Following a week of tragedy, chaos, and fear, President Donald Trump took the stage in Illinois on Saturday night for another one of his raucous campaign rallies.
On Saturday morning, a shooter opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and injuring six others.
The rest of the week, the nation was gripped by bomb scares as prominent targets of Trump’s ire, from former President Barack Obama to CNN, received explosive devices in the mail. Suspect Cesar Sayoc Jr. has been arrested and charged with sending the series of pipe bombs.
As Trump began speaking to the crowd in Murphysboro just before 5:30 p.m. local time, he acknowledged, “This was a rough, rough week for all of us.”
“The hearts of all Americans are filled with grief following the monstrous killing of Jewish Americans at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” he said.
When Trump said the suspect, 48-year-old Robert Bowers, was in custody, the crowd interrupted him to cheer.
“This evil, anti-Semitic attack is an assault on all of us,” he said. “It’s an assault on humanity. It will require all of us working together to extract the hateful poison of anti-Semitism from our world.”
Trump continued: “The scourge of anti-Semitism cannot be ignored, cannot be tolerated, and it cannot be allowed to continue. We can’t allow it to continue. It must be confronted and condemned everywhere it rears its very ugly head.”
The crowd cheered loudly again when Trump saluted the “heroes of American law enforcement”, four of whom were among those injured in the shooting.
Earlier in the day, the president said gun laws had “little to do” with the shooting and that “results would have been better” if there was “protection” within the synagogue when a reporter asked if he felt compelled to “revisit gun laws” in light of the massacre.
Trump said he considered canceling the rally, but ultimately told reporters on Air Force One en route to the event that he decided not to because, “We can’t let evil change our life and change our schedule.”
Speaking on the issue at the rally, he added: “I don’t want to change our lives for someone sick and evil.”
Trump pivoted from the tragedy in Pennsylvania to call for some of his pet issues, including religious freedom, law and order, and “rallying around our great American flag.” He also used the shooting as an opportunity to champion the death penalty.
“If you don’t mind, I’m going to tone it down just a little bit,” Trump then said, and when some in the crowd loudly shouted, “No!”, he shifted to full-0n campaign mode, pushing Republican causes like tougher immigration enforcement.
The president was in southern Illinois showing his support for Rep. Mike Bost, who’s locked in a tight reelection campaign.
After Saturday’s rally, Trump is heading to at least eight more states to campaign for Republicans before the midterm elections in 10 days.