White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders teared up Monday while starting her first White House press conference after the Las Vegas rampage that became the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
Later in the conference, she dodged giving specifics about President Trump’s reactions to the shooting and said it was not the time for a discussion about gun control policy.
“The American spirit cannot and will not ever be broken,” Sanders said through tears in her opening statement at the White House podium.
“In the days ahead, we will grieve as a nation. We will honor the memory of those lost as a nation. And we will come together united as one nation under God and indivisible.”
When she began taking questions, Sanders gave no indication that the shooting, which left at least 58 people dead, had made President Trump more willing to consider stronger gun control legislation.
“I think that’s something we can talk about in the coming days and see what that looks like moving forward,” she said.
“When that time comes for those conversations to take place, then I think we need to look at things that may actually have a real impact.”
Sanders also didn’t say if Trump considered the gunman Stephen Paddock to be a domestic terrorist.
“We’re still on a fact finding mission,” she said.
“This is an ongoing investigation. It would be premature to weigh in on something like that before.”
Mass shooting at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas
Trump himself also avoided any explicit mention of gun violence in his first remarks after the attack, and he made no explicit comment about Paddock.
White House reporters pointed out that Trump as a candidate was eager to point fingers and propose policies after recent rampages — such as the mass shootings in San Bernadino, Calif. and Orlando, Fla. — that were eventually ruled as terror attacks. He has done the same thing for several foreign terror attacks since taking office.
After the Orlando shooting in June 2016, in which a gunman killed 49 people at a gay nightclub, Trump publicly predicted that it was the work of an Islamic terrorist. When the investigation later proved him correct, he tweeted, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”
When asked about this contrast on Monday, Sanders simply told reporters, “There’s a difference between being a candidate and being the President.”