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Democratic candidates blast Trump’s rhetoric in wake of two mass shootings

As the U.S. grapples with two deadly mass shootings in less than a day, some opponents of Donald Trump have directed criticism towards the president’s rhetoric on race and immigration.

READ MORE: 9 killed, 27 injured in Ohio during second mass shooting in U.S. within 24 hours

Several Democratic presidential nominees, including El Paso native Beto O’Rourke, have linked an uptick in hate-motivated violence to the president, either directly on indirectly.

Trump has condemned the attack in El Paso as a hateful act of cowardice.

“There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify the killing of innocent people,” he said in a tweet.

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God bless the people of El Paso Texas. God bless the people of Dayton, Ohio.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2019

Trump later said the issue of mass shootings must be addressed, adding that he would be making an additional statement on Monday.

He called the shooters “really very seriously mentally ill.”

Twenty people were killed by a gunman in the Texas-Mexico border city of El Paso on Saturday. Overnight, nine more people were killed in Dayton, Ohio.

More than 50 others were injured in the two attacks.

READ MORE: 20 dead, 26 wounded in El Paso, Texas, shooting: police

Police have not officially determined a motive in either case, but authorities in El Paso said they are investigating the authenticity of a racist rant posted online, and the attack is being probed as a hate crime.

WATCH: El Paso shooting being treated as domestic terror case: attorney

The so-called manifesto being linked to the alleged shooter said that he was motivated by hatred of Hispanics, whom he characterized as invading Texas.

Asked by a reporter if Trump has “blood on his hands” in the attack on his hometown, O’Rourke was unequivocal.

“President Trump bears responsibility in part for what happened in El Paso, Texas, yesterday,” the former Congressman said.

President Trump's racism does not just offend our sensibilities; it fundamentally changes the character of this country. And it leads to violence. pic.twitter.com/SbuxGneFnh

— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 4, 2019

Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, also drew connections to a resurgence in white nationalism and xenophobic politics in the United States.

“America is under attack from homegrown white nationalist terrorism,” Buttigieg said.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California also found blame in Trump’s use of language, which she said has “incredible consequence.”

“We have a president of the United States who has chosen to use his words in a way that have been about selling hate and division among us,” she told reporters.

Texas native Julian Castro, another Democratic hopeful, told CNN that Trump is inflaming tensions.

When Donald Trump fans the flames of hate and division, there are real consequences.

Tragedies like the El Paso shooting are preventable, and also sadly the result of mixing high powered weapons of war with uncontested bigotry.

— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) August 4, 2019

“The person that is responsible for the shooting is the shooter,” he said. “At the same time, if you’re in a position of leadership, you set the tone for the country and there’s no question that this is president is setting a tone of division and fanning the flames of bigotry and hate.”

Trump has recently come under fire for suggesting that four Democratic members of Congress — all women of colour who are U.S. citizens — “go back” to where they came from.

He also called Rep. Elijah Cummings’ majority black district of Baltimore as “disgusting” and “rodent infested.”

READ MORE: Trump calls majority black Baltimore district ‘disgusting,’ ‘rodent infested’

In an official statement in which he threatened imposing tariffs on Mexico, Trump described the recent influx of migrants across the U.S. southern border as an invasion and blamed crime on “illegal aliens.”

“As everyone knows, the United States of America has been invaded by hundreds of thousands of people coming through Mexico and entering our country illegally,” he said in May.

“This sustained influx of illegal aliens has profound consequences on every aspect of our national life — overwhelming our schools, overcrowding our hospitals, draining our welfare system and causing untold amounts of crime.”

With files from the Associated Press and Reuters

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