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Politics & Government

Shapiro: Trump Says Anti-Semitic Attacks Could Have Been ‘To Make Others Look Bad’

Matt Slocum
Josh Shapiro, then-Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania Attorney General, speaks during a Hillary Clinton campaign event at Independence Mall on Monday, Nov. 7, 2016 in Philadelphia.

After a series of bomb threats against Jewish schools and day centers Monday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said President Donald Trump told a group of attorneys general from across the country that "the reverse can be true, meaning someone is doing it to make others look bad."

Shapiro said that's how Trump responded when asked how federal, state and local agencies can work to prevent further incidents while on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. The day school two of Shapiro's children attend was one of the locations threatened and evacuated.

Credit Jacqueline Larma / AP
Rabbi Joshua Bolton of the University of Pennsylvania's Hillel center surveys damaged headstones at Mt. Carmel Cemetery on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017, in Philadelphia.

"He called these acts reprehensible," said Shapiro, a Democrat elected in November.

Shapiro said Trump used the word "reverse" several times, and that Trump told the group he's planning to address the acts in a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Shapiro is in the Capitol for the National Association of Attorneys General winter meeting, which brings together top U.S. law enforcement leaders at the White House for meetings with Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Shapiro said that while some of his Democratic counterparts declined, he was among several who decided to go.

“My job is to be the chief law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and in order to do that you have to cooperate with people at all levels of government and of all parties,” he said.

Shapiro said the attorneys general also broached human trafficking and the Affordable Care Act with the President. Later with Sessions, Shapiro said the former U.S. Senator from Alabama encouraged more action on illegal immigration, drugs and protecting police. He said they did not discuss criminal justice reform.

“Instead, it was really the opposite," Shapiro said. "It was going back to how things were 'before.'"

He said Sessions told the group that the overall crime rate is up and that “we need to go back to what worked 20 or 30 years ago.” Shapiro said Sessions didn't elaborate on what that meant. 

Sessions also emphasized the need for greater police intervention regarding the role of drugs in community violence. He briefly touched on the heroin epidemic, and said he's dubious about the state's ongoing legalization of marijuana. 

“He was pretty strong about the fact that marijuana should not be an alternative to opioid abuse and that it’s a gateway (drug)," Shapiro said. "And while he didn’t get into specifics on states like ours that have legalized marijuana at least on a medicinal level, he did remind the generals in the audience of his opposition to that."

At the conference, attorneys general also focused on internet safety, elder abuse in nursing homes, search warrants, data encryption and the challenges of data breach notification. The meeting ends Wednesday.