'Start Here': Trump travels to Ohio and Texas, Venezuela gets squeezed, Toni Morrison dies at 88

Here's what you need to know to start your day.

August 7, 2019, 6:21 AM

It's Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019. Let's start here.

1. 'Not welcome'

As families and friends of shooting victims in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, grieve, some local leaders are uneasy about President Donald Trump's planned trips to both cities today.

El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, a Republican, said he would be there to welcome the president in an official capacity, but would "continue to challenge any harmful and inaccurate statements made" about the city, noting it wasn't a "political visit" like Trump's February rally for a border wall. Rep. Veronica Escobar, who replaced Beto O'Rourke in Congress, has declined to participate.

Nan Whaley, Dayton's Democratic mayor who has been critical of Trump's rhetoric, said she plans to tell him "how unhelpful he's been" on addressing gun violence.

Other Democrats are questioning whether the president can be the "consoler-in-chief" and are urging him to stay away from the cities entirely, according to ABC News Deputy Political Director MaryAlice Parks: "It's worth reflecting on that. We have this moment of national crises and a president that's not welcome on the ground."

2. 'A more developed picture'

Authorities are working to determine a motive in the Dayton, Ohio, massacre and are now investigating evidence that they say shows the gunman was exploring violent ideologies and "expressed the desire to commit a mass shooting."

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said officials "do not have true clarity on the motive of the assailant" but that there's "a more developed picture" of his mindset.

The alleged gunman, Connor Betts, killed nine people, including his sister, before police fatally shot him.

Adelia Johnson, who said she once dated Betts, told ABC News' Eva Pilgrim, "He talked about mass shootings and world tragedies like I talk about television shows."

ABC News also has learned of a deleted Twitter account believed to be linked to Betts, who described himself as an anime fan, a metalhead and a leftist.

PHOTO: Authorities retrieve evidence markers at the scene of a mass shooting, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio.
Authorities retrieve evidence markers at the scene of a mass shooting, Aug. 4, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio.
John Minchillo/AP

3. 'An act of war'

In an escalation of tensions with Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, the White House has issued a full embargo against his regime, freezing all Venezuelan assets in the U.S. and allowing the Trump administration to impose sanctions on anyone who does business with Maduro.

"It's pretty much as far as the United States can go short of declaring an active war ... kind of the last way in which the United States can actually squeeze anything more economically out of the Maduro regime," ABC News Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman says on "Start Here."

Venezuela's U.N. ambassador blasted the decision on Tuesday as "an act of war," calling it "economic terrorism."

4. Beloved

Legendary author Toni Morrison's chronicles of the black experience in America, including in "Beloved," "The Bluest Eye" and "Song of Solomon," transformed modern literature, earning her recognition as the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize.

After news of her passing at 88 years old earlier this week, writers and fans have shared what Morrison's voice meant for black identity and the impact of her legacy beyond storytelling.

"She situated black people at the center of our lives and the world," Christina Sharpe, a professor at York University in Toronto who specializes in African American literature, tells the podcast. "For her, for us, that wasn't small -- that was large."

PHOTO: Toni Morrison in her apartment in New York City, Feb. 2, 2004.
Toni Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature by The Swedish Academy in 1993, praised for her novels' "visionary force and poetic import" and for giving "life to an essential aspect of American reality." Her novels, such as 1987's "Beloved," have shone a light on the racial prejudices that have afflicted her homeland. Toni Morrison in her apartment in New York City, Feb. 2, 2004.
Jean-Christian Bourcart/Getty Images

"Start Here," ABC News' flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.


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Doff your cap:

If you've been on Twitter in the past 36 hours, you may have found yourself asking an unprecedented question: Why is everyone tweeting about feral hogs?

More specifically, why is everyone tweeting about 30 to 50 of them? And why are a lot of the tweets in apparently a parody of a William Carlos Williams poem?

The answer lies with this weekend's mass shootings, Americana singer Jason Isbell and a general delirium that afflicted social media after several days of ghastly news.

ABC News' Evan McMurray dove deep into the heart of the story HERE.

And, to use his words, it appears nobody has made a joke about the real feral hogs being the friends we made along the way, so there it is.