UPDATED with Trump’s speech: President Donald Trump wrapped Wednesday’s tour of Las Vegas police HQ and the hospital treating many victims of the country’s worst mass shooting in modern history, saying we will “endure the pain together and overcome together as Americans.”
He claimed it is our solace that the “souls of those who passed are now at peace in heaven.”
“Here on earth,” Trump continued, “we are blessed to be surrounded” by the “heroes” who saved lives when a gunman opened fire on a country music concert, killing 58 and wounding around 500. The shooter ended his own life when a police SWAT team closed in on him in his Mandalay Bay Hotel suite.
“When the worst of humanity strikes, and strike it did, the best of humanity responds,” Trump said, reading prepared remarks.
At University Medical Center, Trump said it makes him proud to be an American after visiting with some of the victims.
Speaking to a room full of reporters and cameras, Trump said some of the patients he saw are “terribly wounded” including some who refused to leave the crime scene so as to help others, which Trump described as “tremendous bravery.”
“I never want to see it again,” Trump said. Asked a gun control question, he shot back, “We’re not going to talk about that today.”
POTUS commended the professionalism of the doctors and medical staff at UMC, the trauma center to which many of the wounded had been taken. “It’s incredible what you’ve done,” he said, calling their patients “very lucky to be here.”
Trump said he has invited the surviving victims to come to the White House. “Believe me, I will be there for them,” he said, adding the message he has “is that we have a great country.”
As to the gunman, “he’s a very sick man; a demented person,” Trump said. “You will know very soon if they find something. We are looking very very hard.”
Announcing he was now “moving to police headquarters,” Trump took one question about Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s surprise morning presser, called so he could swat at NBC News’ report that a frustrated Tillerson nearly resigned over the summer, got talked out of it by Veep Mike Pence, and had called Trump a “f*cking moron” at a meeting. At the presser, Tillerson insisted he never considered stepping down, praised Trump and said he would not stoop to address the “f*cking moron” report.
“I’m very honored by his comments,” Trump said at the hospital. “It was fake news; made up by NBC. They just made it up. I have total confidence in Rex.”
Once at Las Vegas police headquarters, Trump returned to the subject of the shooter, calling him “a sick, demented man.”
“Have they been able to find out anything else?” Trump asked Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo about the gunman.
“It’s still a little bit soon. We have a couple good leads and are working our way through that. We’re going to get the answer,” assured Lombardo, who has become something of a TV-news rock star with his regular press briefings since Sunday’s shooting.
“There might be something there,” Trump advised.
Turning to the gathering in the room, Trump told the cops, firemen and dispatchers, “I want to come in and say hello and congratulate you.”
“I was a fan before this, everyone knows that. But I’m even more of a fan now. You showed the world what professionalism is all about,” Trump said, First Lady Melania Trump seated by his side.
Lombardo explained to Trump that everyone in the room played an integral role in saving lives and stopping the shooter Sunday.
Moving on to show Trump the operations center from which the investigation is being conducted, Lombardo joked, “a lot of these folks are not supposed to be in here” but have all been instrumental in the response.
“On behalf of our great, great country, I want to thank you,” Trump responded. “You have been a real inspiration. If you didn’t get up there [to the hotel suite] so quickly it would have been worse. The whole world is watching…I appreciate it very much. Thank you.”
Trump’s mostly somber remarks were in marked contrast to the previous day’s tone-deaf visit to Puerto Rico, in which he’d joked that the island’s hurricane devastation had messed with his budget, playfully lobbed rolls of paper towels at locals from a church relief-distribution center, and handed out flashlights which he boasted they don’t need any more, though 90% of the island remains without power.