Nine days from elections that will determine the control of Congress, Trump stuck to his plans to appear at an agricultural convention and a political rally on Saturday.
Throughout the day, he expressed sorrow, called for justice and bemoaned hate, getting regular updates on the shooting. But he also campaigned for candidates, took shots at Democratic targets House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Elizabeth Warren and made jokes about his hair.
At a massive rally in southern Illinois for Republican Mike Bost, Trump condemned the shooting as an “evil anti-Semitic attack”. But he said cancelling his appearance would make “sick, demented people important”. He pledged to change his tone for the evening and did cool some of his most fiery rhetoric.
The slaughter at Sabbath services followed a tense week dominated by a mail bomb plot with apparent political motivations and served as another toxic reminder of a divided nation. It also again underscored Trump’s reluctance to step into the role of national unifier at tense moments as well as his singular focus heading into elections that could dramatically change his presidency.