Sen. Cory Booker says he plans to introduce bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senator Cory Booker on Wednesday said he would introduce legislation to remove Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol building.

Booker, D-New Jersey, announced his plans on Twitter, but he did not layout a timeline for the proposal.

"I will be introducing a bill to remove Confederate statues from the US Capitol building," he tweeted. "This is just one step. We have much work to do."

The Capitol building’s National Statuary Hall Collection features at least a dozen monuments that honor Confederate soldiers and politicians, according to records maintained by the Architect of the Capitol.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have also called for the monuments to be removed from the Capitol.

“We will never solve America's race problem if we continue to honor traitors who fought against the United States in order to keep African Americans in chains. By the way, thank god, they lost," CBC Chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-Louisiana, told ABC News in a statement on Monday.

Booker’s announcement comes in wake of a violent weekend protest in Charlottesville, Virginia -- which began in protest of the planned removal of a monument of Confederate General Robert E. Lee -- that left one dead and 19 injured after a car-ramming attack. Police arrested James Alex Fields, 20, and charged him with second-degree murder in the incident.

Confederate monuments are being removed around the country under pressure from those who consider them symbols of racism and white supremacy.

Four Confederate-era monuments were removed late Tuesday night and early Wednesday in Baltimore, Maryland, and the governors of Virginia and North Carolina requested the removal of Confederate monuments in their states this week.

President Donald Trump, however, has pushed back against the initiatives to remove the memorials, saying the removal of such monuments is "changing history."

“This week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Trump said in a press conference on Tuesday.

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Phoenix mayor to President Trump: Postpone your rally

ABC News(PHOENIX) -- The mayor of Phoenix has a message for the president: Stay away.

President Trump is slated to be in Phoenix on Tuesday for a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, but that isn't sitting well with mayor Greg Stanton.

"I am disappointed that President Trump has chosen to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville," Stanton said in a statement Wednesday. "If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame tensions and further divide our nation."

Stanton bluntly said, "It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit."

But a senior campaign adviser told ABC News Wednesday night, "Barring any unforseen events between now and then, there is no chance we will delay the rally," aide said.

 Stanton does acknowledge, though, that free speech prevails in this country, so Trump is free to do as he pleases.

"With regard to use of the Phoenix Convention Center for the rally: This is a public facility and open to anyone to rent, including the Trump campaign," he said. "Our Constitution protects the right to free speech, even for those we disagree with or those who don't represent the values we hold dear as a community."

Forty-two minutes after Stanton tweeted his statement, Trump tweeted a link to reserve tickets to the rally, writing, "Join me at 7:00 P.M. on Tuesday, August 22nd in Phoenix, Arizona at the Phoenix Convention Center!"

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Unpacking the controversy over what Trump has said, and not said, on Charlottesville

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The reverberations from the violence in Charlottesville continue to echo as President Donald Trump faces further fallout from his handling of the situation.

Members of his own party have come out against his response and now two of his economic councils have disbanded as business leaders distance themselves from his remarks about the nature of the crowds in Charlottesville.

Here's how the events in recent days have led to Trump's latest turmoil.

Chaos in Charlottesville

The activity this past weekend in the small college town centered around a protest of the planned removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who commanded the Confederate army during the Civil War.

The events started on Friday, Aug. 11, when a large group of people -- many of whom were carrying lit tiki torches -- marched through the University of Virginia campus. Many members of the crowd were seen wearing Nazi-related clothing and at points chanting anti-Semitic cries.

The planned rally came the next day, and the members of the groups protesting the removal of the statue, including a number of so-called alt-right groups and white supremacists and neo-Nazis, were confronted by counterprotesters.

Violent clashes ensued, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe ultimately declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville just before noon in response to the violence.

The most violent incident occurred at 1:42 p.m., when a car rammed into a crowd of people demonstrating against the white nationalist gathering, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring others.

Trump's initial responses

First lady Melania Trump was the first member of the Trump family to respond to the violence, posting a call to "communicate w/o hate in our hearts" on Twitter.

