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Obama To Return Early To U.S. And Visit Dallas; Other Politicians Call For Unity

Flags fly at half-staff on Friday at Dallas City Hall, following the fatal shootings of five police officers the night before.
Stewart F. House
Getty Images
Flags fly at half-staff on Friday at Dallas City Hall, following the fatal shootings of five police officers the night before.

During tragedy, many look to leadership for guidance.

The deaths of five Dallas law enforcement officers Thursday and two black men at the hands of police earlier this week have prompted politicians to respond.

President Obama spoke about the events from Poland early Friday morning, but later in the day announced that he would return to Washington, D.C., on Sunday night. That's one day earlier than planned. The White House also announced he plans to travel to Dallas early next week.

In this divisive election year, many politicians called for putting aside differences to offer condolences and calls for unity.

Here is how some of the presidential candidates and other politicians have responded.

Donald Trump

Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump on Friday evening released a video response to the shootings on his Facebook page. In it, he condemned the shootings of Dallas law enforcement officers Thursday night as well as the deaths of two black men who were killed by police in the previous days.

In the video, he said that "We must stand in solidarity with law enforcement, which we must remember is the force between civilization and total chaos."

He said the deaths of the two men in Louisiana and Minnesota, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, reveal "how much more work we have to do to make every American feel that their safety is protected" and that the country's "racial division [has] gotten worse not better."

In light of the events, the candidate canceled his expected trip to Miami, where he had reportedly planned to meet with Hispanic leaders.

Trump released a statement earlier Friday, his first response to the shootings this week. He called for restoring "law and order" and "confidence of our people to be safe and secure in their homes and on the street."

"Our nation has become too divided. Too many Americans feel like they've lost hope. Crime is harming too many citizens. Racial tensions have gotten worse, not better," Trump continued. "This isn't the American Dream we all want for our children."

He said now is a time for "strong leadership, love and compassion." Trump also tweeted his condolences earlier Friday morning:

Hillary Clinton

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was scheduled to campaign with Vice President Biden and then hold a finance event in the Scranton, Pa., area Friday. She canceled those events, but appeared on CNN and MSNBC Friday afternoon and traveled to Philadelphia for the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church's national convention.

In Philadelphia, she addressed the recent shootings and applauded police officers for running toward the gunfire in Dallas, but also called for action to combat racism, urging Americans to ask themselves, "What can I personally do to stop violence and promote justice? How can I show that your life matters to me, that I have a stake in your safety and well-being?"

In the CNN interview, Clinton said she has been working to "close the racial divide" for her entire adult life and put the onus on white people to "put [themselves] in the shoes of African-American families" and "start listening to to legitimate cries" coming from the African-American community.

"I thought we were on the right track, somehow we have veered off of it in recent years," Clinton said.

On MSNBC, Clinton called for support of police officers and also urged the country to start taking action on racism and police brutality:

"I believe we need a national conversation, and we start showing respect toward one another. Seeing each other, walking in each other's shoes.

I think we have to show our support for our police under very difficult circumstances, particularly as we have seen in the last day, the bravery of police officers running toward danger and being shot down.

At the same time, we've got to do criminal justice reform and we need national guidelines about the use of force, particularly lethal force so routine traffic stops don't escalate into killings."

She also tweeted her condolences on Friday morning:

That tweet followed several other tweets and a statement Thursday supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and calling for the country to learn from "police officers demonstrating how to protect the public without resorting to unnecessary force."

Paul Ryan

On the House floor Friday, Speaker Paul Ryan responded to the shootings in Dallas, calling for unity among the American people:

"There will be a temptation to let our anger harden our divisions. Let's not let that happen. There's going to be a temptation to let our anger send us further into our corners. Let's not let that happen. That script is just easy to write — it's too predictable."

He also addressed gun violence and racism in his statement, but did not mention explicitly Alton Sterling or Philando Castile, the two black men who died at the hands of police in Louisiana and Minnesota:

"Every member of this body — every Republican and every Democrat — wants to see less gun violence. Every member of this body wants a world in which people feel safe regardless of the color of their skin. And that's not how people are feeling these days.

Sometimes we disagree on how to get there. Sometimes we disagree passionately on how to get there. But in having this debate, let's not lose sight of the values that unite us. Let's not lose sight in our common humanity."

See the full video of his response below.

Nancy Pelosi

After Ryan's comments, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took the floor. She began by agreeing with Ryan that "this must not harden our divisions but should unify us as a country."

But Pelosi diverged from Ryan by explicitly mentioning Sterling and Castile and the possible link between their deaths and the deaths of the five police officers in Dallas.

"I also want to reference a remark of the mayor of Dallas when he said, 'We must get to the root causes of what happened last night.' And in that spirit, I want to also acknowledge Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile. We have to get the facts and to the root causes of what caused these tragedies."

She ended by thanking the families of the police officers. See the video below for full remarks.

Harry Reid

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid took to Twitter on Thursday to condemn the deaths of Sterling and Castile and said Americans have to "stop pretending the system is fair and fine."

After the incident in Dallas on Thursday night, he tweeted again and issued a statement on his website, calling for solidarity against a "senseless, evil act."

Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a statement on his website in response to the Dallas shootings, calling them "unconscionable." McConnell added that the killings were a "cruel reminder that law enforcement officials selflessly put themselves in harm's way day in and day out to keep our communities safe."

He ended by saying, "Now is the time to come together as nation, not pull further apart, and let justice and healing be our guide."

Newt Gingrich

Former House speaker — and possible vice presidential pick for Donald Trump — Newt Gingrich responded through a medium he has been using a lot lately: Facebook's live video feature.

In a video with CNN political commentator Van Jones, Gingrich was candid about his own struggle to understand racism in America:

"It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years to get a sense of this. If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don't understand being black in America and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk."

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator and democratic presidential candidate, also tweeted Friday morning, calling the Dallas attacks "horrifying and despicable." He tweeted several times the day before in response to the shooting of Sterling and Castile.

Other Lawmakers

Below is a small collection of other lawmakers' responses to the shootings this week. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., posted a video statement where he encouraged Americans to "put ourselves in each other's shoes." Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., responded by condemning all gun violence, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she was praying for the families of victims in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Minnesota.

We will continue to update with further comments or statements.

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Amita Kelly is a Washington editor, where she works across beats and platforms to edit election, politics and policy news and features stories.
Meg Anderson is an editor on NPR's Investigations team, where she shapes the team's groundbreaking work for radio, digital and social platforms. She served as a producer on the Peabody Award-winning series Lost Mothers, which investigated the high rate of maternal mortality in the United States. She also does her own original reporting for the team, including the series Heat and Health in American Cities, which won multiple awards, and the story of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Black community and the systemic factors at play. She also completed a fellowship as a local reporter for WAMU, the public radio station for Washington, D.C. Before joining the Investigations team, she worked on NPR's politics desk, education desk and on Morning Edition. Her roots are in the Midwest, where she graduated with a Master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.