Trump expected to meet parents of shooting victims on Florida visit
The president had already been slated to travel to Florida to spend the weekend at his Palm Beach estate.
Donald Trump has said he is travelling to Florida “to meet with some of the bravest people on earth”.
He is expected to thank first responders to the horrific high school shooting and also come face-to-face with parents, survivors and others, some of whom have angrily called for action to prevent future assaults.
The president tweeted that he will be meeting people “whose lives have been totally shattered”, but did not elaborate on his plans.
White House officials have not said whether he would travel to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
I will be leaving for Florida today to meet with some of the bravest people on earth - but people whose lives have been totally shattered. Am also working with Congress on many fronts.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018
Mr Trump had already been slated to travel to Florida to spend the weekend at his Palm Beach estate, which is about 40 miles from Parkland.
He did not address the nation in the hours after Wednesday’s shooting but did deliver a sombre statement the following morning from the White House, directly addressing children who may feel “lost, alone, confused or even scared”.
“I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be,” Mr Trump said. “You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you.”
In Florida, parents and a notable number of students are demanding action in addition to the usual offers of “thoughts and prayers”.
More than 1,000 people attended a candlelight vigil on Thursday night near the school, and at one point some began chanting: “No more gun! No more guns!”
Mr Trump, who frequently boasts about his support for the National Rifle Association, made no mention of gun violence or any new measure to restrict access to firearms during his Thursday remarks.
He did promise to tackle school safety and “the difficult issue of mental health”.
He also tweeted that he was “working with Congress on many fronts”, but offered no details. His latest budget request would slash Medicaid, the major source of federal funding for treating mental health problems, and cut school safety programmes by more than a third.
Last year, he signed a resolution blocking an Obama-era rule designed to keep guns out of the hands of certain mentally disabled people.
Police said the 19-year-old suspect in Florida, Nikolas Cruz, opened fire with an AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people and injuring 14 more.
Investigators described Cruz as a troubled teenager who posted disturbing material on social media and had been expelled from high school for “disciplinary reasons”.
The profile photo on Cruz’s Instagram account showed a masked face wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat like those associated with Mr Trump’s campaign.
The leader of a white nationalist militia called the Republic of Florida said Cruz was a member of his group and had participated in exercises in Tallahassee, but neither the sheriff’s office in Tallahassee nor the Southern Poverty Law Centre could confirm any link between Cruz and the militia.
The shooting was the nation’s deadliest at a school since a gunman attacked an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, more than five years ago.
Mr Trump’s silence on guns on Thursday was noted with displeasure by many who are seeking tougher firearm restrictions, but the White House said the president wanted to keep his remarks focused on the victims.
Before he was a candidate, Mr Trump at one point favoured some tighter gun regulations, but he embraced gun rights as a candidate, and the National Rifle Association spent $30 million in support of his campaign.