Her husband followed suit, writing that "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for," before making his first public statement in Bedminster, New Jersey.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides," he said, without going on to mention or directly call out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis involved.

[To read a full timeline of all of Trump's statements and tweets, click here.]

A number of Republicans, including two of Trump's former rivals, Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, issued statements using harsher words than Trump. Cruz named the groups and called them "repulsive and evil," while Rubio wrote on Twitter that it was "Very important for the nation to hear @potus describe events in #Charlottesville for what they are, a terror attack by #whitesupremacists."

The following morning, Sunday, Aug. 13, a White House spokesperson who would not be publicly identified clarified Trump's statement, saying that his condemnation "of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups."

A clearer condemnation

After nearly two full days of criticism from members of his own party and the public, Trump made another statement from the White House, where he was more direct.

"Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans," Trump said Monday.

His statement was seen as being "too little, too late," by some critics, including Jonathan Greenblatt, the director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

"Let's be clear: I think we should expect our leader in the highest office in the land to step above the lowest possible bar," Greenblatt said on a call with reporters on Monday shortly after Trump's comments.

"We have seen a pattern of the president equivocating” when it comes to denouncing hate groups, including white supremacists and anti-Semitic groups, Greenblatt said.

Doubling down

On Tuesday, Trump took questions at a press conference about infrastructure reform plans and ended up lashing out at the media, questioning the nature of the crowds in Charlottesville and defending his initial "excellent" statement.

"I think there is blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there is blame on both sides," he said.

"You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides,” he added.

The press conference prompted outcry once again, and a number of key Republicans reiterated that they stand against racism.

"We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity," House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, R-Wis., wrote on Twitter about an hour and a half after the news conference.

One of the first ones to respond, however, was David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who tweeted, "Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa," he wrote, apparently referring to the Black Lives Matter and the anti-fascist movements.

The pushback from establishment Republicans carried on today, with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel speaking to "Good Morning America" and telling white supremacists, "We don't want your vote, we don't support you, we'll speak out against you."

Trump's remarks also led several business leaders to leave the American Manufacturing Council beginning on Monday, with the president eventually announcing on Twitter Wednesday that he was disbanding the manufacturing council and the separate Strategic and Policy Forum.

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Virginia Gov. calls for removal of Confederate statues

mcdustelroy/iStock/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) -- Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has called for all of the state's public Confederate statues to be removed and relocated.

The governor said on Wednesday that he hoped residents in the state would agree the statues represent a “barrier to progress, inclusion and equality.”

“As we attempt to heal and learn from the tragic events in Charlottesville, I encourage Virginia's localities and the General Assembly -- which are vested with the legal authority -- to take down these monuments and relocate them to museums or more appropriate settings.” McAuliffe said in a statement.

McAuliffe, who called a state of emergency in Virginia in the wake of Saturday's violence, added that Charlottesville showed how monuments “that celebrate the leadership of the Confederacy” have now become a symbol of hatred and division.

The Virginia state legislature has the authority to remove the Confederate monuments. McAuliffe doesn’t have the power to act on it unilaterally.

McAuliffe made the statement after attending the memorial service Wednesday morning for 32-year old Heather Heyer, who died after 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly rammed a car into other vehicles in a crowd of counter-protesters on Saturday. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va, was also in attendance.

Dr. Ralph Northam, a Democrat who is backed by former president Barack Obama as a candidate to replace Gov. McAuliffe in November, also said the statues should be “moved to museums.”

“We should also do more to elevate the parts of our history that have all too often been underrepresented. That means memorializing civil rights advocates like Barbara Johns and Oliver Hill, who helped move our Commonwealth closer towards equality,” Northam said in a statement, referring to Johns, a civil rights pioneer, and Hill, the civil rights attorney who helped end the doctrine for racial segregation, “separate but equal.”

Richmond, Virginia mayor Levar Stoney also spoke out about the statues on Wednesday, urging the immediate examination of removal or relocation of some or all of the statues lining the city's Monument Avenue.

