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First Read: Trump Again Pushes Boundaries of Political Dialogue

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump Holds Campaign Rally In San Jose, California
Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on June 2, 2016 in San Jose, California.Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images file

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Trump again pushes the boundaries of political dialogue

Dealing with tragedy and loss is an all-too familiar -- and devastating -- part of being president. The Oklahoma City bombing. Columbine. 9/11. Virginia Tech. Boston. Newtown. Charleston. San Bernardino. Now Orlando. And the president’s response typically follows a familiar script -- one of sadness, restraint, and purpose. But in the midst of this current presidential race, Donald Trump’s own response to the worst mass shooting in U.S. history over the weekend again broke the script. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” he tweeted. Trump repeated his call for his temporary Muslim ban, even though the shooter is an American citizen. “What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough,” he said. And in a separate statement, he called for President Obama to resign from office. “In his remarks today, President Obama disgracefully refused to even say the words 'Radical Islam'. For that reason alone, he should step down. If Hillary Clinton, after this attack, still cannot say the two words 'Radical Islam' she should get out of this race for the presidency.”

Clinton camp criticizes Trump’s response

The Clinton campaign criticized Trump’s statements on the killings in Orlando. “Donald Trump put out political attacks, weak platitudes and self-congratulations. Trump has offered no real plans to keep our nation safe and no outreach to the Americans targeted, just insults and attacks. In times of crisis more than ever, Americans are looking for leadership and deserve better,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri said. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin puts it well: “A tragedy in the middle of a presidential race would typically force restraint on candidates. But this tradition has largely vanished in the era of the superheated, social media news cycle, where mass shootings immediately set off debates about access to guns and, if the perpetrator is Muslim, Islamist terrorism. And if the Orlando massacre was a test of how willing candidates and their supporters are to pursue partisan attacks in the aftermath of horrific violence, Mr. Trump left little doubt about his willingness to push the boundaries of the country’s public discourse.”

A study in contrasts

Indeed, MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin writes that responses yesterday by Trump and Hillary Clinton were a study in contrasts. “The two took contrasting approaches, reflecting starkly different campaigns and personalities. Clinton offered a subdued response on Sunday morning, calling the attack ‘devastating news’ on Twitter and sending thoughts to those affected. She tweeted the same message in Spanish, as well.” More: “Clinton's afternoon statement called the shooting an ‘act of terror’ and ‘act of hate’ against the LGBT community. She added that the attacks showed the importance of ‘defeating international terror groups, working with allies and partners to go after them wherever they are, countering their attempts to recruit people here and everywhere, and hardening our defenses at home.’ She also repeated a call for stricter oversight of firearms, saying, ‘weapons of war have no place on our streets.’” And that study in contrasts will likely be on display again when Clinton (at 12:30 pm ET in Cleveland, OH) and Trump (at 2:30 pm ET in Manchester, NH) will deliver dueling speeches on what happened in Orlando. Here’s the dispatch by NBC’s Alex Jaffe and Katy Tur previewing Trump’s speech.

Clinton: “It matters what we do, not what we say”

In a phone interview on “Today” this morning, Hillary Clinton said more about the killings in Orlando. “We need to get to work: This was a terrorist attack… We are absolutely up to facing it,” saying that has already outlined a plan to take on lone-wolf terrorism. Clinton then added, “It is a moment for statesmanship. It is a moment for everyone to come together, and then try to figure out what we can do.” When NBC’s Savannah Guthrie asked Clinton about Trump’s statement that she should quit her presidential bid for not using the words “Radical Islam,” Clinton responded, “It matters what we do, not what we say…. All of this talk and rhetoric isn’t going to solve the problem,” she said, adding that she uses terms like radical jihadism. “I am not going to demonize and demagogue and declare war on an entire religion.”

Will Orlando shootings return terrorism and national security to the public’s top concern?

In our Dec. 2015 NBC/WSJ poll -- conducted after the Paris and San Bernardino terrorist attacks -- national security and terrorism jumped to the top of the list of issues that the American public wanted the U.S. government to address. But six months later, in May 2016, job creation and the economy had returned to the top spot, with national security/terrorism at No. 2, like it was in April 2015. What to watch: Will the Orlando shootings once again move the needle?

Sanders doesn’t directly answer if he’s an active candidate for president

On “Meet the Press” yesterday, Bernie Sanders said he will be meeting with Hillary Clinton to discuss his path moving forward now that Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee. “I simply want to get a sense of what kind of platform she will be supporting, whether she will be vigorous in standing up for working families in the middle class, moving aggressively in climate change, health care for all, making public colleges and universities tuition-free. And after we have that kind of discussion and after we can determine whether or not we are going to have a strong and progressive platform, I will be able to make other decisions,” he said. When NBC’s Chuck Todd asked Sanders if he’s still an active candidate for president, the Vermont senator didn’t directly answer the question.

TODD: Are you still an active candidate for president?SANDERS: Well, let me just say this, I am doing everything that I can and will continue to do everything that I can to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States...TODD: I was just going to say, that doesn't sound like you are an active candidate. It sounds like you’re winding down your campaign, you're just trying to decide how comfortable you're going to be in supporting Hillary Clinton. Is that a fair assessment?SANDERS: Well, well, no. What's fair is that what our campaign has always been about are addressing the many crises facing this country. And there are millions of people who want bold change in this country. And what we have got to determine between now and the Democratic convention, and by the way Chuck, we're going to have well over 1,900 delegates at that convention, is what kind of platform and what kind of agenda there will be if Secretary Clinton gets elected, if she wins the election.

GOP senator: “It is more difficult for me to imagine that I'll be comfortable” backing Trump

Also on “Meet the Press” yesterday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said he wasn’t comfortable backing his party’s presumptive presidential nominee. “I'm not comfortable now and it is more difficult for me to imagine that I'll be comfortable coming up,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “We've had, since we last spoke, certainly the comment on the judge, born in Indiana, who Donald Trump referred to as a Mexican judge. It's extremely troubling, and it makes all of us wonder if he can turn around, if he can actually act like a candidate needs to act to win a general election.” When asked if Trump’s comments about the federal judge were racist, Flake added, “I agree with Paul Ryan's definition. I don't know how else you can characterize it other than saying that it's textbook racism. Now I just don't know how else you can define it.”

On the trail

Hillary Clinton delivers her speech in Cleveland at 12:30 pm ET… And Donald Trump gives his address in Manchester, NH at 2:30 pm ET. Don’t forget to check out the political unit’s rolling minute-to-minute coverage of all the latest 2016 developments at the On the Trail liveblog at