Trump visits with victims, Las Vegas first responders in aftermath of tragedy

LAS VEGAS — President Donald Trump avoided the topic of gun control while visiting Las Vegas Wednesday, just days after the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

The visit, which comes hours after Trump visited Puerto Rico to survey the damage wrought by Hurricane Maria, marks the President’s second trip to soothe national concerns in as many days. in Las Vegas, Trump met with local politicians, first responders and survivors of the shooting that killed 58 people and injured more than 500 others.

Though Washington lawmakers have been facing questions about possible gun control measures in the wake of the massacre, Trump told reporters that he would not address the issue while traveling in Las Vegas.

Continuing Coverage: Las Vegas Massacre

“We’re not going to talk about that today,” Trump told a reporter at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada trauma center. “We won’t talk about that.”

Trump’s desire to avoid the tricky topic tracks with talking points the White House distributed after the shooting that urged supporters to stress now was not the time to talk about gun control.

The Las Vegas community was rocked when a shooter perched in a Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino 32 floors up rained bullets down on concert goers Sunday night. The President was greeted on the ground by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joseph Lombardo.

The visit brought Trump face-to-face with those directly affected by the shooting. Trump, shortly after touching down in Las Vegas, headed to the hospital that treated scores of those injured and killed.

After meeting with first responders, Trump told reporters he “just met some of the most amazing people” and that he met with patients that were “terribly wounded.”

“It makes you very proud to be an American when you see the job they’ve done,” the President said of the medical staff at the hospital.

The President’s visit to Las Vegas appeared dramatically different than his trip to Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Trump was in search of a good news story when he visited Puerto Rico on Tuesday, giving himself high marks by touting the federal response even as millions in the island territory are without power and with few supplies. Trump’s briefing with local officials on the island was more reflective than prescriptive, and at times awkward.

Wednesday’s visit here appeared far more subdued and behind closed doors, with the President spending most of his time meeting with doctors and victims away from the media. This was different than his tactic in Puerto Rico, where nearly every visit and stop was on camera.

As he left the White House, Trump suggested that he may know more about the shooter in the Las Vegas than is currently publicly known.

“They’re learning a lot more and it’ll be announced at an appropriate time,” Trump said. “It’s a very, very sad day for me personally.”

The President did not elaborate on what law enforcement is learning about the shooter or answer a question about whether the shooter was radicalized.

During a visit with first responders after meeting with hospital staff, Trump continued to question the shooters mental capacity, saying he was a “sick, demented man” whose “wires are screwed up.”

Trump, a president whose tenure has been defined by self-inflicted division and dissension, has struck a unifying tone after the Las Vegas shooting. In a somber speech from the White House on Monday, Trump urged togetherness.

“Our unity cannot be shattered by evil, our bonds cannot be broken by violence,” Trump said in an address delivered with a teleprompter. “And though we feel such great anger at the senseless murder of our fellow citizens, it is our love that defines us today — and always will, forever.”

The shooting, which happened during the headlining performance at a country music festival and left thousands running for their lives, briefly put Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico in jeopardy, White House aides told CNN. Trump, though, went through with the visit, and before leaving for Puerto Rico said the shooter in Las Vegas was a “very, very sick individual.”

Moments of tragedy, and the way former commanders in chief have responded to them, have defined the legacy of past presidents. Former Oval Office occupants have described the difficulty that comes with comforting those working through with the worst moments in their lives. Though Trump has stepped up to the task before, his visit Wednesday provides another test.

Trump’s initial remarks about the Las Vegas shooting tracked with past presidential pronouncements on tragedy, offering a reflection that empathized with those lost.

“We cannot fathom their pain, we cannot imagine their loss,” he said. “To the families of the victims, we are praying for you and we are here for you and we ask God to help see you through this very dark period.”

But Trump has shown the propensity to stay on message in speeches like the one he gave on Monday, while being his more off-the-cuff self during visits like the one he will have in Las Vegas.

Republicans have looked to avoid any discussion about gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, even as Democrats — spurred by the fact the shooter had over 40 firearms in his hotel and home — looked to push action on the availability of assault weapons.

Trump, asked aboard Air Force One Tuesday about whether he was open to a discussion on gun control, said: “At some point perhaps that will come. That’s not today.”

Democrats are not satisfied with that answer, though.

Rep. Jacky Rosen, a Nevada Democrat, told CNN on Tuesday now is exactly the time for a conversation on guns.

“As the President comes here, he looks at the victims, he looks at the mothers burying their children and the children burying their parents, this is exactly the time to remember this episode and have these kinds of difficult conversations,” Rosen said.

Trump’s plea for time in the wake of the massacre is at odds with his past comments about violence. After a 2015 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people, Trump quickly called for a “total and complete” ban on Muslims entering the United States.