Stoney stressed that this process would allow for the “public to be heard” and for a decision to be made after “constructive dialogue.”

The mayor’s decision marks a sharp turn from his initial plan two months ago to maintain the statues but add historical context on why they were erected, according to a statement.

McAuliffe, Northam and Stoney’s push for the removal of the monuments is at odds with President Donald Trump’s comments at a press conference Tuesday, where the president sarcastically asked if statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s should also be taken down.

"George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? ... How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him. Good. Are we going to take down his statue? He was a major slave owner,” Trump said.

The Charlottesville city council’s decision to remove the Lee statue -- which went up in 1924 -- sparked the Unite The Right rally from white supremacists and neo-Nazis on Saturday.

Not all Virginia politicians agreed on the need to remove the statues.

Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie called for education instead on his website.

“Rather than glorifying their objects, statues should be instructional. While ensuring that Confederate statues are not exalting them but educating about them, we should do more to elevate Virginia’s history in expanding freedom and equality by extolling the many Virginians who played critical roles in this regard,” said Gillespie.

Gillespie was joined by Republican state attorney general candidate John Adams on Twitter who cautioned that Virginians should be concerned of a government that wanted to “erase history.”

Charlottesville mayor Mike Signer supported keeping his city's Robert E. Lee statue in an interview with National Public Radio on Sunday, saying that while he respected "different opinions," he believed one of his African-American neighbor's reasoning that the statues should be there "so that [her] grandchildren know what happened there," was important to the discussion.

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Steve Bannon slams far-right: 'These guys are a collection of clowns'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Steve Bannon has broken his silence on last weekend's white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, describing the participants as "a collection of clowns."

In an interview published Wednesday with The American Prospect, a publication whose goal is to "advance liberal and progressive goals," the White House chief strategist dismissed the far-right as irrelevant and downplayed his role in its development.

"Ethno-nationalism -— it's losers," he said. "It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more ... These guys are a collection of clowns."

While talking about the far-right, Bannon took the opportunity to slam the Democrats' fondness for tackling "identity politics."

"The Democrats, the longer they talk about identity politics, I got 'em," Bannon said. "I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats."

In the interview, Bannon also seemed to counter President Trump's incendiary comments about unleashing "fire and fury" upon North Korea if the rogue nation continues to threaten the U.S.

"There’s no military solution [to North Korea’s nuclear threats], forget it," he said. "Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us."

Bannon did have harsh words for China, which he says is at war with the U.S. -- economically, that is. He added that the U.S. is at risk of losing its economic superpower status to the world's most populous country.

"We're at economic war with China," Bannon said. "It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow."

He continued, "To me, the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we're five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we'll never be able to recover."

Bannon's plan to counter China's increasingly strong economic influence is to file a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping. "We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us.”

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Sen. Orrin Hatch urges Trump to speak out on hate groups

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, urged President Trump not to equivocate when addressing white nationalists and the protesters who opposed them, after the president blamed "both sides" for the violence that broke out in Charlottesville on Saturday.

"Hatch urged him to speak clearly and unequivocally on these issues, because even the appearance of tolerating hate and bigotry only divides us further," an aide to the senior Utah senator told ABC.

Hatch, who initiated the call with the White House, also said he wants Trump to find opportunities to unify the nation "and come together so we can grow from this."

Hatch, who has occasionally defended the president even when his fellow Republican senators decry his actions, also stressed that he wants to help Trump be successful in any way.

Hatch issued a detailed statement Monday saying the nation "has some soul-searching to do." He also spoke about his brother who died fighting in World War II.

"I was just eight years old when my older brother Jesse was killed in World War II. As I said on Saturday, Jesse didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. I will never hesitate to speak out against hate -- whenever and wherever I see it."

A White House spokesperson did not respond to requests for their own readout of the call.

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What led 2 White House economic councils to abruptly disband

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Fallout from President Donald Trump's response to the Charlottesville, Virginia, violence Wednesday cost the White House two key economic advisory councils made up of the nation's top
CEOs and business leaders.

