President Donald Trump for the first time spoke about the religious intolerance undergirding the 'monstrous' terror attack in New Zealand – at an Oval Office event where he inveighed against an 'invasion' of illegal immigrants in the U.S.
The president went ahead with his veto of a congressional resolution having to do with his border wall even as the news continued to filter in about the terror attack, which Trump called 'monstrous.'
At the start of the event, Trump updated the nation on his call New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, who had herself issued an emphatic plea for tolerance in the wake of the massacre.
Trump said he called 'to express the sorrow of our entire nation following the monstrous terror attacks at two mosques.'
Trump bemoaned 'monstrous terror attacks at two mosques' at an Oval Office event where he vetoed legislation and described illegal immigration as an 'invasion'
'These sacred places of worship were turned into scenes of evil killing,' Trump said.
Trump did not include in his remarks a direct condemnation of white supremacy or address aspects of the shooter's twisted manifesto. The shooter expressed his support for Trump and described an invasion in New Zealand, stating a desire to start a civil war in the U.S.
Following his remarks, Trump was asked if see's white nationalism as a rising threat. 'I don't really, I think it's a small group of people,' Trump responded. Asked about the manifesto, he said: 'I did not see it,' reiterating that it was a 'horrible act.'
The president spoke about the attack before TV cameras for the first time Friday afternoon as he surrounded himself with law enforcement as he cast his first veto.
He surrounded himself with women whose children have been killed by illegal immigrants. Also there were sheriffs from such locales as Salisbury, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
'In some cases you have murderers coming in,' the president said.
'We're on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders,' the president said. Then he returned to the word 'invasion,' a term he used liberally during the 2018 elections. The word also appears in the shooter's manifesto. Trump appeared to acknowledge the controversy over the term.
'People hate the word 'invasion.' But that's what it is. It's an invasion of drugs and criminals and people, we have no idea of who they are but we capture them because border security is so good,' Trump said. 'We're bursting at the seams,' He added.
The White House issued a bristling response Friday when questioned about the sick manifesto released by the New Zealand attacker before he began a rampage that killed 49 people.
The alleged shooter had called himself a Trump supporter, terming the president a symbol of 'white identity' while venting about an immigrant 'invasion' that he claimed was replacing white people.
He cited work by a French right-wing intellectual and described his own 2017 to France where he claimed to observe an 'invasion of France by nonwhites.'
Trump's new attorney general, William Barr, told him he was on sound legal footing to spend unappropriated money on his border wall, despite failing to get Congress to bak it, by invoking the National Emergencies Act. Trump told Barr he would 'defend it well,' presumably in court
'People hate the word 'invasion.' But that's what it is. It's an invasion of drugs and criminals and people,' said Trump
The White House on Friday pushed back at questions about the shooter's expression of support for Trump
'It's outrageous to even make that connection between this deranged individual that committed this evil crime to the president, who had repeatedly condemned bigotry, racism, and has made it very clear that this is a terrorist attack,' fumed White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp.
'We are there to support and stand with the people of New Zealand,' Schlapp told reporters at the White House as officials continued to monitor developments from the horrific attack.
Schlapp was asked to comment after President Trump tweeted out his sympathy Friday morning for those who died 'senselessly' during the massacre at two mosques in New Zealand.
President Trump has tweeted out his sympathy for those who died 'senselessly' during the massacre at two mosques in New Zealand
However the president made no mention of the dark sentiments that had already been unearthed about the shooter, nor did he put forth any generalized statement that acknowledged the faith of the Muslim followers who were slaughtered. The alleged perpetrators writings state his desire to cause a 'civil war' in the U.S.
'My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques,' Trump wrote.
Trump continued: '49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do.'
God bless all!' he added, ending his missive with an exclamation point and a nod to religion, after the latest terror attack to rip through a house of worship.
The president made no mention of the shooter or the sick writings that specifically pointed out his support for the president as a symbol of 'white identity' and stated his desire to start a 'civil war' in the U.S.
White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp
The manifesto calls Trump a 'symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.'
It didn't take long for critics of the president call out his rhetoric in the wake of the attack.
'Of course our prayers go out to the people of New Zealand, particularly the loved ones and survivors and victims,' Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told CNN.
Blumenthal added: 'But words do have consequences, and we know that at the very pinnacle of power in our own country, people are talking about 'good people on both sides,'' he added, in reference to Trump's widely criticized response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
New Zealand's shaken prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, made a point of including statements inclusive of refugees in her own statement during what she called a dark time for her country.
'They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us,' she said. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not. They have no place in New Zealand.'
Trump referenced early reports that at least 49 were killed in the attack
Trump spoke to Adern Friday afternoon, Washington time, tweeting about it afterward in a pair of messages.
'Just spoke with Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, regarding the horrific events that have taken place over the past 24 hours. I informed the Prime Minister...that we stand in solidarity with New Zealand – and that any assistance the U.S.A. can give, we stand by ready to help. We love you New Zealand!
