The angry exchange with reporters at his skyscraper hotel in New York City laid bare a reality of the Trump presidency
President Donald Trump pauses as he answers questions from members of the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017. photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, photo: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
16 of August 2017 12:21:57
NEW YORK – President Donald Trump defiantly blamed "both sides" for the weekend violence between white supremacists and counterdemonstrators in Virginia, seeking to rebuff the widespread criticism of his handling of the emotionally-charged protests while showing sympathy for the fringe group's efforts to preserve Confederate monuments.In doing so, Trump used the bullhorn of the presidency to give voice to the grievances of white nationalists, and aired some of his own. His remarks Tuesday amounted to a rejection of the Republicans, business leaders and White House advisers who earlier this week had pushed the president to more forcefully and specifically condemn the KKK members, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who took to the streets of Charlottesville.
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."Some of the president's comments Tuesday 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 ignore 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 remarks Tuesday once again underscored Trump's insistence on airing his complaints and opinions.https://youtu.be/QGKbFA7HW-UAs the White House struggled to weather Trump's comments, a White House official said Wednesday that longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks would temporarily serve as White House communications director. Hicks will work with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on White House messaging strategy.
We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) August 15, 2017
Trump, who has quickly deemed other deadly incidents in the U.S. and around the world as acts of terrorism, waffled when asked whether the car death was a terrorist attack.As he finally walked away from his lectern, he stopped to answer one more shouted question: Would he visit Charlottesville? The president noted he owned property there and said — inaccurately — that it was one of the largest wineries in the United States.
Charlottesville violence was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.— Senator Tim Kaine (@timkaine) August 15, 2017
JULIE PACEJONATHAN LEMIRE