GREENSBORO, N.C. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claims that President Barack Obama is angrier at him than the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
“I watched President Obama today, and he was more angry at me than he was at the shooter,” Trump said at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Tuesday night, referring to Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed dozens at the Pulse nightclub. “And many people said that.”
Trump was reacting to Obama’s speech he made earlier in the day when the president angrily denounced the billionaire’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Obama’s rebuke was his most searing yet of the man seeking to take his seat in the Oval Office. While the president has frequently dismissed Trump as a buffoon or a huckster, this time he challenged the former reality television star as a “dangerous” threat to the nation’s safety, religious freedom and diversity.
“That’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our democratic ideals,” Obama declared in remarks that had been scheduled as simply updating the public on the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria campaign.
“One of the folks on television said, ‘Boy, has Trump gotten under his skin.’ The level of anger – that’s the kind of anger he should have for the shooter and these killers that shouldn’t be here,” Trump said.
On Monday, Trump delivered a fiery speech in which he vowed to impose a broad ban on immigrants from areas of the world with a history of terrorism and suggested some Muslims in the United States are turning a blind eye to unfolding plots.
As Obama argued that Trump’s ban on immigration would lead Muslim-Americans to believe their government had betrayed them, he urged Republicans to denounce the policy.
“Where does this stop?” Obama said, getting increasingly animated as he continued. “Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating against them because of their faith? … Do Republican officials actually agree with this?”
For some, the answer was plainly no. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the highest-ranking elected GOP official, emphasized his opposition, saying he did not think such a ban was “in our country’s interest” or “reflective of our principles not just as a party, but as a country.”
Republicans have instead hoped to focus on a broader criticism of the president’s counter-terrorism strategy as unfocused, ineffective and too soft of Islamic institutions and governments that support terrorism.
Obama directly addressed that argument, specifically taking on the Trump charge that his policies have been hampered by his refusal to use the phrase “radical Islam” when describing the forces urging attacks like the one in Orlando. Republicans have said the careful parsing is a sign of over-caution and political correctness that demonstrates denial about the groups responsible for the extremist view.
Trump said Sunday the president should resign if he does not use the phrase.
Obama dismissed the criticism as a “political talking point” and “not a strategy,” and he pointed to his success in tracking Osama bin Laden and other leaders, as evidence of his success.
“There is no magic to the phrase ‘radical Islam,”‘ he said. “Someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting? If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are — that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we have taken off the battlefield.”
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