WASHINGTON - In the shadow of the Las Vegas hotel from which a sniper took out 58 innocent lives, President Trump sought Wednesday to comfort survivors, while avoiding talk of gun control or the ongoing investigation into the worst mass shooting in modern history.
"The message I have is: 'We have a great country and we are there for you,'" Trump said after meeting with patients and medical personnel at a local hospital in a stunned city crawling with security.
At the hospital and in meetings with first responders and volunteers, Trump sought to keep the focus on the loss of loved ones and the heroism of ordinary people who tended to victims and kept the death toll down.
In formal remarks as the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Trump said he was honored to be "in the company of heroes."
He discussed his meetings with hospitalized patients, and "we ask God to ease their suffering." He paid tribute to those who lost loved ones in a hail of bullets white attending a country music concert.
"Our souls are stricken with grief," the president said. "We know your sorrow feels endless....We will endure the pain together. We will overcome it together as Americans."
During the day, Trump said investigators have not yet determined what motivated shooting suspect Stephen Paddock, but they are "looking very hard."
And when a reporter asked if he would offer any gun policy proposals, he said simply: "We are not going to talk about that today."
Later, during a meeting of first responders, Trump praised his hosts for helping save lives in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. Citing the "tremendous number of stories of great heroism," Trump complimented police and emergency personnel. "I've always known you guys were good," he said.
In his meeting with law enforcement, Trump described the shooter as a "sick, demented man."
Earlier, the president and first lady Melania Trump traveled to University Medical Center in Las Vegas. In all, 104 people were rushed to UMC after the shooting late Sunday night. Four of those patients died after arriving with what medical staff described as “non-survivable injuries.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, 12 patients remained in critical condition. The hospital has released about 40 patients, while others remain in somewhere between fair and serious condition.
Security was tight as Trump headed for his meeting with survivors.
As the motorcade approached the hospital, a group of police officers and Secret Service fanned across the lobby. Two men in matching tan suits guarded the front door. Another stood at the back end of the lobby, examining every person who walked past.
A throng of doctors, nurses and other hospital staff pressed themselves against a thick set of double doors, awaiting Trump.
White House staff had selected a few patients and others to meet Trump, and only people on the list were allowed through the doors.
"If you guys were asked to stay, stay here." a Las Vegas police officer shouted. "If not, please proceed to your area."
During the visit, Trump posed for pictures with patients and members of the hospital staff.
After landing in Las Vegas, both Air Force One and the presidential motorcade rolled within sight of Mandalay Bay, the hotel that the sniper used as a perch to fire upon at people attending a music concert Sunday night.
Before his trip, Trump praised the police and refused to discuss his briefings on the investigation.
"The police who have done really a fantastic job in a very short time," Trump said earlier Wednesday. "And yeah they’re learning a lot more. And that’ll be announced at the appropriate time. It’s a very, very sad day for me, personally."
Previewing his Las Vegas trip with reporters on Tuesday night, Trump said he has been fully briefed on the investigation into Paddock, the suspected gunman who fired guns into the crowd of concert goers.
Trump declined to discuss what might have motivated the shooter, only that he was "a sick and demented person."
The president has also described the reaction to the Vegas shooting as a "miracle."
On Twitter, Trump said Tuesday that "it is a 'miracle' how fast the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police were able to find the demented shooter and stop him from even more killing!"
Many Democrats have called for increased gun control measures in the wake of this latest mass shooting; some Republicans said such measures are unnecessary and would not have prevented the tragedy.
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