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who attended a St. Patrick's Day luncheon with Trump on Thursday, tweeted: 'We mourn the loss of 49 lives cut short in the horrific act of violence in Christchurch, New Zealand. Islamophobia and such acts of pure hatred have no place in a civilized world.'
Trump has made it a policy to quickly sent out sentiments on Twitter following terror attacks that have jolted nations around the world.
Later Friday morning, National Security Advisor John Bolton spoke to reporters at the White House.
'We're obviously greatly disturbed by this what seems to be a terror attack – this hate crime in New Zealand,' Bolton said.
Trump spoke to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Friday
He said the State Department was following up on the incident. 'We're very concerned. We're going to cooperate with the New Zealand authorities to the extent we can,' Bolton continued. 'If there's any role that we can play. We are obviously following the events there very closely. That's really all I can say on that at the moment.'
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement Friday expressing solidarity following the massacre.
'The United States strongly condemns the attack in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We stand in solidarity with the people of New Zealand and their government against this vicious act of hate,' she said.
The shooter's sick manifesto envisions his actions would trigger a battle over the Second Amendment and a race and ideological battle within the U.S., and that eventually 'war will erupt.'
Trump's tweet responding to the massacre in Christchurch steered clear of any policy pronouncements on security, guns, immigration, and religious extremists – or domestic politics.
That hasn't always been the case. Following a stabbing attack on London Bridge in 2017, Trump responded by tweeting: 'We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!'
President Donald Trump tweeted out his sympathy following the terror attack in New Zealand
About 20 minutes after his tweet about New Zealand, Trump returned to domestic politics, tweeting about a movement seeking to pry Jews away from the Democratic Party.
'The 'Jexodus' movement encourages Jewish people to leave the Democrat Party. Total disrespect! Republicans are waiting with open arms. Remember Jerusalem (U.S. Embassy) and the horrible Iran Nuclear Deal! @OANN @foxandfriends,' Trump wrote, referencing two conservative networks.
A white Australian right-wing terrorist who livestreamed his sickening shooting spree on Facebook is one of four people arrested over dual mosque attacks which left 49 dead and 48 injured on New Zealand's 'darkest day'.
The gunman, who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant from Grafton, NSW, Australia, stormed the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country's South Island about 1.30pm, opening fire with a semi-automatic shotgun and a rifle on about 100 defenseless worshippers attending Friday prayers.
A sickening 17-minute video of the unfolding horror shows the self-confessed white supremacist dressed in army fatigues firing mercilessly at people scrambling to flee, and calmly reloading when he runs out of bullets.
At about the same time, there was a second shooting at Masjid mosque in Linwood, where seven more were killed.
In the aftermath of the bloody attacks, three men and one woman were arrested, with police charging 'one man in his late 20s' with murder. He is expected to face court on Saturday.
Two of the others remain in police custody, with a fourth person arrested deemed not to have been involved in the attacks.
Of the 49 fatalities, 41 were killed at the Al Noor Mosque and seven at the Linwood Avenue mosque. Three were outside the mosque itself. A 49th died in hospital.
A further 48 people were rushed to Christchurch Hospital with gunshot wounds, 20 in a critical condition. A dozen operating theatres were opened, with many victims requiring multiple life-saving surgeries.
New Zealand Police have evacuated homes in Dunedin as they investigate a home 'of interest' to the shootings. The address is believed to be the home the gunman's car is registered to.
In New Zealand's worst ever terror attack and one of the worst mass-shootings ever:49 people killed by at least one gunman at two separate mosques in Christchurch on Friday from 1.30pm The gunman at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch - a 28-year-old Australian - live-streamed the mass shooting In a twisted manifesto, Tarrant wrote he targeted the mosques while training for another attack Four suspects - who were not known to counter-terror authorities - were being questioned in custody One of the men in his 'late 20s', whose identity has not been confirmed by police, was later charged with murder The Bangladesh cricket team were on their way to the Al Noor Mosque at the time of the shooting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday's terror attack was 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'
A man who identified himself as Brenton Tarrant (pictured) live-streamed the massacre of dozens of people in Christchurch, New Zealand
Tarrant (pictured as a child in his late father's arms) live-streamed the shooting spree to his social media account
Police arrested and charged one man aged 'in his late 20s' with murder. He is expected to face court Saturday. Pictured is Tarrant during a holiday in Pakistan
Witnesses reported hearing 50 shots and police are responding to the incident at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country's South Island. Pictured is a still from a live-stream of the shooting
A man wearing military fatigues (pictured) was arrested outside Papanui High School
At least one gunman has opened fire at a mosque in New Zealand , shooting at children and killing dozens of people
Witnesses reported hearing 50 shots and police are responding to the incident at Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch on the country's South Island
At least 40 people were reported dead as a result of the twin massacres on Friday, with the total rising to 49 within an hour
Early reports indicated a shooting at Christchurch Hospital. However, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the mosques were the lone targets.
