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Trump's Response to Tragedy Is Marked by Inconsistency

Another week, another tragedy and another different response from President Trump.
Image: US President Donald J. Trump departs the White House for Asia
President Donald J. Trump walks to deliver remarks to the news media prior to boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Nov. 3, 2017. President Trump is departing the White House on a multi country Asia tour.Shawn Thew / EPA

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

WASHINGTON — Another week, another tragedy and another different response from President Trump. On Sunday in Texas, a gunman opened fire inside a church, killing 26 and wounding at least 19 more — making it the largest mass shooting in state history.

Commenting on the violence while overseas in Japan, President Trump said it was “not a gun issue” and “a little soon” to discuss policy changes when asked if gun control was needed after the shooting. “I think that mental health is your problem here,” he said. “This was based on preliminary reports this was a very deranged individual — lots of problems over a long period of time. We have mental health problems in our countries, as do other countries. This is not a gun issue, it is a little soon to get into. Fortunately somebody else had a gun that shot in the opposite direction. Otherwise, it would have been much worse.”

Trump’s remarks stand in stark contrast to what he said after eight were killed last week in New York in an ISIS-inspired attack in the city. “We have to get much tougher. We have to get much smarter. And we have to get much less politically correct. We're so politically correct that we're afraid to do anything,” Trump said, calling to change the country’s immigration/visa laws.

Indeed, compare Trump’s tweets after the mass violence in Texas (which killed 26), New York (which killed eight) and Las Vegas (which killed 58):

After Texas:

May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan...Americans do what we do best: we pull together. We join hands. We lock arms and through the tears and the sadness, we stand strong...

After New York:

In NYC, looks like another attack by a very sick and deranged person. Law enforcement is following this closely. NOT IN THE U.S.A.!We must not allow ISIS to return, or enter, our country after defeating them in the Middle East and elsewhere. Enough!My thoughts, condolences and prayers to the victims and families of the New York City terrorist attack. God and your country are with you!I have just ordered Homeland Security to step up our already Extreme Vetting Program. Being politically correct is fine, but not for this!The terrorist came into our country through what is called the "Diversity Visa Lottery Program," a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). @foxandfriends"Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes problems" said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness! @foxandfriends

After Las Vegas:

My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!I am so proud of our great Country. God bless America!Leaving Puerto Rico now for D.C. Will be in Las Vegas early tomorrow to pay my respects. Everyone is in my thoughts and prayers.It is a "miracle" how fast the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were able to find the demented shooter and stop him from even more killing!

Of course, there are important differences to these tragedies. The violence in Las Vegas and Texas was committed by an American citizen with an unknown motive, while in New York it was by an Uzbek immigrant who was inspired by ISIS.

Still, the differences in tone — and in whether there should be policy responses to the violence — are striking.

Trump defends “fire and fury” rhetoric aimed at North Korea

Also in Japan, President Trump defended his “fire and fury” rhetoric aimed at North Korea. "Some people say my rhetoric is very strong, but look where we are with very weak rhetoric over the last 25 years,” he said at his news conference, per NBC’s Peter Alexander.

And he said that Japan can defend itself for North Korea by purchasing U.S.-made missile-defense systems. "[Prime Minister Abe] will shoot them out of the sky when he purchases additional military equipment from the United States."

Putting together all of the Russia-related developments over the last 24 hours

Three important stories relating to Michael Flynn, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner:

  • NBC’s Julia Ainsley, Carol Lee and Ken Dilanian: “Federal investigators have gathered enough evidence to bring charges in their investigation of President Donald Trump's former national security adviser and his son as part of the probe into Russia's intervention in the 2016 election, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. Michael T. Flynn, who was fired after just 24 days on the job, was one of the first Trump associates to come under scrutiny in the federal probe now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.”
  • NBC’s Richard Engel and Aggelos Petropoulos: “Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary in the Trump administration, shares business interests with Vladimir Putin’s immediate family, and he failed to clearly disclose those interests when he was being confirmed for his cabinet position. Ross — a billionaire industrialist — retains an interest in a shipping company, Navigator Holdings, that was partially owned by his former investment company. One of Navigator’s most important business relationships is with a Russian energy firm controlled, in turn, by Putin’s son-in-law and other members of the Russian president’s inner circle.”
  • The Guardian: “Two Russian state institutions with close ties to Vladimir Putin funded substantial investments in Twitter and Facebook through a business associate of Jared Kushner, leaked documents reveal. The investments were made through a Russian technology magnate, Yuri Milner, who also holds a stake in a company co-owned by Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser.”

DNC Chair Perez says Donna Brazile’s claim that Clinton was incapacitated is “ludicrous”

“Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez on Sunday said that the committee ‘undeniably’ fell short in earning the trust of voters during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, but he dismissed as ‘ludicrous’ the claim by a former DNC Chair that health concerns drove considerations to replace Hillary Clinton as the party's nominee late in the campaign,” NBC’s Kailani Koenig writes.

“‘We have to earn the trust of the voters, and during the process of the Democratic primary, we fell short in that, undeniably,’ Perez said in an interview on Sunday's ‘Meet The Press.’”

“Brazile also wrote in her new book that she considered trying to replace Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine with Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Cory Booker after Clinton became overheated at a Sept. 11th memorial service and because her campaign was ‘anemic’ and carried ‘the odor of failure.’ ‘I have great respect for Donna, consider her a friend, she’s done a lot for the Democratic Party,’ Perez said. ‘The charge that Hillary Clinton was somehow incapacitated is quite frankly ludicrous. Hillary Clinton was a tireless senator, a tireless secretary of state, and a tireless candidate.’”

Trump looms over Virginia race with big stakes for Democrats

Here’s how one of us previews tomorrow’s gubernatorial race in Virginia: “Democrats have been here before. They're ahead in the polls, the Republican Party is divided and President Donald Trump's flaws have been dominating the political landscape. And we all saw how that turned out for the party in 2016.”

“So as Virginia voters choose their next governor on Tuesday — either Democrat Ralph Northam or Republican Ed Gillespie — the central question has become: Unlike in 2016, can Democrats finally win with those advantages? Or will Republicans once again pull off the upset?

Those are the stakes, especially a year away from the all-important midterm elections in 2018, when control of the U.S. House is up for grabs and when Trump's presence is sure to play another outsize role. ‘The big storyline is whether the Democrats can begin to capitalize politically on an environment that looks very bad for Republicans given the president's high unpopularity in the state,’ said Mark Rozell, dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University.”

Final Wason Center tracking poll of Virginia: Northam 51 percent, Gillespie 45 percent

In the final tracking poll of Virginia’s gubernatorial race by Christopher Newport University’s Wason Center, Northam leads Gillespie by six points, 51 percent to 45 percent.

And a New York Times Upshot/Siena poll had Northam up by three points, 43 percent to 40 percent.

Quinnipiac poll of New Jersey: Murphy 53 percent, Guadagno 41 percent

And in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race, Democrat Phil Murphy leads Republican Kim Guadagno by 12 points, 53 percent to 41 percent, according to a Quinnipiac poll.