Donald Trump downplays threat of white nationalism after New Zealand shootings

David Jackson and John Fritze

WASHINGTON – While expressing support for New Zealand as it copes with mass killings at two mosques, President Donald Trump said Friday he doesn't see a rising threat from the kinds of white nationalists who are suspected of involvement in the shootings.

“I don't really, I think it’s a small group of people," Trump told reporters at the White House as he vetoed a congressional resolution that had rescinded his declaration of a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Authorities in New Zealand have charged Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old white male with white supremacist views, with murder in Friday's terrorist attacks at two mosques in New Zealand that killed 49 people. Police have detained at least two other people.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, criticized Trump's comments in a tweet that included a link to a "list of white nationalist hate groups" now operating in the United States.

"Contrary to your misguided belief, @POTUS, white nationalism is very much a growing threat," Thompson said.

Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., told CNN he was disappointed with the president's comments: “That kind of dismissal, especially from the president... I think is hurtful.”

Before the signing the veto, Trump said he spoke by phone with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern “to express the sorrow of our entire nation” over the "horrible, horrible" shooting. 

Earlier in the day, Ardern said the shooter targeted Muslims because of their religion, and she issued "the strongest possible condemnation of the ideology of the people who did this."

"You may have chosen us," she said, "but we are utterly reject and condemn you."

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President Donald Trump speaking on Friday.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump downplays threat of white nationalism after New Zealand shootings