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President Trump speaks to the media as he visits the emergency operations center in El Paso. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump met with first responders and survivors of last weekend's mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, Wednesday, in a visit he hailed as "incredible." But it was also marked by divisive rhetoric against the media and political rivals — including local politicians.

Details: In a series of tweets after visiting victims of the mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio, Trump accused Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley of lying in a press conference, insulted 2020 candidate Joe Biden as "boring," and called Fox News' Shep Smith worse than "Fake News CNN."

The big picture: Trump, facing scrutiny about the degree to which his rhetoric has exacerbated the country's hate problem, visited victims in both Dayton and El Paso, Texas, where mass shootings this weekend left a combined 31 people dead. Critics have raised questions about his ability to function as "consoler in chief" during moments of national tragedy.

Trump on Biden: "Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring! The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks with this guy. It will be over for them, not to mention the fact that our Country will do poorly with him. It will be one big crash, but at least China will be happy!"

  • Context: In a speech Wednesday, Biden claimed that Trump has "fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation. ... How far is it from Trump's saying this 'is an invasion' to the shooter in El Paso declaring 'his attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas?' Not far at all."

Trump on Brown and Whaley: "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. 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!"

  • Context: Brown, a frequent critic of Trump, said that the president "was received well by the patients...They were hurting, he was comforting. He did the right things, Melania did the right things." He added during the press conference that he urged Trump to get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to vote on background checks and not to repeal the Affordable Care Act for mental health reasons.
    • Of note: Brown was considering a run for president in 2020, but ultimately did not declare.
  • Whaley, meanwhile, did not directly attack Trump, but questioned whether he was serious about taking action on gun control: "I'm hoping, for the people of Dayton, that he does, but both the senator and I spoke very directly what we've been saying the whole time about the need for common-sense gun legislation."

Trump on Shep Smith: "Watching Fake News CNN is better than watching Shepard Smith, the lowest rated show on @FoxNews. Actually, whenever possible, I turn to @OANN!"

  • Context: Smith, one of the rare Fox News hosts who has not hesitated to criticize Trump, said on his show: "Thus far, they’ve not allowed the press corps to come with them saying it’s not a photo op. Instead, the White House releasing its own pictures of the president’s activities today while keeping the media away. John Roberts is at the White House for us this afternoon. Striking contrast there, John."

Go deeper ... Trump on mass shootings: Hate has no place in our country

Go deeper

7 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.