Political News

Comey to Trump after shootings: 'You owe us more than condolences sent via Twitter'

Posted August 4, 2019 6:50 p.m. EDT

— Former FBI Director James Comey, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said in a blistering op-ed for The New York Times that Trump's efforts to "exploit the radioactive energy of racism" are "more dangerous" than he realizes.

"America has long had a radioactive racist soup in the center of our national life. Donald Trump thinks he is stirring it for political benefit. He's actually doing something more dangerous," Comey wrote in the piece published Sunday.

Comey's comments come after a series of racist tweets from Trump last month aimed at lawmakers of color and in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, where a white supremacist killed at least 20 people in a shopping center -- one of two massacres by gunmen in the US in less than 24 hours. Earlier Sunday, Trump tweeted, "God bless the people of El Paso Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio," and, separately, ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff as "a mark of solemn respect" for the victims of the tragedies.

"Every American president, knowing what lies deep within our country, bears a unique responsibility to say loudly and consistently that white supremacy is illegitimate, that encouraging a politics of racial resentment can spawn violence, and that violence aimed at people by virtue of their skin color is terrorism," Comey wrote. "Mr. President, because of what you have done, you owe us more than condolences sent via Twitter. You must stop trying to unleash and exploit the radioactive energy of racism."

Comey cited Trump's silence during a "send her back" chant aimed at minority Congresswoman Illhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, and his remarks in 2017 that there were "fine people" on both sides of a Charlottesville, Virginia, neo-Nazi rally as evidence Trump is stirring "racist soup" for his benefit.

"Our president thinks he is doing something clever. He lifts the control rods for a calculated and deeply cynical purpose: to harness the political energy unleashed," Comey says. "It will heat his re-election bid, he likely thinks. But unconstrained, it will damage the nation, in all directions. Only fools believe they can ride the gamma rays of hate."

Prompted by the shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, Democrats used similarly pointed language to describe Trump on Sunday. Democratic presidential candidate and El Paso native Beto O'Rourke told CNN's Jake Tapper Sunday that he views Trump as a white nationalist.

"The things that he has said both as a candidate and then as the President of the United States, this cannot be open for debate," O'Rourke said.

Speaking to reporters on a tarmac in New Jersey Sunday after a weekend spent at his golf club in Bedminster, Trump said, "Hate has no place in our country and we're gonna take care of it."

The President added that "perhaps more has to be done" to address gun violence," but he did not address questions related to white supremacy.

Comey ended his op-ed with a call to action for Trump, writing that the President holds "the biggest control rod of all."

"You must push it back into place, for all our sakes. The vast majority of Americans believe the core ideals of our founding documents and we expect our culture to reflect those ideals," he wrote.

"Show us you believe in them, too."