Peduto declines meeting with President Trump during Pittsburgh visit
President Donald Trump will visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday as funeral services begin for 11 people killed when a gunman attacked a synagogue during weekend services.
The president spoke on Fox News with Laura Ingraham on Monday night, telling the host he wants to visit people injured in the attacks. Trump will visit UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, where two police officers and two worshipers are recovering from injuries.
“I’m just going to pay my respects,” Trump told Ingraham. “I’m also going to the hospital to see the officers and some of the people that were so badly hurt.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto declined an offer from the White House to meet with President Trump Tuesday, a city official said.
Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty said the White House on Monday night requested a meeting with the mayor and wanted Peduto to appear publicly with Trump. He said Peduto is spending his day attending funerals and supporting families of victims killed Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill.
“His sole focus is on the funerals,” McNulty said. “The city’s sole focus is on supporting the families.”
Peduto on Monday said the president to hold off on a visit to the city until after the funerals for 11 victims. He said Pittsburgh doesn’t have enough public safety personnel to cover funerals and a presidential visit simultaneously and that the White House should seek approval from the families before scheduling a visit.
Robert Bowers, the accused gunman, opened fire Saturday inside the Tree of Life Congregation in Squirrel Hill. Funerals for three victims are being held Tuesday, with others planned throughout the week.
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are scheduled to arrive at Pittsburgh International Airport at 3:45 p.m. They should be back at the White House by 7:45 p.m.
Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said Monday he welcomed a visit from the president.
“The president of the United States is always welcome,” Myers told CNN. “I’m a citizen. He’s my president. He is certainly welcome.”
Mark Hetfield, president and director of the Hebrew Immigrant Assistance Society, said Trump should not come to Pittsburgh.
HIAS works with local agencies – including Jewish Family and Community Services in Pittsburgh – to resettle refugees fleeing their countries. Bowers targeted HIAS by name on social media, alleging they were bringing “invaders” into the country.
Hetfield called the hateful rhetoric about refugees appalling.
“As president, it would be inappropriate for him not to come, but given his role in spreading hate against refugees and ‘the other.’ I’m not comfortable with it,” Hetfield said.
He also said the president left out an important component when he condemned the Pittsburgh attack.
“(He) mentioned anti-Semitism multiple times, which was important, but he did not mention that this murderer attacked this synagogue because these were Jews helping refugees,” he said. “That part he didn’t mention, and that’s very important.”
Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Aaron at 412-336-8448, [email protected] or via Twitter @tinynotebook.