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Tuesday
Aug062019

Mixed feelings in El Paso and Dayton as Trump plans to visit in wake of shootings

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump will receive a reluctant welcome to El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, by leaders and community members still grappling with the aftermath of horrific mass shootings that left 31 dead.

The president plans to travel on Wednesday to El Paso and Dayton to offer his condolences to victims, meet with leaders and talk about his plans to combat the scourge of gun violence in the United States. Trump, who had an empty public schedule on Tuesday, spent the day preparing for his encounters with the grieving communities, according to a White House official. But some are questioning the presence of the president, whose rhetoric, they say, encouraged the shooters and has fanned the flames of division.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president travels to "heal communities" by meeting with the injured, survivors, local law enforcement and medical professionals. In what has become routine for modern presidents, Trump visited victims and local law enforcement in the aftermath of mass shootings like Parkland, Florida, and Pittsburgh. But in El Paso -- a border city with a large Latino population -- some residents questioned why the president would visit.

"Why would he want to come? That would be my first -- I know he's our president, but he has promoted a lot of this -- all this anger. He has promoted it across the nation and it needs to stop, it needs to stop," Bill Aguirre, a veteran and El Paso native told ABC News.

El Paso County Commissioner David Stout told ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer on "The Briefing Room" Tuesday that there's "a gaping wound that's still open here" and that a lot of people feel that Trump's presence in the community is "just going to be throwing salt in an open wound."

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said on MSNBC Monday that Trump "is not welcome" in El Paso. "He should not come here while we are in mourning."

On Twitter Tuesday, she also posted a thread about how she declined the president's invitation to join him during his visit to El Paso and said she requested a phone call with him instead.

 However, El Paso Mayor Dee Margo said he would welcome Trump, "as he is president of the United States."

"So in that capacity, I will fulfill my obligations as mayor of El Paso to meet with the president and discuss whatever our needs are in this community and hope that if we are expressing specifics that we can get him to come through for us," Margo said.

Stephanie Whiddon, who recently moved to El Paso from Indiana, was not opposed to the visit and said it could be a learning opportunity.

"He should come, he should see what we're going through. The pain that this community is feeling right now, the pain that their families are suffering. He needs to be a part of that."

In her comments on Monday, Escobar specifically pointed to the president's language when she said Trump wasn't welcome.

"Words have consequences. And the president has made my community and my people the enemy. He has told the country that we are people to be feared, people to be hated. He has done that at his rallies, he has done that through his Twitter," Escobar said. "And so I would ask his staff and his team to consider the fact that his words and his actions have played a role in this."

The El Paso shooting suspect allegedly said he wanted to target as many Mexicans as he could in his deadly rampage at a Walmart, and used white nationalist rhetoric. In a speech at the White House on Monday, the president condemned hate speech and white nationalism that was hailed by the suspect in El Paso.

But Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said his comments on Monday fell short of unifying.

"I'm disappointed with his remarks. I think they fell really short. He mentioned gun issues one time. I think watching the president over the past few years on issues of guns, he has been -- I don't know if he knows what he believes, frankly," Whaley said.

On Tuesday, she told reporters that she planned to tell Trump "how unhelpful he's been" with regard to his comments about how to tackle gun violence, but deflected when she was asked if she thought the president was visiting Dayton too soon after the shootings.

"He's the president of the United States. He does his calendar, I do mine," she said.

Later, she said, "I will welcome him in the official capacity as mayor since he is in the office of the president."

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