President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

NEW YORK (AP) — Combative and insistent, President Donald Trump declared anew Tuesday “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, appearing to once again equate the actions of white supremacist groups and those protesting them. He showed sympathy for the fringe groups’ efforts to preserve Confederate monuments.

The president’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House a day earlier when he branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.”

(You can skip to 11:00 to get to the good stuff)

Trump’s advisers had hoped those remarks might quell a crush of criticism from Republicans, Democrats and business leaders. But the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort and renewed questions about why he seems to struggle to unequivocally condemn white nationalists.

The blowback was swift, including from fellow Republicans. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Trump should not allow white supremacists “to share only part of the blame.” House Speaker Paul Ryan declared in a tweet that “white supremacy is repulsive” and there should be “no moral ambiguity,” though he did not specifically address the president.

Trump’s remarks were welcomed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

Violence broke out Saturday in Charlottesville, a picturesque college town, after a loosely connected mix of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists assembled to protest the city’s decision to remove a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

In the immediate aftermath, Trump placed the blame on “many sides.” On Monday, at the urging of his aides, he delivered a more direct condemnation of white supremacists. But he returned to his original arguments Tuesday during an impromptu press conference in the lobby of his Manhattan skyscraper, declaring “there are two sides to a story.”

He acknowledged there were “some very bad people” looking for trouble in the group protesting plans to remove the statue. “But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,” he said.

Trump sided with those seeking to maintain the monument to Lee, equating him with some of the nation’s founders who also owned slaves. Confederate monuments have become rallying points for supporters of both preserving and toppling them.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” he said. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down.” I wonder, is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You really do have to ask yourself where does it stop?”

He continued: “You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”

The president’s comments mirrored rhetoric from the far-right fringe. A post Monday by the publisher of The Daily Stormer, a notorious neo-Nazi website, predicted that protesters are going to demand that the Washington Monument be torn down.

Trump’s handling of the weekend violence has raised new and troubling questions, even among some supporters. Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and business leaders have begun abandoning a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.

White House officials were caught off guard by his remarks Tuesday. He had signed off on a plan to not answer questions from journalists during an event touting infrastructure policies, according to a White House official not authorized to speak publicly about a private discussion. Once behind the lectern and facing the cameras, he overruled the decision.

As Trump talked, his aides on the sidelines in the lobby stood in silence. Chief of staff John Kelly crossed his arms and stared down at his shoes, barely glancing at the president. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders looked around the room trying to make eye contact with other senior aides. One young staffer stood with her mouth agape.

Kelly was brought into the White House less than a month ago to try to bring order and stability to a chaotic West Wing. Some Trump allies hoped the retired Marine general might be able to succeed where others have failed: controlling some of Trump’s impulses. But the president’s improvisations on Tuesday once against underscored that he cannot be controlled by his advisers.

Democrats were aghast at Trump’s comments. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said on Twitter that the Charlottesville violence “was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said on Twitter that he no longer views Trump as his president.

“As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment,” Schatz said. “This is not my president.”

When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.

Trump, who has quickly deemed other deadly incidents in the U.S. and around the world acts of terrorism, waffled when asked whether the car death was a terrorist attack.

“There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism?” Trump said. “And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”

Trump said he had yet to call Heyer’s mother but would soon “reach out.” He praised her for what he said was a nice statement about him on social media.

As he finally walked away from his lectern, he stopped to answer one more shouted question: Would he visit Charlottesville? The president’s response was to note that he owned property there and to say — inaccurately — that it was one of the largest wineries in the United States.

___

AP writers Darlene Superville and Richard Lardner contributed to this report. Pace reported from Washington.

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20 thoughts on “Defiant Trump Doubles Down On Charlottesville: ‘Blame Both Sides For Violence’

  1. So 45, the fake fearless leader of the free world thought he could be prez. Hahahaha. This fool thought if the 45 y/o blk man could do it, He could too. WRONG!!!! Ha!! The 45 y/o blk man had intellect, had decency, he had common sense. This fool who preceeded him had nothing but envy and jealousy towards that blk man (President Barack Obama). He will never match up to him or his intellect. Obama sent out a tweet the other day. It got more retweets than anyone else ever!!!! 2million. Compare that to the trumpster, he got 100,000 retweets about his comments. That says it all.

