(CNN) — More than three years after announcing he was motivated to run for office to redeem “the soul of the nation” from a surge of White nationalism, President Joe Biden arrived Tuesday in another American city marred by an act of violent racism.
The President and first lady Jill Biden are in Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday to meet with community leaders, first responders and the families of victims of a mass shooting that left 10 people dead and three wounded.
In Buffalo, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday, the first couple “will comfort the families of the 10 people whose lives were senselessly taken in this horrific shooting. And they will express gratitude for the bravery of members of law enforcement and other law enforcement members who took immediate action to try and protect and save lives.”
Biden will deliver remarks at 1 p.m. ET and condemn the shooting as “terrorism motivated by a hateful and perverse ideology that tears at the soul of our nation,” a White House official told CNN.
According to the official, Biden will call on Americans “to give hate no safe harbor, and to reject the lies of racial animus that radicalize, divide us, and led to the act of racist violence we saw on Saturday that took the lives of 10 of our countrymen.”
Biden will also call on Congress to take legislative steps to bar those with mental illness from acquiring weapons.
Josh Geltzer, deputy homeland security adviser at the National Security Council, on Tuesday suggested new executive actions on guns could be coming but did not elaborate.
“We have a firearms problem in this country,” Geltzer told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins on “New Day.” “This weekend drove that home, not just in Buffalo, but elsewhere in the country. And so you will hear more from the President about how we will continue to use executive action where we can to try to protect Americans.”
Biden is also expected to address the shooter’s racist motives in his remarks from Buffalo, calling on Americans “to seek a more perfect union that embraces the diversity that has made us the strongest and most dynamic nation in the history of the world,” the official said.
Biden condemned the shooting in Buffalo in a statement on Saturday night, saying, “Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America.”
“Hate must have no safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism,” he continued in the statement.
Buffalo shooting being investigated as a hate crime
Saturday’s massacre in Buffalo is the latest high-profile mass shooting in which authorities have said the suspect was motivated by hate, including attacks at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas; the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
The 18-year-old suspected of opening fire at a Tops Friendly Markets store in a predominantly Black neighborhood told authorities he was targeting the Black community, according to an official familiar with the investigation. He traveled from another New York county hours away and livestreamed the attack on the social media platform Twitch. He had plans to continue his shooting rampage and kill more Black people, authorities said on Monday.
The suspect, Payton S. Gendron, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder, and the district attorney has said he expects to file more charges. Gendron is in custody without bail and under suicide watch. If convicted, he faces a maximum of life in prison without parole.
The US Department of Justice is investigating the mass shooting “as a hate crime and an act of racially motivated violent extremism,” according to a statement from US Attorney General Merrick Garland. The FBI is assisting in the investigation.
A 180-page document attributed to the shooting suspect and posted online before the attack lays out the alleged shooter’s motives and shows the meticulous planning that went into the massacre. CNN independently obtained the document shortly after the mass shooting — before authorities released the name of the suspect — and law enforcement sources have told CNN its description of guns matches the weapons the suspect used.
White House declines to single out figures espousing ideologies mirrored by suspect
When asked on Monday whether the President would use Tuesday’s trip to call on Congress to pass gun reform legislation, Jean-Pierre said that his priority was mainly to “offer some comfort” to the community.
“That is going to be our priority with the first lady. I don’t want to get ahead of what he is going to say,” she said, adding that the President plans to continue to call on Congress to pass gun reform throughout the year.
Jean-Pierre also declined to specifically name individuals espousing “hatred” in the wake of the shooting.
Pressed on why the White House was not calling out prominent figures espousing some of the same theories the shooting suspect wrote about, Jean-Pierre told CNN’s MJ Lee it was “because it doesn’t matter who it is.”
“If a person espouses hatred, we need to call that out,” she said.
Jean-Pierre said she didn’t want to “get into a back-and-forth on names and who said what,” but insisted that “if there’s an individual that is espousing hate, xenophobia … just White supremacy type of extremism, we need to call that out.”
“This President has done that … at every at every unfortunate, every violent event that we have seen. Charlottesville, as I just mentioned, was the reason that he decided jump into this election back in 2020,” Jean-Pierre continued, referring to the deadly White supremacist rally in 2017 Biden has said motivated him to run against then-President Donald Trump.
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