In a twisted manifesto believed to have been written by Tarrant, he said he targeted the mosques because they had 'far more invaders'.
Tarrant eerily wrote that he went to New Zealand to train for another attack but ended up executing the massacre because of how many Muslims lived there.
Ms Ardern called the attacks 'one of New Zealand's darkest days'.
Ms Ardern did confirm multiple bombs were attached to two cars belonging to the suspects near the mosque. The explosives were disarmed before they could detonate.
Police urged people near the area to stay indoors and report suspicious behaviour, describing the incident as 'critical'. A lock down on buildings in the area, including schools, was lifted on Friday evening.
Ms Ardern said there were no further suspects at this stage.
The nation's terror threat level was elevated to 'high alert' following the terror attacks, the second highest possible.
'My thoughts, and I'm sure the thoughts of all New Zealanders, are with those who have been affected, and also with their families.'
Many of those families were seen crowding around the doors of Christchurch Hospital on Friday evening, unsure whether their loved ones would survive.
Three shootings have taken place in Christchurch on Friday afternoon, two at mosques and another at Christchurch Hospital
One of the gunmen live-streamed the mass shooting inside the Al Noor Mosque, which happened at 1.30pm as Friday prayers were underway
The shooter's weapons were marked with the names of other people who have carried out attacks
Survivors gather near the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Road hours after the place of worship was attacked
AUTHORITIES RESPOND TO THE ATTACKS
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush confirmed the death toll had risen to 49 as of 9pm local time.
'This is absolutely tragic. So many people are affected. We don't know the identities of those who have died yet because those places are in lockdown,' he said in a statement at about 6pm.
Speaking of the victims, Commissioner Bush said: 'Our love and thoughts go out to them and all of their family, all of their friends and all of their loved ones.'
He also praised local police officers who responded to the attacks.
'We have staff around the country making sure everyone is safe, including armed offenders at all mosques. Police staff have gone above and beyond to protect people today.'
Armed police were seen patrolling the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Auckland after the attack in Christchurch.
He earlier urged Muslims in New Zealand not to go to mosques on Friday.
Commissioner Bush said four people were in custody. He also confirmed multiple bombs attached to vehicles near the scene of the shootings were disarmed.
Police escort distraught witnesses away from a mosque in central Christchurch following twin massacres
Armed police push back members of the public trying to reach the mosque to check on fellow worshippers
Armed police maintain a presence outside the Masijd Ayesha Mosque in Manurewa in Auckland after the attack in Christchurch
Ms Ardern said the shootings were 'an unprecedented act of violence, an act that has absolutely no place in New Zealand.
'This is not who we are.
'The people who were the subject of this attack today, New Zealand is their home. They should be safe here. The person who has perpetuated this violent act against them, they have no place in New Zealand society.'
She confirmed that police believe the attacks were 'meticulously' planned out.
Ms Ardern flew to Wellington from Christchurch to hold a crisis meeting at parliament.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was 'horrified' by the 'callous, right wing extremist attack'.
'The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins,' he said.
He and Ms Ardern will discuss the repercussions of the attack later on Friday evening.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the shootings were an 'unprecedented act of violence'
Worshippers in Bangledesh march through the streets of Dhaka to condemn the Christchurch mosque attacks
SICKENING ATTACK SHARED ONLINE
The suspected gunman shared a 73-page manifesto to Twitter before the killings, foreshadowing a 'terrorist attack'.
He entered the Al Noor Mosque on Friday during afternoon prayers and opened fire.
The distressing video streamed to his Facebook profile shows the 28-year-old man firing more than 100 shots at those inside.
His guns were scrawled with the names of past mass killers and cities where the shootings occurred.
The gunman's rampage began when he got into his car wearing military-style body armour and a helmet saying 'let's get this party started'.
He then drove to the mosque listening to folk music and military tunes before parking in an alley around the corner.
Brenton Tarrant, 28, grew up in Grafton, a small town in northern New South Wales.
Tarrant's father, who was a competitive athlete and completed 75 triathlons, died of cancer in 2010 aged just 49. His mother still lives in the area.
Tarrant attended a local high school and then worked as a personal trainer at the local Big River Squash and Fitness Centre from 2010.
A woman who knew Tarrant through the gym said he had always followed a strict dietary and exercise regime.
'He was very dedicated to his own training and to training others,' she said. 'He threw himself into his own personal training and then qualified as a trainer and trained others. He was very good.'
'When I say he was dedicated, he was dedicated more than most people would be.
'He was in the gym for long periods of time, lifting heaving weights. He pretty much transformed his body.'
The woman said she had not spoken to him or heard him talk about his political or religious beliefs.
'From the conversations we had about life he didn't strike me as someone who had any interest in that or extremist views,' she said.
'But I know he's been travelling since he left Grafton. He has been travelling overseas, anywhere and everywhere.
'I would say it's something in the nature of his travels, something he's been around.
'I know he's been to lots of different countries trying to experience lots of different things in life and I would say something's happened in that time in his travels.'