WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Donald Trump reportedly said that a wave of threats against Jewish communal institutions may be a false flag.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish and a Democrat, described a meeting of state attorney generals and Trump on Tuesday to BuzzFeed.
Trump called the wave of bomb threats in recent weeks forcing the evacuation of nearly 100 Jewish community centers and other institutions nationwide “reprehensible,” Shapiro said, but added: “Sometimes it’s the reverse, to make people — or to make others — look bad.”
Shapiro said Trump said it was “the reverse” two or three times but did not clarify what he meant.
Earlier the same day Anthony Scaramucci, a top adviser to the Trump transition team who is under consideration for a White House job, advanced a similar argument on Twitter, saying the threats may be aimed at harming Trump.
“It’s not yet clear who the #JCC offenders are,” Scaramucci said. “Don’t forget @TheDemocrats effort to incite violence at Trump rallies.”
There were several incidents of violence at Trump campaign rallies during last year’s election, but no evidence linking them to an organized Democratic Party effort.
It’s not the first time Trump has said the spike in anti-Semitic incidents could be a bid to smear him. He did so in a now notorious Feb. 16 news conference, when he shouted down a reporter who asked him about what he planned to do to address the intensification of incidents.
“Some of that anger is caused by people on the other side,” he then told another reporter at the news conference. “It will be by people on the other side to anger people like you.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said he was “astonished” by what Trump said and called on the president to outline his plans to combat anti-Semitism in his speech Tuesday evening for a joint meeting of Congress.
Trump condemned the spate of anti-Semitic incidents in his speech, earning some praise from Jewish leaders who had criticized him for his fumbled responses.
“Powerful for @POTUS to note anti-Semitism at top of speech,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said on Twitter. “Key now is to investigate and end terror campaign.”