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Mayor says call from Trump after synagogue shooting turned to talk of death penalty

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto got a phone call from President Trump on the day a deadly synagogue shooting unfolded in the city. According to the mayor, the overall tone of the call was one of support, and it took an interesting turn. 

Peduto said he received the call on his cellphone as he stood outside the Tree of Life synagogue, the site of the attack that killed 11 people, CBS Pittsburgh/KDKA reports.

"It was cordial. He offered his assistance in any way possible," Peduto said. "I gave him the update in the increase in fatalities and the number of wounded. He was not aware of that and was sort of taken a back."   

The mayor said that as the gravity of the situation set in on the phone call, the conversation took a turn he wasn't expecting. Mr. Trump said we need to increase the death penalty, according to Peduto.

Peduto said he didn't respond.

"Well, I was at that point, dealing with 11 fatalities that were down the street. Just trying to grapple with how we were going to set up the critical care centers, the coordination with the FBI to get info to the families and the condition of the police officers. It wasn't the first thing on my mind," he said. 

"There's a level of emotion that almost makes you numb at that point, and hearing details that were coming from inside was really at the forefront of my mind," he said. 

Peduto said the conversation ended cordially and that they agreed to try and work together to assist the FBI.

After Mr. Trump spoke with Peduto, he also spoke to reporters about the death penalty. He said "we should stiffen up our laws in terms of the death penalty." 

"When people do this they should get the death penalty," Mr. Trump said. "And they shouldn't have to wait years and years. ... And, I think they should very much bring the death penalty into vogue."

Mayor Peduto said that when he heard Mr. Trump wanted to visit Pittsburgh after the shooting, he asked the White House to wait until after the funerals. 

"I can't tell a president not to come, but I can try to coordinate what becomes our priorities, which are the families and the officers," he said. 

Peduto said his decision not to meet with Mr. Trump while the president was in Pittsburgh was not political. His priorities that day were elsewhere.

"Three days afterwards, we had only done ... two funerals out of 11. The priority was with them, and if I had to make that decision 100 times again, I'd make the same decision to be with those families and our officers," he said.