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Trump says he sees no rise in white nationalism after New Zealand attack

The Hill logo The Hill 3/15/2019 Morgan Chalfant

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Trump says he sees no rise in white nationalism after New Zealand attack © Getty Trump says he sees no rise in white nationalism after New Zealand attack President Trump on Friday said he doesn't see a rise in white nationalism, despite a deadly gun attack at two mosques in New Zealand that killed at least 49 people.

"I don't really, I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office when asked if he sees a rise in white nationalism. "If you look what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet."

He called the shooting a "horrible, horrible thing."

At least 49 people were killed in an attack on two mosques in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand midday Friday. A 28-year-old suspect has been charged with murder in connection with the attack. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described the shooting as having been carried out by suspects with "extremist views."

A social media account believed to be linked to the gunman posted a lengthy manifesto expressing anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim views shortly before the attack. The individual also wrote that he supported Trump "as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose" but not as a "policy maker and leader."

Trump said Friday afternoon he had not seen the manifesto, but called the shooting a "horrible act." He took questions in the Oval Office after vetoing a resolution of disapproval of his emergency declaration to build a wall at the U.S. southern border.

Earlier, Trump wrote on Twitter that he spoke to Ardern and offered U.S. assistance to the country in the aftermath of the attack.

Friday's developments have triggered fresh debate about Trump's own rhetoric and whether he is responsible for stoking white nationalism or anti-Muslim views.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said earlier Friday that the suspect was "wrong" to call Trump a symbol of "white identity" and called the shooter "evil."

"He's wrong. The shooter is an evil, hateful person. He's wrong about that," Conway told reporters at the White House.

Jordan Fabian contributed.

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