Credit Chet Strange for The New York Times
WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump on Sunday sought to capitalize on the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, reiterating his controversial call for a temporary ban on Muslim migration to the United States and criticizing Hillary Clinton for what he claimed was her desire to “dramatically increase admissions from the Middle East.”
In a demonstration of his willingness to flout convention and engage in a style of demagogic politics rarely displayed by a presidential nominee, Mr. Trump claimed he had warned of the sort of terrorism that marked the shooting, which killed 50 and was the worst in the country’s history.
“I said this was going to happen — and it is only going to get worse,” Mr. Trump said in a statement, arguing that Mrs. Clinton’s presidency would mean “hundreds of thousands” more Middle East migrants.
“And we will have no way to screen them, pay for them, or prevent the second generation from radicalizing,” said Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican standard-bearer.
The suspected gunman, Omar Mateen, was an American who declared allegiance to the Islamic State and was the son of an immigrant from Afghanistan. Mr. Trump extended his opprobrium to that war-torn, heavily Muslim country by noting the wide support there for Shariah law.
In a separate statement on Twitter, Mr. Trump said that the rampage in Orlando “is just the beginning” and noted that he “asked for the ban” on Muslim immigration to America. He has made his hard line against Muslims central to his campaign, and, even after becoming the presumptive nominee and turning to a broader electorate, refused to fully back off from his call to temporarily halt Muslims from traveling to America.
Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Mr. Trump has faced widespread condemnation for this stance from both Mrs. Clinton and numerous Republicans, but, as he did again Sunday, he has said such vigilance was necessary and that the country “can’t afford to be politically correct.” To this end, he said Mrs. Clinton should quit the presidential race if she proved unwilling to acknowledge that the attack in Orlando was the result of “two words: radical Islam.”
Mrs. Clinton did not use that phrase or respond directly to Mr. Trump’s broadsides. Her campaign instead sought to use the event to diminish their Republican rival. “This act of terror is the largest mass shooting in American history and a tragedy that requires a serious response,” Jennifer Palmieri, Mrs. Clinton’s communications director said, adding that: “Donald Trump put out political attacks, weak platitudes and self-congratulations.”
Mrs. Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, initially responded with caution Sunday morning after early reports about the assault, offering her thoughts to those affected “as we wait for more information.” But after President Obama spoke in the afternoon, and called the Orlando killings an “act of terror,” she issued a longer statement echoing the president. “This was an act of terror,” Mrs. Clinton said.
In her statement, Mrs. Clinton said “we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad,” focusing on the threat of terrorism. Further down in her statement, she called for more stringent restrictions on guns.
“Finally, we need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals,” she said, taking up the call many on the left made in the hours after the attack. Mr. Trump, who made no mention of access to firearms in any of his comments, said Mr. Obama should resign for his own refusal to say “radical Islam.”
The White House declined to comment on Mr. Trump’s demand for the president’s resignation.
A tragedy in the middle of a presidential race would typically force restraint on candidates. But this tradition has largely vanished in the era of the superheated, social media news cycle, where mass shootings immediately set off debates about access to guns and, if the perpetrator is Muslim, Islamist terrorism. And if the Orlando massacre was a test of how willing candidates and their supporters are to pursue partisan attacks in the aftermath of horrific violence, Mr. Trump left little doubt about his willingness to push the boundaries of the country’s public discourse.
Graphic: What Happened Inside the Orlando Nightclub
He had no public events Sunday and, in a rarity, did not appear on any of the weekly political talk shows. But he made ample use of his Twitter account, where he said: “appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”
It was a vivid illustration of how little heed Mr. Trump pays to traditional political standards, whether it is on how campaigns are waged or on the kinds of positions he embraces. But there were few Republicans criticizing him for his Muslim ban proposal on Sunday.
Mr. Trump had planned a speech on Monday in New Hampshire focused on what he sees as the Clintons’ ethical lapses. But he indicated in his statement on Sunday that he would use the appearance to “further address this terrorist attack, immigration, and national security.”
If Mr. Trump was characteristically bellicose in his response, Mrs. Clinton was typically restrained. She used her statement to make clear she recognized that the country had suffered yet another act of terrorism, but also made sure to offer her solidarity with the gay community and reiterate her support for gun control. She was also off the campaign trail for the day, but avoided Twitter blasts and refrained from making any extended public comment until after the president delivered his remarks in the White House briefing room.
Mrs. Clinton was also planning to give remarks Monday lacerating her rival. She had planned to speak about what she deems as Mr. Trump’s dangerous demagogy at an appearance in Ohio.
It is unclear whether Mrs. Clinton will use her speech to forcefully confront Mr. Trump. Mrs. Palmieri, the campaign aide, said Mrs. Clinton would discuss “steps she would take to keep the country safe” in the coming days and another aide said the candidate intended to refashion her address Monday to focus on the terrorism in Orlando.
What is clear is that the shooting will reorient the race for at least the next week. Mrs. Clinton was to have held a campaign rally with Mr. Obama in Green Bay, Wis., on Wednesday, her first joint appearance with the president. But she quickly postponed the event on Sunday after the severity of the shooting became clear.