White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday accused a reporter of suggesting that President Donald Trump is “complicit” in school shootings after the reporter asked what Trump intends to do about the issue.
NBC News’ Peter Alexander cited recent school shootings in Kentucky, Texas and Louisiana, as well as the October 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, where a gunman killed 58 people and left more than 500 injured.
“After the Vegas shooting, you said it was an unspeakable tragedy from that podium, said it was a day for consoling survivors and mourning those who we lost. You said there’s a time and place for political debate,” he asked. “What has the President done in the time since October to try to prevent any of these shootings from taking place?”
Sanders said Trump’s administration has “tried to crack down on crime throughout the country” but claimed it is contending with “two years of increased violence prior to the President taking office.”
“The President instructed his administration to make the recent crime wave a top priority,” Sanders said, and cited violent crime prosecutions, federal firearm prosecutions, gang- and drug trafficking-related convictions as examples of actions.
“But what is the President specifically doing?” Alexander pressed. “You guys said at the time, today was not the day, but we should have these policy—”
“Look, I just read off a lot of the things that he’s doing,” Sanders interrupted.
“You said we should have the policy conversations,” Alexander continued. “So the question is, what is the policy the President is willing to pursue or actively direct others to pursue to help make sure that these students are safe?”
“The Department of Justice instructed ATF to do a thorough review on a number of firearm provisions,” Sanders said, referring to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “That is ongoing.”
She again cited a “crime wave that took place long before the President ever came into office,” and claimed, “You’re seeing the Department of Justice that is being active, empowering its law enforcements, to crack down on crime, and that’s what those results that I just read out to you show.”
“But our schoolchildren seem to be their own category,” Alexander said.
“I think they’re part of a crime wave, absolutely. I don’t think you can completely separate the two,” Sanders replied. “And you can see some of the things that we’ve done since taking office.”
“Will the President come before the nation and tell Americans how he feels about this issue and try to do what he can with the bully pulpit to help—” Alexander interrupted, before Sanders broke in again.
“I think he has, Peter,” she said. “Hold on. I was polite and let you finish, but let me be very clear on this. The fact that you’re basically accusing the President of being complicit in a school shooting is outrageous.”
“I’m not accusing the President of anything,” Alexander replied.
“The President has been very clear and instructed the top law enforcement agency in this country to crack down on crime and to do everything they can to prevent these types of things,” Sanders continued. “We’ve talked about it here numerous times and we’re going to continue moving forward in that process. Thanks, guys.”
She then ended the briefing.