President Donald Trump said Friday he does not regard white nationalism as a rising global threat in the aftermath of mosque terror attacks in New Zealand that left at least 49 people dead.
“I don’t really,” Trump said in the Oval Office after being questioned about whether he views white nationalism as growing. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”
Three people were arrested in connection with the shootings. They include a 28-year-old man who was charged with murder and was due to appear in court Saturday. The other two remain in custody. New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said authorities were investigating their ties to shootings that occurred as Muslims convened for Friday prayers, the busiest time for many mosques around the world. The suspected shooter livestreamed video of the attack and posted a manifesto online. In the manifesto, he identifies himself as a white man, born in Australia, and lists the white nationalists who have inspired him.
“If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that’s the case,” Trump said on white nationalism. “I don’t know enough about it yet. They’re just learning about the person and the people involved.”
Calling the attack “terrible thing,” Trump said he’d not yet seen the manifesto the mosque shooter wrote.
“I did not see it. I did not see it, but I think it’s a horrible event, it’s a horrible thing,” he said, adding he was first updated on the attack early Friday morning.
Trump referred to the attacks at a pair of New Zealand mosques as “terror attacks” during remarks, the first time the President had done so himself publicly.
Earlier Friday, Trump expressed over Twitter his condolences to the people of New Zealand.
“My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!” Trump tweeted.
Trump also tweeted that he had called Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, on Friday afternoon.
“Just spoke with Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, regarding the horrific events that have taken place over the past 24 hours. I informed the Prime Minister … that we stand in solidarity with New Zealand – and that any assistance the U.S.A. can give, we stand by ready to help. We love you New Zealand!” Trump wrote in two consecutive tweets.
National security adviser John Bolton said the US is “very concerned” and is following the events in New Zealand “very closely.”
“We’re obviously greatly disturbed on what seems to be a terror attack, this hate crime in New Zealand. We’ve been in touch with our embassy overnight, we’re still getting details, but the State Department and others are following up on it,” he told reporters Friday morning.
Ivanka Trump made a specific reference to Muslim communities in her condemnation.
“49 innocent people were slaughtered in their place of worship during the terrorist attack on Christchurch Mosques. We join New Zealand and Muslim communities around the world in condemnation of this evil as we pray for the families of each victim and grieve together,” the first daughter and adviser to the President tweeted.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, called the incident a terrorist attack in a Friday press conference, saying the suspects held “extremist views” that have no place in New Zealand or the world.
US Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown also expressed his condolences and pledged US solidarity.
“We’re heartbroken over the events in Christchurch today. We stand with our Kiwi friends and neighbors and our prayers are with you. Kia kaha,” Brown tweeted.
This story has been updated with additional developments Friday.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Helen Regan, Sandi Sidhu and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.