Thousands of mourners on Tuesday attended the first funerals for victims of a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, as protesters prepared to greet U.S. President Donald Trump amid accusations his rhetoric had encouraged anti-Semitic extremists.
More than 1,800 people from across the United States came to offer condolences to the relatives of David Rosenthal, 54, and Cecil Rosenthal, 59, at the Rodef Shalom synagogue in the Pennsylvania city as police officers stood outside.
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The two brothers, who lived at a home for people with disabilities, were among the 11 mostly elderly congregants shot to death on Saturday at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.
Services were also held for Jerry Rabinowitz, a 66-year-old family physician, and Daniel Stein, a 71-year-old retiree.
Nurses in surgical scrubs were among the crowd of about 2,000 at Rabinowitz’s funeral.
“He was just precious. I feel like I’ve lost a father figure — and I have a father,” said Michele Bucher, a 54-year-old patient of Rabinowitz.
Robert Bowers, 46, is accused of storming into the Tree of Life synagogue yelling “All Jews must die” and opening fire on members of three congregations holding Sabbath prayer services there.
A federal judge on Monday ordered Bowers held without bail.
The attack, which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) described as the deadliest targeting Jews in the United States, has heightened a national debate over Trump’s rhetoric, which critics say has contributed to a surge in white nationalist and neo-Nazi activity.
The Trump administration has rejected the notion that he has encouraged far-right extremists who have embraced him.
Trump’s visit comes just seven days before elections that will determine the balance of power in Congress. The Republicans currently control both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Republican president said he would visit hospitalized police officers and other people wounded in the shooting. He will be accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, the White House said.
“I’m just going to pay my respects,” Trump told Fox News on Monday night. “I would have done it even sooner, but I didn’t want to disrupt anymore than they already had disruption.”
The top four U.S. congressional leaders – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi – declined to join Trump in Pittsburgh, two sources familiar with the planning said.
An aide to McConnell said the Kentucky Republican was unable to attend because of a conflict with events in his home state.
Ryan was not able to travel to Pittsburgh on such short notice, an aide said.
The ADL, a nonprofit group dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, said last week that far-right extremists had stepped up “online propaganda offensives” in the run-up to the elections to attack and to try to intimidate Jews.
“I spend half of each year in Germany. I have seen how another country with a much tougher background has dealt with this, starting at ground zero,” said Walter Jacob, a rabbi at Rodef Shalom.
‘YOU ARE NOT WELCOME’
Members of Pittsburgh’s Jewish community said they would protest against Trump on Tuesday afternoon.
“The gunman who tore apart our neighborhood believed your lies about the immigrant caravan in Mexico,” protest organizers said in an announcement, referring to a group of migrants who are trekking through Mexico toward the United States. “He believed anti-Semitic lies that Jews were funding the caravan”
In a social media post on Saturday, Bowers, the suspect, had accused the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a group that helps refugees, of bringing “invaders in that kill our people.”
The protest announcement echoed an open letter from a group of local Jewish leaders who told Trump: “You are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.”
More than 75,000 people have signed the letter, organized and posted online by the Pittsburgh chapter of Bend the Arc, a Jewish organization opposed to what it calls “the immoral agenda of the Trump administration and the Republican Party.”
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he was also against Trump’s visit because it would coincide with the first funerals.
Peduto, a Democrat, said Trump should wait until all the funerals were held, adding that the visit and additional security measures entailed would distract attention from the “priority” of burying the dead.
On Monday, Bowers, a onetime truck driver who frequently posted anti-Semitic material online and was described by neighbors as a loner, was charged with 29 federal felony counts. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Prosecutors have said they are treating the mass shooting as a hate crime.
In addition to the 11 worshipers who were killed, six people, including four police officers, were wounded before Bowers was shot by police and surrendered. Four people, including two police officers, remained hospitalized on Tuesday afternoon, according to a spokeswoman for UPMC Presbyterian hospital.
(Additional reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York and Susan Cornwell and Richard Cowan in Washington; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman)
Michael Moore predicts Mick Mulvaney will get into Heaven after confessing Trump’s quid pro quo
Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore predicted acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney will ascend to Heaven in the afterlife during a Friday interview on MSNBC's "The Beat" with Ari Melber.
The host played a clip of Mulvaney admitting Trump's quid pro quo while seeking foreign election assistance from Ukraine.
"This man obviously is going to be admitted into Heaven," Moore said. "You know, he told the truth."
"If there was a movie version of this, somebody stuck him with a needle just before he walked out onto the stage there, a truth serum needle, and he just went on and on saying, 'Yeah, that’s what we do. Yeah, of course.' Essentially admitting there is a quid pro quo. In fact, there are many quid pro quos."
Trump campaign has 12-person ‘War Room’ toiling to fight the impeachment inquiry: report
While the White House has bragged about refusing to start a "war room" to deal with the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's administration, his campaign is footing the bill for a 12-person operation, the LA Times reported Friday.
“Some of you have criticized us for not having a war room — OK? — which we don’t by the way,” acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters.
“You don’t have a war room when you haven’t done anything wrong," he added.
By that logic, Trump's 2020 re-election campaign may fear the president did something wrong.
‘I don’t think he knows what he’s doing’: Ex-Trump advisor rips the ‘cascading crisis’ of his ‘strategic disaster’
President Donald Trump received harsh criticism from a former top Middle East advisor for the ethnic cleansing campaign Turkey is waging against the Kurds in Syria.
MSNBC's Chuck Todd interviewed Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.
"The truth of the matter is when President Trump announced to the world last December that we were leaving Syria and he arbitrarily cut our force reportedly in half, which is already a small force, we lost all of our leverage and influence," McGurk argued. "And he really threw it out the window on this call on October 6th."