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Biden, in Iowa speech, says Trump fans ‘the flames of white supremacy’

Joe Biden.
Joe Biden. (John Locher/Associated Press)

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump has encouraged white supremacy to come out of the shadows, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden said Wednesday, adding that there’s very little that distances Trump’s rhetoric from the anti-immigrant screeds of mass shooters like the suspect in the recent attack in El Paso, Texas.

“How far is it from Trump’s saying this ‘is an invasion’ to the shooter in El Paso declaring ‘his attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas?’ Not far at all,” Biden planed to say during a campaign stop in Iowa, according to excerpts of his prepared remarks provided by his campaign.

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“How far is it from the white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville – Trump’s ‘very fine people’ -- chanting ‘You will not replace us’ – to the shooter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh saying Jews ‘were committing genocide to his people?’ Not far at all,” Biden planned to say. “In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation.”

Biden’s focus on connecting Trump’s rhetoric to racial violence comes the same day the president will visit El Paso, where 22 people died in a mass shooting that the gunman said was motivated by a desire to kill Mexicans, and Dayton, Ohio, where nine people died hours later in an unrelated attack. Some leaders in both cities have asked Trump not to come.

On the flight between visiting victims of the two mass shootings, Trump declared the speech “boring” in a tweet.

“It’s a shame Joe Biden is sowing more division today, a day that should be about unity and support for Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas," the Trump campaign said in a statement issued in response to Biden’s remarks.

The Trump campaign statement equated the rhetoric Biden cited with Biden’s recent comments about working with segregationists while in the Senate.

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While Biden’s words are some of his strongest to date on the subject, they are milder in comparison to criticisms leveled at the president from some others in the Democratic field.

Beto O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, said Trump is a “racist, driven by fear,” and that the president’s suggestion to link gun legislation to proposals to restrict U.S. immigration shows Trump was siding “with a mass murderer’s call to make our country more white.” Trump will face a cool reception from politicians in both cities.

Trump condemned racism and white supremacy in remarks at the White House on Monday, but he hasn’t directly addressed overlap between his own anti-immigrant rhetoric and that of the El Paso shooting suspect. In a Twitter post Tuesday, Trump added he’s the “least racist person.”

The former vice president’s event in Burlington, in southeastern Iowa, will kick off a four-day trip across the state that will also include a Thursday afternoon stop at the Iowa State Fair. Nearly two dozen other Democratic hopefuls will also flock to the state in the coming days to take part in the retail politics tradition, as well as in a major fundraising dinner in Clear Lake -- the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding.

The Iowa caucuses next February officially begin the nomination race. Iowa also is a swing state in presidential elections.

Biden is also offering an indictment of Trump’s leadership in a time of crisis and argue that the president’s failure to “fight for what is best of the American character” makes it even more critical for Trump to be defeated in 2020. At a fundraiser on Sunday in San Diego, Biden called Trump a “significant contributor” to the rise of hate.

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“We have a president who has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation. And that makes winning the battle for the soul of this nation that much harder,” Biden planned to say in Iowa, drawing on a core theme of his presidential campaign. Until Trump can be defeated, Biden planned to say, “it’s up to us” to fight against hate and for American values.