Trump meets with Las Vegas shooting survivors: 'We're going to pay our respects'

WASHINGTON – President Trump landed Wednesday in Las Vegas to speak with survivors of the mass shooting that left at least 58 people dead and wounded 500 others.

"It's a very sad thing," Trump told reporters of the deadly shooting, as he exited the White House in the early morning. "We're going to pay our respects."

The president and first lady Melania Trump traveled to University Medical Center in Las Vegas for a private visit with patients and medical professionals, with no news coverage.

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.

Later in the day, the Trumps will head to an undisclosed location to meet with what the White House schedule simply listed as "civilian heroes" and first responders.

"The police who have done really a fantastic job in a very short time," Trump said 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." 

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."

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.

Previewing his Las Vegas trip with reporters on Tuesday night, Trump said he has been fully briefed on the investigation into Stephen Paddock, the suspected gunman who fired guns into a crowd of concert goers on Sunday night which also injured more than 500 people.

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!"

While some lawmakers said the shooting underscores the need for more and better gun control, Trump has declined to discuss that subject.

"We’ll talk about that on a later date," he told reporters aboard Air Force One as he returned from surveying hurricane recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. 

Declaring that visit a success, Trump said Puerto Rico residents praised the government's efforts to help them recover from Hurricane Maria.

"I think it means a lot to the people of Puerto Rico that I was there," Trump said. "They’ve really responded very nicely, and I think it meant a lot to the people of Puerto Rico."

During a briefing, Trump also cracked a joke about the cost of the recovery, saying that "now I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you've thrown our budget a little out of whack," a comment that drew barbs from critics.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., hit Trump for having "the gall to complain about Puerto Rico" while he has proposed "tax cuts for billionaires" throughout the United States. He also noted that Trump didn't tell jokes about Texas and Florida after their hurricanes.

"Mr. President, enough," Schumer said. "Stop blaming Puerto Rico for the storm that devastated their shores, and roll up your sleeves and get the recovery on track. That’s your job as President."

Before leaving for Las Vegas, Trump protested some of the news coverage of the Puerto Rico visit and presumably other events.

"Wow, so many Fake News stories today," Trump tweeted. "No matter what I do or say, they will not write or speak truth. The Fake News Media is out of control!"

Contributing: Brett Kelman Alden Woods reported from Las Vegas. 

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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