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 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.
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.
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 three New York centers — in Staten Island, Tarrytown and New Rochelle, 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, who has been criticized for not speaking out more quickly and forcefully, condemned the threats Monday afternoon.
“The President continues to condemn these, and other forms of anti-Semitic and hateful acts in the strongest terms,” said White House spokesman Sean Spicer. “No one in America should be afraid to follow the religion of their choosing freely.”
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.
Trump, for his part, has faced scathing criticism for having not responded earlier and more forcefully to the increasing threats.
And Trump’s latest comments prompted another round of backlash.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the Daily 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.”
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.”
Members of Trump’s inner circle have also faced similar criticism.
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.