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Sarah Sanders: No need for Trump to tone down rhetoric following Hasson arrest

The White House press secretary’s defense comes one week after a Coast Guard lieutenant was arrested for allegedly planning to attack journalists and Democratic politicians.

WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sarah Sanders dismissed questions Friday over whether President Donald Trump would tone down his attacks on the media following the arrest of Coast Guard Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson for allegedly planning to attack journalists and prominent politicians.

“I certainly don't think that the president at any point has done anything but condemn violence against journalists or anyone else,” Sanders said in response to a reporter’s question about whether or not the president thought his hostility toward the press might embolden extremists.

“In fact, every single time something like this happens, the president is typically one of the first people to condemn the violence, and the media is the first people to blame the president,” Sanders continued.

Since Hasson was arrested Feb. 15, Trump has tweeted the term “fake news” three times and he has referred to the media as "the enemy of the people" twice on Twitter. On Friday morning, as Sanders was defending the president’s treatment of journalists, Trump retweeted a cartoon of CNN host Wolf Blitzer and wrote “Fake News is so bad for our Country!”

Trump has yet to publicly condemn Hasson, but told reporters Friday during an event at the White House that "it's a very sad thing when a thing like that happens." The president said he would receive a full briefing on the case later in the day.

Asked if he had any responsibility to police his own language, Trump said, "No, I don't. I think my language is very nice."

Hasson was arrested on drug and gun charges, but in court filings he was characterized as a "domestic terrorist" with an intention “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country." Hasson is also a self-described white nationalist.

Prosecutors said that Hasson "compiled a list of prominent Democratic congressional leaders, activists, political organizations, and MSNBC and CNN media personalities." Included in Hasson’s list were MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough, Chris Hayes and Ari Melber, and CNN's Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Van Jones. His list also included Democratic party leaders and well-known lawmakers such as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.