Beto O'Rourke: Trump 'is in large part to blame' for El Paso killings

Ahead of Donald Trump’s visit to El Paso, Texas, Wednesday to pay tribute to the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting that left 22 people dead, the president and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke escalated their war of words on one another.

“The president is part of the problem. He is trafficking in lies,” O’Rourke, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, told MSNBC Wednesday morning. “He’s called El Paso one of the most dangerous cities, repeatedly, in the country though it is one of, if not the, safest. Describing immigrants as rapists and criminals, talking about invasions and infestations. All of that fear, that anger, that hatred, that willingness to dehumanize our fellow human beings found a home in the killer and found an expression in violence that we saw Saturday. He is in large part to blame for what has taken place.”

O’Rourke announced Wednesday that he would not return to campaigning in Iowa for the time being. Instead, he would remain in his hometown of El Paso, where the president was expected to touch down in the afternoon.

Beto O’Rourke speaks during a vigil on Sunday in El Paso. (Photo: John Locher/AP)

“He’s trying to intimidate this community, make us afraid of one another, of our differences, of the border, of immigrants, and we will not stand down,” O’Rourke told MSNBC.

Almost immediately after police learned that 21-year-old suspect Patrick Crusius had warned on social media of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” before opening fire in an El Paso Walmart, O’Rourke began calling out Trump for stoking a hatred of immigrants.

Asked by reporters over the weekend whether there was anything the president could do to make the situation any better, an exasperated O’Rourke did not mince words.

“What do you think? You know the s*** he’s been saying,” O’Rourke responded. “He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know — members of the press — what the f***? You know, it’s these questions that you know the answers to — I mean — connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country. He’s not tolerating racism, he’s inciting racism and violence in this country.”

As O’Rourke continued to speak out on what he saw as the president’s role in stoking white nationalism in America, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel sought to discredit him.

But as O’Rourke’s comments went viral on social media, Trump lashed out at the former congressman on Twitter as he headed to Dayton, Ohio — the site of the other mass shooting this past weekend — and El Paso.

O’Rourke, who does not claim Mexican descent and got his nickname in childhood, swiftly replied.

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