Merkley: Trump bears some responsibility for 'wave of violence'

Story highlights

  • Oregon senator said he was dissatisfied with Trump's condemnation of the Portland stabbings
  • "But to the wave of violence, yes, he bears responsibility," he said

Portland, Oregon (CNN)In the wake of a fatal stabbing in Portland last week, a US senator from Oregon said that President Donald Trump bears some responsibility for a "wave of violence" in the country.

Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley told CNN after a town hall meeting Tuesday night that he was dissatisfied with Trump's condemnation of the stabbings, saying a Twitter message from the @POTUS account "didn't sound like President Trump" and, separately, accused him of encouraging hate speech during his 2016 campaign.
Asked if Merkley was saying Trump should bear any responsibility for incidents like the stabbing, the senator argued that Trump bears responsibility for a larger "wave of violence."
    "You probably can't tie him directly to one particular act of violence. But to the wave of violence, yes, he bears responsibility," he said.
    Trump's tweet came Monday morning after the Friday night incident left two men dead and another wounded. The victims were stabbed as they attempted to calm a man who was yelling at two women, one of whom was wearing a hijab.
    "The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them," read the tweet.
    Merkley noted that the tweet came from Trump's presidential account, rather than his more famous personal account, and urged the President to go further by giving a speech.
    "He should call all three families, and then after calling them, he should speak to the nation," Merkley said.
    As he has argued before, Merkley said Trump's presidential campaign last year "encouraged hate speech" and "divisions."
    "I feel like much of what has happened with these hate crimes falls directly from who he is," Merkley said.
    Trump addressed hate crimes earlier this year when he condemned threats and vandalism of Jewish community centers, as well as a shooting in Kansas City in which a man shot two Indian-American engineers, killing one of them.
    "While we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms," Trump said in a joint address to Congress.
    After winning the election in November, Trump disavowed the alt-right movement that supported his candidacy. "I don't want to energize the group, and I disavow the group," he told reporters and editors at The New York Times in a meeting.
    "It's not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why," he added.
    During his campaign, Trump strongly pushed back against critics, including Hillary Clinton, who described him and some of his followers as racist.
    When Clinton was set to deliver a speech last August blasting the alt-right movement, the Republican nominee delivered a counter-speech in New Hampshire defending his rhetoric and policies. He specifically argued that anyone who wants stronger borders isn't a "racist," anyone who's worried about letting in refugees isn't an "Islamophobe," and anyone who supports police in the Black Lives Matter debate isn't "prejudiced."