Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan all rejected Muslim immigration ban
President Barack Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan, the nation’s leading Democratic and Republican elected officials, rebuked presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump over his response to this weekend’s Orlando massacre, rejecting his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
Mr. Trump also came under more fire from expected Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, who said his policies would make America less safe.
The swift, bipartisan criticism illustrates the steep challenges ahead for the political newcomer as he enters the general-election phase of the presidential race.
Recent polls show Mrs. Clinton moving further ahead of Mr. Trump, even though she has yet to hold a series of events to try to unify the Democratic Party at the close of her extended primary battle with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. She leads Mr. Trump by more than four points in the average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics.
“Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently?” Mr. Obama said. “Are we going to start discriminating against them, because of their faith?” The president added that isn’t the America he wants.
Mr. Trump remained defiant. “President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people,” Mr. Trump said in an emailed statement on Tuesday. “When I am president, it will always be America first.”
Later Tuesday at a rally in Greensboro N.C., Mr. Trump said, “He was more angry at me than he was at the shooter…That’s the kind of anger he should have for the shooter.”
The rhetorical exchanges came after Mr. Trump also raised questions about Mr. Obama’s response to the extremist threat, saying that Mr. Obama “doesn’t get it, or he gets it better than anybody understands.”
Mrs. Clinton called her likely Republican rival’s comments “shameful” and “disrespectful.”
“Even in a time of divided politics, this is way beyond anything that should be said by someone running for president,” the former secretary of state told supporters in Pittsburgh.
“I have to ask: Will responsible Republican leaders stand up to their presumptive nominee, or will they stand by his accusation about our president?” she said.
The president never uttered Mr. Trump’s name in his remarks, while Mrs. Clinton repeatedly referred to her likely rival simply as “Donald.”
For his part, Mr. Ryan called for an alliance with moderate Muslims to combat Islamic terrorists—instead of the sweeping ban Mr. Trump has advocated. Mr. Ryan said the U.S. should tighten its screening process of refugees entering the country, rather than impose a religious test.
“I do not think a Muslim ban is in our country’s interest. I do not think it is reflective of our principles—not just as a party, but as a country,” Mr. Ryan said.
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican running in a tight re-election race, also said Mr. Trump’s comments after Orlando were “offensive.”
Brian Reisinger, spokesman for Mr. Johnson’s Senate re-election campaign, said his boss finds Mr. Trump’s comments about the Orlando attack to be “wrong,” adding that “we need to focus on areas of agreement that unite us in a strong commitment to destroy ISIS and battle Islamic terrorism. Ron hopes the president and people from both parties will agree on this objective,” he said.
Clinton campaign officials have said that the Orlando killings, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, and Mr. Trump’s response to it, underscore how important national security will be in the presidential election, and bolster their contention that the New York businessman is temperamentally unfit for the job of commander in chief.
Mr. Trump blamed Sunday’s shooting on the president and his former secretary of state, saying that they restrained intelligence gathering and presided over a dysfunctional immigration system that brought Islamic terrorists to the U.S. The presumptive Republican nominee also denounced Mrs. Clinton’s infrequent use of the term “radical Islam.”
“She has no clue, in my opinion, what radical Islam is, and she won’t speak honestly about it if she does, in fact, know,” Mr. Trump said Monday. “She’s in total denial, and her continuing reluctance to ever name the enemy broadcasts weakness across the entire world—true weakness.”
On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton said Mr. Trump was fixated on the terminology. She asked, “Is Donald Trump suggesting that there are magic words that, once uttered, will stop terrorists from coming after us?”
Mr. Obama raised the same point, suggesting that using the “radical Islam” label more frequently wouldn’t lessen Islamic State militants’ commitment to killing Americans.
“Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away,” he said. “This is a political distraction.”
Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton also repeated their calls for tougher restrictions on guns Tuesday, saying that the U.S. needs to make it harder for people who want to kill to obtain “weapons of war.”
Omar S. Mateen, the the New York-born son of Afghan immigrants whom police have identified as the Orlando shooter, legally bought a rifle and a handgun in recent days, according to law enforcement officials.
“Let’s get this straight: We have reached the point where people can’t board planes with full bottles of shampoo,” Mrs. Clinton said. “But people being watched by the FBI for suspected terrorist links can buy a gun with no questions asked. That is absurd.”
Mr. Trump said Monday that Mrs. Clinton wants to take away Americans’ guns and that he wants to ensure people have the means to protect themselves in the age of terror.