African-Americans at a Kentucky supermarket last week as a hate crime.
Biden didn’t blame Trump directly for the unprecedented violence, but he suggested that the president’s divisive rhetoric may have played a role.
“Folks, this is not who we are. We need to recognize that words matter,” he said. He added: “Our political opponents are not my enemy. The press is not the enemy of the people. … We’re all Americans.”
Later, Biden said both sides need to do more to stop the surge of hate in America.
“It’s up to our leaders to change the tone in both parties — to dial the temperature down,” he said.
There are new signs that young voters are taking an unprecedented level of interest in this year’s midterms, compared to off-year elections of the past.
NextGen America, the group founded by billionaire Tom Steyer, has registered more than 250,000 young voters over 11 states, including more than 50,000 new young voters in Florida and more than 20,000 in Arizona, spokeswoman Olivia Bercow said Tuesday.
At the early voting site on the campus of Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, 503 people showed up to vote on the first day of early voting, Bercow said. The school’s enrollment is only 1,600 students. At Iowa State University, one of the state’s largest colleges, more than 1,800 have already voted, Bercow said, nearly double the number who voted in 2014.
Democratic groups have spent heavily to urge younger voters to turn out on Election Day and in early voting, as their presence could determine whether Democrats make gains this fall.
Addressing college students in Wisconsin, Biden offered young people a simple message: “You can own this election.”
Summers reported from Washington.
This story has been corrected to show that the former New York City mayor’s last name is spelled Bloomberg, not Blomberg.
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