Trump announced via Twitter that he was ending both the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum, rather than “put pressure” on the leaders involved in both councils.

The development deals a major blow to the president's signature initiatives to create jobs, and to his claim of harnessing the best and brightest of America's business leaders to get it done.

Just 24 hours earlier, as more business leaders stepped down from Trump’s manufacturing council, the president remained bullish and said he had many candidates to replace those who had left.

But, on a conference call convened shortly after 11:30 a.m. ET, members of the president's Strategic and Policy Forum -- formed in December 2016 and loosely known as the "CEO council" -- agreed to
disband amidst growing concerns following Trump's statements on Charlottesville in recent days, sources familiar with the call told ABC News.

News of the move broke publicly around 12:50 pm ET. A source close to the forum said the panel had informed the White House of its decision to disband before 1 p.m. ET.

Following Trump's press conference Tuesday, all the CEOs on the forum were invited to a mandatory phone call Tuesday night to discuss the panel’s future, and the discussion led to many wanting to
quit, according to sources familiar with the call. The group unanimously voted to end the panel then.

The panel, chaired by Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, released a statement around 1.40 p.m. ET Wednesday on its decision.

“As our members have expressed individually over the past several days, intolerance, racism and violence have absolutely no place in this country and are an affront to core American values,” the
statement read.

The forum, a bipartisan group of business leaders, stressed that they were “called to serve [the U.S.] to “provide independent feedback and perspectives directly to the President” on economic
growth and job creation in the U.S.

“We believe the debate over Forum participation has become a distraction from our well-intentioned and sincere desire to aid vital policy discussions on how to improve the lives of everyday
Americans ... as Americans, we are all united in our desire to see our country succeed,” the statement added.

JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, a key member of the group whom Trump once called a “good guy” in 2012, sent a separate statement to employees, stating that he “strongly disagreed with Trump’s reaction
to Charlottesville” and that “there is no room for equivocation here: The evil on display by these perpetrators of hate should be condemned.”

“Constructive economic and regulatory policies are not enough and will not matter if we do not address the divisions in our country. It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring
people together, not tear them apart,” Dimon added.

Members had floated the idea of asking Trump to dissolve the panel weeks before Charlottesville, sources close to the call said.

The panel's dismantlement didn't come as a surprise as many had voiced privately to each other their concerns to stay on board after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord on June 1
and announced a transgender military ban on July 26, sources close to the call said. Members felt pressure to step down from employees and customers, and were anxious about being regarded as
supportive of the policies Trump had signed on due to their panel positions, according to the sources.

The council had only met two times in the past eight months, and members felt they weren't achieving much.

At the same time, the president’s manufacturing council suffered a continuous stream of defections from CEOs and business leaders following Trump's remarks Saturday.

Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison, 3M CEO Inge Thulin and GE CEO Jeff Immelt all abruptly resigned before noon ET today, joining six other members who had resigned in the wake of Trump’s
Charlottesville response.

Morrison said she believes Trump “should have been-and still needs to be-unambiguous” on white supremacy in Saturday’s violent rally.

Merck’s CEO Kenneth Frazier led the stream of resignations on Monday, saying in a statement that as a "matter of personal conscience, I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and

The American Manufacturing Council has not yet issued a statement following the president’s tweet Wednesday.

However, more resignations came on the heels of Trump’s “blame on both sides” comment Tuesday, when the president lashed out at Trump Tower, attacking the "alt-left" and saying that there were

“fine people” among both the protesters and counterprotesters in Charlottesville.

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Transcript of Trump's contentious Aug. 15 press conference

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Here is a transcript of the question-and-answer portion of President Donald Trump's press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 15, at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

The press conference itself was focused on infrastructure reforms he plans to make, and then he invited questions.

TRUMP: If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Q Mr. President, why do you think these CEOs are leaving your manufacturing council?

TRUMP: Because they're not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. And we want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you're talking about they’re outside of the country, they're having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck as an example, take a look where -- excuse me, excuse me -- take a look at where their product is made. It's made outside of our country. We want products made in the country.

Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they're leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside. And I've been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you're referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country. You can't do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That's what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.

Q Let me ask you, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to blast neo-Nazis?

TRUMP: I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long

Q You waited two days --

TRUMP: I didn’t wait long.

Q Forty-eight hours.

Q (Inaudible) Why do Nazis like you?

TRUMP: I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct -- not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. And it's a very, very important process to me, and it's a very important statement.

So I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to --

Q So you had to (inaudible) white supremacists?

TRUMP: In fact, I brought it. I brought it. I brought it.

Q (Inaudible)

TRUMP: As I said on -- remember this, Saturday -- “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America.” And then it went on from there.

Now, here's the thing --

Q (Inaudible) many sides.

TRUMP: Excuse me. Excuse me. Take it nice and easy. Here's the thing: When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened.

Before I make a statement, I need the facts. So I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman, who I hear is a fantastic young woman, and it was on NBC -- her mother wrote me and said through, I guess, Twitter, social media, the nicest things. And I very much appreciated that. I hear she was a fine -- really, actually, an incredible young woman. But her mother, on Twitter, thanked me for what I said.

And honestly, if the press were not fake, and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you, and unlike -- excuse me, unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.

Q Why do Nazis like you -- (inaudible) -- these statements?

TRUMP: They don’t. They don’t. They don’t.


TRUMP: How about a couple of infrastructure questions.

Q Was it terrorism, that event? Was that terrorism?

Q The CEO of Walmart said you missed a critical opportunity --

TRUMP: Say it. What?

Q The CEO of Walmart said you missed a critical opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?

TRUMP: Not at all. I think the country -- look, you take a look. I've created over a million jobs since I'm President. The country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we've ever had in the history of our country. We're doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm. So the head of Walmart, who I know -- who's a very nice guy -- was making a political statement. I mean --

Q (Inaudible.)

TRUMP: I'd do it the same way. And you know why? Because I want to make sure, when I make a statement, that the statement is correct. And there was no way -- there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters. Unlike a lot of reporters --

Q David Duke was there.

TRUMP: I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts, as they started coming out, were very well stated. In fact, everybody said, "His statement was beautiful. If he would have made it sooner, that would have been good." I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts.

It was very important -- excuse me, excuse me -- it was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement -- and the first statement was made without knowing much, other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made after, with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things -- excuse me -- there are still things that people don’t know.

I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts.

Q Two questions. Was this terrorism? And can you tell us how you're feeling about your chief strategist, Stephen Bannon?

TRUMP: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family, and this country. And that is -- you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as "the fastest one to come up with a good verdict." That's what I'd call it. Because there is a question: Is it murder? Is it terrorism? 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.

Q Can you tell us how you're feeling about your chief strategist, Mr. Bannon? Can you talk about that?

TRUMP: Go ahead.

Q I would echo Maggie's question. Steve Bannon has come under --

TRUMP: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.

Q Can you tell us broadly what your -- do you still have confidence in Steve?

TRUMP: Well, we'll see. Look, look -- I like Mr. Bannon. He's a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late. You know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that. And I like him, he's a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He's a good person. He actually gets very unfair press in that regard. But we'll see what happens with Mr. Bannon. But he's a good person, and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.

Q Senator McCain has called on you to defend your National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, against these attacks.

TRUMP: I’ve already done that. I did it the last time.

Q And he called on it again, linking --

TRUMP: Senator McCain?

Q -- to the alt-right, and saying --

TRUMP: Senator McCain?

Q Yes.

TRUMP: Senator McCain? You mean the one who voted against Obamacare?

Q And he said --

TRUMP: Who is -- you mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare?

Q Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: Well, I don’t know. I can't tell you. I'm sure Senator McCain must know what he's talking about. But when you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead.

Q Well, I'm saying, as Senator --

TRUMP: No, define it for me. Come on, let's go. Define it for me.

Q Senator McCain defined them as the same group --

TRUMP: Okay, what about the alt-left that came charging at 'em -- excuse me, what about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?

Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. As far as I'm concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.

Q (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Wait a minute. I'm not finished. I'm not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day --

Q Sir, you're not putting these protestors on the same level as neo-Nazis --

Q Is the alt-left as bad as white supremacy?

TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely -- much more closely than you people watched it. And you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now. You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in, without a permit, and they were very, very violent.

Q (Inaudible)

TRUMP: Go ahead.

Q Do you think that what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?

TRUMP: Those people -- all of those people --excuse me, I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee.

Q Should that statue be taken down?

TRUMP: Excuse me. If you take a look at some of the groups, and you see -- and you'd know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you're not -- but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

So this week it's Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?

But they were there to protest -- excuse me, if you take a look, the night before they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee.

Infrastructure question. Go ahead.

Q Should the statues of Robert E. Lee stay up?

TRUMP: I would say that's up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located.

Q How concerned are you about race relations in America? And do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?

TRUMP: I think they've gotten better or the same. Look, they've been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that, because he'd make speeches about it. But I believe that the fact that I brought in -- it will be soon -- millions of jobs -- you see where companies are moving back into our country -- I think that's going to have a tremendous, positive impact on race relations.

We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin just announced. We have many companies, I say, pouring back into the country. I think that's going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It's jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay, and when they have that, you watch how race relations will be.

And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re gonna fix- we’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody has done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me, and it’s very important.

Q Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?

TRUMP: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs -- and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch.

But there is another side. There was a group on this side. You can call them the left – you’ve just called them the left -- that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.

Q (Inaudible) both sides, sir. You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are the --

TRUMP: Well I do think there’s blame. Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at-- If you look at both sides -- I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.

And if you reported it accurately, you would say.

Q The neo-Nazis started this. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest --

TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. They didn’t put themselves -- and you had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group.

Q (Inaudible.)

TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. I saw the same pictures as you did.

You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.

Q George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.

TRUMP: Well know, George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down --

Excuse me, are we going to take down- are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?

Q I do love Thomas Jefferson.

TRUMP: Okay, good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?

So you know what, it’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people -- and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists -- because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people. But you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group.

Q Who are the good people?

Q Sir, I just didn’t understand what you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? I just don’t understand what you were saying.

TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally -- and I looked the night before -- if you look, there were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day it looked like they had some rough, bad people -- neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them.

But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest, and very legally protest -- because you know, I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So I only tell you this: There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country -- a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country.

Does anybody have a final --

Q I have an infrastructure question.

TRUMP: You have an infrastructure --

Q What makes you think you can get an infrastructure bill? You didn’t get healthcare --

TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ll tell you. We came very close with healthcare. Unfortunately, John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute. You’ll have to ask John McCain why he did that. But we came very close to healthcare. We will end up getting healthcare. But we’ll get the infrastructure. And actually, infrastructure is something that I think we’ll have bipartisan support on. I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.

Q Mr. President, have you spoken to the family of the victim of the car attack?

TRUMP: No, I’ll be reaching out. I’ll be reaching out.

Q When will you be reaching out?

TRUMP: I was very -- I thought that the statement put out -- the mother’s statement I thought was a beautiful statement. I will tell you, it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific. And, really, under the kind of stress that she’s under and the heartache that she’s under, I thought putting out that statement, to me, was really something. I won’t forget it.

Thank you, all, very much. Thank you. Thank you.

[Trump walks away from the lectern.]

Q Will you go to Charlottesville? Will you go to check out what happened?

TRUMP: I own a house in Charlottesville. Does anyone know I own a house in Charlottesville?

Q Where is it?

TRUMP: Oh boy, it’s going to be --

Q Where is it?

TRUMP: It's in Charlottesville. You'll see.

Q Is it a winery or something?

TRUMP: It is the winery.

I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple of days.

Q (Inaudible.)

TRUMP: I own, actually, one of the largest wineries in the United States. It's in Charlottesville.

Q Do you believe your words are helping to heal this country right now?

Q What do you think needs to be done to overcome the racial divides in this country?

