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On Sunday night, a gunman opened fire on a mosque in suburban Quebec City, leaving six people dead and many others wounded. Local authorities have since charged 27-year-old Canadian citizen Alexandre Bissonnette with murder and attempted murder for his alleged role in the attack.
In an address to the House of Commons shortly after the incident, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned the shooting. “Make no mistake: This was a terrorist attack,” Trudeau said. A number of world leaders quickly denounced the attack, with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling it “staggering in its cruelty and cynicism,” according to the Kremlin.
But more than three days after the shooting, the response from Canada’s southern neighbor has been remarkably muted.
President Donald Trump did call Trudeau on Monday to offer his condolences. While the White House did not offer a statement about the exchange, a spokesman for Trudeau told Canadian reporters that Trump had also “offered to provide any assistance as planned” during the phone call. White House spokesman Sean Spicer later confirmed the call took place when asked at a news briefing on Monday.
On Trump’s famed social media accounts, a bullhorn the president often uses to communicate with millions of followers, the attack in Quebec City does not appear to have been mentioned at all.
Trump’s personal Twitter account has posted 16 times since the shooting, and the official POTUS account on the same service tweeted or retweeted other messages 30 times. Neither mentioned the Quebec City attack as of Wednesday afternoon. During the same period, a Facebook account linked to Trump posted at least 20 times. It also had not mentioned the shooting by Wednesday.
That radio silence is unusual for Trump. The president is a ravenous consumer of media, and even before he entered the White House he was known to respond quickly and forcefully to acts of terror and mass murder abroad.
Just a few hours after an attack in Berlin on Dec. 19 in which a Tunisian-born man drove a truck through a Christmas market, killing 12 people, Trump released a statement that suggested “innocent civilians were murdered in the streets” as they prepared to celebrate the holiday. Trump fired up a tweet in just a few hours, noting that there had been a number of violent acts on the same day.
“It is only getting worse,” the soon-to-be president said. “The civilized world must change thinking!”
Today there were terror attacks in Turkey, Switzerland and Germany – and it is only getting worse. The civilized world must change thinking!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2016
A few days later he returned to the subject of the Berlin attack. “Such hatred!” he wrote. “When will the U.S., and all countries, fight back?”
slaughter you. This is a purely religious threat, which turned into reality. Such hatred! When will the U.S., and all countries, fight back?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2016
Over the past year, Trump tweeted more than 4,000 times. At least 49 of those tweets directly mentioned “terror” in some way. He often quickly and clearly responded to terror attacks on foreign soil. Here are just a few examples:
Man shot inside Paris police station. Just announced that terror threat is at highest level. Germany is a total mess-big crime. GET SMART!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2016
More radical Islam attacks today – it never ends! Strengthen the borders, we must be vigilant and smart. No more being politically correct.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 16, 2016
Far more killed than anticipated in radical Islamic terror attack yesterday. Get tough and smart U.S., or we won’t have a country anymore!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2016
Looks like yet another terrorist attack. Airplane departed from Paris. When will we get tough, smart and vigilant? Great hate and sickness!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2016
Incompetent Hillary, despite the horrible attack in Brussels today, wants borders to be weak and open-and let the Muslims flow in. No way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 23, 2016
Another radical Islamic attack, this time in Pakistan, targeting Christian women & children. At least 67 dead,400 injured. I alone can solve
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2016
A message of condolences and support regarding the terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv: https://t.co/iulXLEANei
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2016
Yet another terrorist attack, this time in Turkey. Will
the world ever realize what is going on? So sad.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 28, 2016
Yet another terrorist attack today in Israel — a father, shot at by a Palestinian terrorist, was killed while:https://t.co/Cv1HzKVbiT
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2016
The third mass attack (slaughter) in days by ISIS. 200 dead in Baghdad, worst in many years. We do not have leadership that can stop this!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2016
In light of the horrible attack in Nice, France, I have postponed tomorrow’s news conference concerning my Vice Presidential announcement.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2016
Another attack, this time in Germany. Many killed. God bless the people of Munich.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2016
The Palestinian terror attack today reminds the world of the grievous perils facing Israeli citizens….continued:https://t.co/d2Upx5FitC
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2016
In almost every case, Trump was responding to an attack claimed by a militant Islamist group. One of the only exceptions is the shooting in Munich, Germany, last July that left 10 people dead, including the perpetrator. While there was initial speculation that the attack was carried out by an Islamic extremist, it was later announced that the attacker was not religiously motivated and had in fact been obsessed with school shootings.
Trump did also refer, in passing, to a shooting at a mosque in Switzerland that left three injured in his Dec. 19 tweet. However, police later said that incident was not terror-related.
The attack in Quebec City does not appear to have been carried out by a Muslim or inspired by Islamic extremist ideology. In this case, the victims were Muslims and the shooting took place at a mosque, apparently the first mass shooting at an Islamic house of worship in North America.
The suspect, Quebec native Bissonnette, was attracted to far-right politics and known for posting comments on social media that denigrated refugees and women on social media, an acquaintance told the Globe and Mail. Bissonnette was also said to be a supporter of French National Front leader Marine Le Pen — and President Trump himself.
Trump also appears to have never mentioned the 2015 Charleston church shooting on his Twitter account, and did not share a reaction when white supremacist Dylann Roof was found guilty of the murders of nine African American churchgoers in the attack.
The president has only been office for less than two weeks, and he may be finding that the transition period keeps him busier than he was last year. But since Sunday’s attack, Trump has found time to tweet a number of times about an executive order that blocked access to the United States for Syrian refugees and a number of other Muslim-majority countries.
Meanwhile, members of Trump’s camp have seemingly referred to the shooting in Quebec City as a justification for Trump’s executive order. Spicer told reporters Monday that the attack was a “terrible reminder” of “why the president is taking steps to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to our nation’s safety and security.” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, was also found to have “liked” a tweet that suggested that if the Quebec City shooter was found to be a Muslim, it would give Trump’s executive order “political capital.”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.