President Trump appeared to suggest Tuesday that the wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the U.S. could be coming from within the Jewish community itself, according to a Pennsylvania state lawmaker present for the comments.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was part of a group of state attorneys general meeting with Trump at the White House Tuesday, relayed Trump’s comments about the bomb threats to Buzzfeed News, explaining that the commander-in-chief seemed to indicate he felt some of the threats were being made from the inside, as part of a potential effort “to make others look bad.”
“He just said, ‘sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people, or to make others, look bad,'” Shapiro, a Democrat, said, repeating Trump’s alleged response to questions during the meeting about the large number of bomb threats against Jewish community centers in recent months.
“It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me,” Shapiro said of Trump’s remarks.
Bomb threats again reported at Jewish centers, including New York
Shapiro claimed Trump used the word “reverse,” “two or three times,” adding that Trump also called the threats “reprehensible” toward the beginning of his remarks.
Trump also said he would address the bomb threats during his speech Tuesday night before the joint session of Congress, according to Shapiro.
The White House disputed Shapiro’s description of Trump’s comments.
“This is not what he said or meant,” a White House spokesperson told the Daily News in an email.
“He means (he) was referring to protesters,” the spokesperson added.
Trump’s latest comments came one day after yet another wave of bomb threats hit Jewish community centers across America, including one in Staten Island.
Jewish centers in at least nine states faced threats throughout Monday morning and afternoon, causing closures and evacuations, but there were no actual attacks.
The targeted locations included at least four New York centers — in Staten Island, Tarrytown, New Rochelle and Plainview, according to officials and center representatives. Bomb threats also came in for centers in Cherry Hill, N.J.; Providence, R.I.; Asheville, N.C.; Mobile, Ala.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; Talleyville, Del.; and Indianapolis, Ind., according to local reports.
A spokesman for Trump condemned the threats Monday afternoon.
The latest calls, however, come amid another trend of anti-Semitic vandalism nationwide: In the past week, dozens of headstones at Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis were vandalized. Residents in Miami Beach, Fla. on Sunday reported finding swastikas carved onto their cars.
Law enforcement officers across the U.S. told The News Tuesday that there was absolutely no reason to believe Trump’s apparent claim — that such acts were being perpetrated by Jews — was occurring.
“There is no evidence of that,” said Lt. Fredrick Lemons, of the University City Police Department, which is investigating incidents of vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis,
“None of that at all,” he said, referring to Trump’s apparent suggestion that Jewish communities were committing anti-Semitic acts themselves. “We are still investigating.”
Lemons added that it has not yet been determined what the motivation of the vandalism is.
Trump has faced scathing criticism for having not responded earlier and more forcefully to the increasing threats — and his latest comments prompted another round of backlash.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman tweeted he was, “sadly not surprised — but certainly disturbed — by Pres.Trump’s apparent claim that threats against Jews are false flags.”
But in another twist, the White House incorrectly claimed that Schneiderman was among the attorneys general that met with Trump Tuesday morning.
Schneiderman’s office, however, told The News that he returned to New York Monday night — after spending the day at the first day of the National Association of Attorneys General conference in Washington — and did not visit the White House or meet with Trump on Tuesday.
In addition, the inaccurate list of attorneys general provided by the White House misspelled American Samoa (which also has an attorney general) as “American Sonoma.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told The News that Trump’s remarks were “an absurd and obscene statement,” while the Anti-Defamation League said it was “astonished.”
“It is incumbent upon the White House to immediately clarify these remarks,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “In light of the ongoing attacks on the Jewish community, it is also incumbent upon the President to lay out in his speech tonight his plans for what the federal government will do to address this rash of anti-Semitic incidents.”
“If the reports are true, President Trump has gone over the Anti-Semitic deep end,” Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center, said in a statement.”
“Mr. President, have you no decency? To cast doubt on the authenticity of Anti-Semitic hate crimes in America constitutes Anti-Semitism in itself, and that’s something none of us ever dreamed would disgrace our nation from the White House,” Goldstein added. “If the reports are true, you owe the American Jewish community an apology.”
Members of Trump’s inner circle have also faced similar criticism over not responding forcefully to anti-Semitism.
Earlier Tuesday, a former Trump campaign adviser, Anthony Scaramucci, posted an ambiguous screed to his Twitter wall that appeared to connect the recent bomb threats to Democratic lawmakers.
“It’s not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are. Don’t forget @TheDemocrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies,” Scaramucci tweeted, along with a link to a story from alt-new site Breitbart alleging that Democrats had hired “trained provocateurs to instigate violence at Republican events” during the 2016 campaign.