TRUMP: Well, I think jobs can have a big impact. I think if we continue to create jobs -- over a million, substantially more than a million. And you see just the other day, the car companies coming in with Foxconn. I think if we continue to create jobs at levels that I’m creating jobs, I think that’s going to have a tremendous impact -- positive impact on race relations.

Q Your remarks today, how do you think that will impact the racial, sort of conflict, today?

TRUMP: The people are going to be working, they’re going to be making a lot of money -- much more money than they ever thought possible. But that’s going to happen.

Q Your remarks today.

TRUMP: And the other thing -- very important -- I believe wages will start going up. They haven’t gone up for a long time. I believe wages now -- because the economy is doing so well with respect to employment and unemployment, I believe wages will start to go up. I think that will have a tremendously positive impact on race relations.

END 4:21 P.M. EDT

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Pence ignores questions on Trump's Charlottesville remarks, calls it a 'tragedy'

Agencia Makro/CON/Getty Images(SANTIAGO, Chile) -- Vice President Mike Pence declined Wednesday to defend President Trump’s controversial comments casting “blame on both sides” of the violence at a white supremacist rally in
Charlottesville over the weekend.

“What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy,” Pence said in Santiago, Chile. “The president has been clear on that tragedy and so have I.”

Pence did not directly answer questions about whether he agrees with Trump’s comments that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the clashes in Charlottesville between white supremacists
and counter-protesters.

“I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia,” Pence said in the midst of his trip through South America. “I stand with the president, and I stand by those

In Cartagena, Colombia on Sunday Pence condemned white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

“These dangerous fringe groups have no place in America public life or the public debate, and we condemn them in the strongest terms,” Pence said Sunday after the violence in Virginia.

On Wednesday, he also ignored questions about Trump’s comments about the statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The white supremacist rally was initially prompted by
plans to remove a statue of Lee in Charlottesville.

"George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status?” Trump asked reporters yesterday. "Are we going to take down statues to
George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?”

Speaking after a meeting with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Pence acknowledged the memorial service for Heather Heyer -- the young woman killed Saturday by a car driven by a Nazi sympathizer
that plowed into counter-protestors in Charlottesville.

“Today, while I am here in Chile, our hearts are in Charlottesville,” he said. “We've been praying for God’s peace and comfort for her family and her friends and her loved ones.”

“We're also praying that in America, that we will not allow the few to divide the many,” he said.

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Before questioning statue removal, Trump supported taking down Confederate flag

friendlydragon/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- At Tuesday's combative press conference in Trump Tower, President Donald Trump questioned the removal of statues of Confederate leaders, but at the start of his presidential campaign, Trump publicly expressed his approval of South Carolina's decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from the State Capitol.

“I would take it down, yes,” said Trump in June 2015 at his first news conference following the declaration of his presidential candidacy. “I think they should put it in a museum and respect whatever it is you have to respect.”

The long-running debate over whether the Confederate flag should be flown over the South Carolina State House arose again after nine people were fatally shot in the historically black Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a racially charged killing.

Then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who is now serving in Trump’s Cabinet as the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, ultimately decided to order the removal of the flag on July 9, 2015.

Trump argued Tuesday that taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee, a civil war general who fought to keep slavery intact, would be “changing history.” A protest of the monument's removal spurred the white nationalist rally that ultimately turned violent Saturday.

“You’re changing culture,” Trump said during the news conference at Trump Tower Tuesday.

Asked whether statues of Lee should remain in place in the U.S., the president said the situation was one that should be handled on a case-by-case basis, depending on the location of the monument.

"I would say that's up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located," he said.

Trump then characterized removing Confederate memorials as a slippery slope, equating Lee to American Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who both owned slaves.

“George Washington was a slave owner…. So will George Washington now lose his status? ... Are we going to take down statues to George Washington?” Trump wondered.

“How about Thomas Jefferson?” Trump asked. “... Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?”

Trump later added, “So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee, I notice that Stonewall Jackson is coming down, I wonder is it George Washington next week? Is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

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