  2. FallMornings on said:

    Hatred is never going to end. This country was built on it. What blacks should do is start building our own and hire our own. Let the racists, and yes blacks can be racists, met a few myself, have it. We being so divided cannot stop what is so entrenched in country.

      • Passing Through! on said:

        Blacks in this country don’t hold enough economic or political power to make racism work for us. We can’t poison water in the white community, or set up drug houses in the suburbs, steal an election, create laws that help to incarcerate white men or kill 16 year old Dylan Trump walking home from the store unarmed and get all black jury and not serve one day in jail. And yet racist want to paint themselves as victims of a system that they created.

    • Passing Through! on said:

      You’re right racist hatred will never end, because this is what AmeriKKKa was founded upon. Slavery, racism & white supremacy intertwined with Christianity. Just read the post, the words and the twiwted logic of the mentally ill racist who post on this site, pure sickness! Not a single one of them will admit that “I’m a racist and I hate you because your black.” They don’t even know how sick they are because racism comes so naturally to them it’s in their ancestry, education, religion, and their politics, this is normal to them they see absolutely wrong with racism. If you protest, speak out call them on their racism do anything except be a slave lie down and let them kill you then you’re a trouble maker, you’re a hate group, pure damn crazy. They will continue to defend trump because they’re just as sick as he is, all of those racist savages who descended on Charlottesville represent everything that he stands for. And now all the racist RepuliKKKlans are trying to distance themselves and say they’re against the alt-right, and they’re all to blame for creating this climate with the hatred of President Obama. I’ll give trump credit for one thing, “at least he’s honest with his racism” he never lied or pretended to be anything other than what he is, he was racist during the campaign and he didn’t change once he was elected.

  3. americanize on said:

    I hope my brothers and sisters are not shocked by 45 he,s a white supremacist,he learned from his dad,who was arrested at a klan rally in new York in 1927.Black America this is not a joke,we are at war these white radical terrorist are ethnic cleansing,do not go to these terrorist protest.Did you notice no news organization talked about the black folks that were beat have to death.Blacks stay away from this shit its not your fight.My ancestors built a entire nation for free.

    • The only “ethnic cleansing” I keep seeing is taking place in Black run democratic governed undereducated high unemployment crime and drug infested ghettos throughout this country

      • Why haven’t you commented on your racsit friends who were rioting in the streets of VA?? Why haven’t you called that out? White boy!!!

      • Gorilla girl Diane, you were the perfect example of an angry black woman the and reason blacks get zero respect in the world

  4. Mrknowitall on said:

    if you had the nerve to disagree with Obama you were considered a racist, therefore, if you have the nerve to disagree with President Tump you’re also a racist.

    • Passing Through! on said:

      @Mrdontknowshit!
      Your hatred of President Obama is BECAUSE HE’S BLACK! Not because of his policies or politics you hate him simply because he’s a black man no other reason. Trying to compare your racist hatred of a black president simply because he’s black to a white neo-Nazi Black, Hispanic, Islamic hating racist president whose father was a KKK and grandfather was a Nazi is totally different. You can’t say shit about Obama after this 45 failure you’ve elected, too f**king dumb to govern has never read or understands the constitution, a treasonous traitor unfit to lead. “if you have the nerve to disagree with President Tump you’re also a racist” so if you disagree with kicking 24 million people off of health insurance, you are a racist, right? You sound like a god damn fool! His own party disagrees with him, so I guess they’re racist too.

  5. 45 is trying to create a new organization called the , “alt-left”. Deflect, deflect. He “alt” to resign. He is divisive and full of prejudice. He’s unfit to serve the American ppl.

      • specialt757 on said:

        You’re so right Diane, they are hella sickening. I’m can’t even imagine the hell & conflict they must feel inside trying to defend this clearly racist baboon.

  6. The only one who is to blame for this UGLY RACIST mess is CHUMP!!!!!!

    He has stoked the fires of his base from the beginning of his presidential campaign.

    His supporters had 8 years to stew and brew in their HATRED of President Barack H. Obama.
    Chump tapped into that HATE and ran with it.

    These IGNORANT turds resent the fact that this country is more diverse and is moving forward.
    While they want to return to Pre-Civil Rights Days and Segregation.

    They keep saying they “want to take THEIR COUNTRY BACK”–NEWSFLASH–
    it ain’t your damn country!!!!!!!

    GIVE THIS COUNTRY BACK TO THE NATIVE AMERICANS AND MEXICANS
    who were here long before any of their white asses were!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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