As soon as President Trump touched down Wednesday in Ohio he was met by two prominent critics of his response to the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Texas, over the weekend.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, confronted Trump after greeting him on the tarmac at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
“Both of us spoke with the president right after he got off Air Force One,” Brown told reporters. “Both the mayor and I asked the president to call on Sen. [Mitch] McConnell to move to bring the Senate back in session this week, to tell the Senate he wants the background checks bill that has already passed the House on the floor for a vote.
“I asked the president to promise to me and the American people he will sign that bill,” Brown said.
Trump responded by saying, “We will get things done,” according to Brown.
The Ohio senator also said he told the president that if he truly cares about mental health, he should stop trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which gives patients with mental illness access to treatment.
On Saturday morning, a gunman killed 22 people and injured more than two dozen others at a Walmart in El Paso. Just 13 hours later, another gunman killed nine people and wounded dozens more in downtown Dayton. In his first formal statement on the killings from the White House Monday, Trump condemned “racism, bigotry and white supremacy” while blaming the internet, video games and “mental illness” for the massacres. He did not, however, mention gun control.
Brown said also Trump expressed a desire to give awards to the police officers who quickly responded to Sunday’s shooting in Dayton.
“I said, ‘Mr. President, respectfully, the most important thing you can do for these police officers is to take these assault weapons off the streets,’” Brown said.
Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, Trump said he would like to see stricter background checks, but doesn’t believe there is a “strong appetite” for a ban on assault weapons.
Brown had originally not planned to attend Trump’s visit but later decided to use the opportunity to “look the president in the eye and urge him to do the right thing.”
On Tuesday, Whaley said she planned to tell Trump “how unhelpful” he has been in addressing the issue of gun violence.
Asked whether she believes Trump took her call to action seriously, Whaley said she wasn’t sure.
“I think he heard me,” she said. “I don’t know if he will take action. I’m hoping for the people of Dayton that he does.”
Trump and first lady Melania Trump met with victims of the shooting and with first responders at a local hospital in Dayton before heading to El Paso. They did not go to the scene of Sunday’s shooting, the Oregon District, which was filled with demonstrators protesting his visit.
Brown said he was glad Trump visited the victims.
“They were hurting,” he said. “He was comforting. He did the right things, Melania did the right things. And it’s his job in part to comfort people. I’m glad he did it in those hospital rooms.”
Traveling aboard Air Force One en route to El Paso, Trump accused Whaley and Brown of “misrepresenting” his visit.
“Just left Dayton, Ohio, where I met with the Victims & families, Law Enforcement, Medical Staff & First Responders. It was a warm & wonderful visit. Tremendous enthusiasm & even Love,” Trump tweeted. “Then I saw failed Presidential Candidate (0%) Sherrod Brown & Mayor Whaley totally misrepresenting what took place inside of the hospital. Their news conference after I left for El Paso was a fraud. It bore no resemblance to what took place with those incredible people that I was so lucky to meet and spend time with. They were all amazing!”
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