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Thursday
Aug172017

What to know about presidential retreat Camp David, where Trump travels Friday

Molly Riley -Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump is headed back to the rustic presidential retreat Camp David, the site of many historic discussions and private meetings between presidents and foreign dignitaries.

On Friday, the President will meet with his administration’s national security team at Camp David, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence, who cut his week-long trip to Central and South America a day short to attend. The talks will focus on the president’s strategy in Afghanistan and in South Asia, according to White House officials.

Trump’s return to Camp David marks his second trip to the retreat, after his first visit over Father’s Day weekend with First Lady Melania Trump, their 11-year old son Barron and the first lady’s parents.

At the time, Trump tweeted, “Camp David is a very special place. An honor to have spent the weekend there. Military runs it so well and are so proud of what they do!”

 

 

Camp David, located in the Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Maryland, has played a prominent role in many presidential administrations, for both diplomatic meetings and personal vacations. The retreat is also an active military installation. Camp David is only a 30-minute helicopter ride from the White House. It is inaccessible to the public.

History of the camp

The camp was originally called Hi-Catoctin by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) prior to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps transforming it into a military installation.

WPA built the recreational area between 1936-1939 and federal employees used it for family camps. President Franklin Roosevelt first visited the camp in April 1942, after which it was chosen as the country location for presidential retreats. He renamed it “Shangri-la,” based on the fictional Himalayan paradise in James Milton’s 1933 novel “Lost Horizon.”

President Dwight Eisenhower renamed the site Camp David during his first visit in honor of his grandson, David.

Eisenhower also named the main president’s lounge “Aspen” in honor of the first lady, Mamie Eisenhower, who grew up in Colorado. The retreat boasts bedrooms, a small office, fireplaces, an outdoor flagstone patio, a heated swimming pool and a single golf hole with multiple tees.

How former presidents used the camp

Roosevelt started the tradition of hosting foreign leaders at the camp by inviting Sir Winston Churchill in 1943 at the height of World War II to review plans for the Allied invasion of Normandy. Roosevelt was photographed fishing with Churchill at a creek near the camp, and Churchill remarked that “no fish were caught” but Roosevelt “seemed to enjoy it very much, and was in great spirits”, according to Churchill’s “War Memoirs.”

Eisenhower visited the retreat frequently and added a bomb shelter, the golf course and several golf tees, as the Eisenhower archives note. Eisenhower was the first president to travel to Camp David from Washington, D.C., by helicopter, which greatly reduced the commute. He held meetings with his Cabinet and National Security Council at the retreat while recovering from a heart attack in 1955.

In 1959, in the midst of the Cold War, Eisenhower hosted the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev was suspicious of the site, calling it initially where “stray dogs went to die.” They had two days of meetings about the Cold War, after which the two leaders released a joint statement agreeing to reopen talks. However, shortly after the Soviets shot down an American spy plane, Eisenhower’s Soviet Union trip was scrapped.

Foreign affairs brought Eisenhower back to Camp David again in 1961 when he met then-President John F. Kennedy to review the failed Bay of Pigs military invasion of Cuba.

In 1978, then-president Jimmy Carter hosted Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin at Camp David. Their 13 days of meetings led to a peace agreement known as the Camp David Accords, a major step in curbing years of conflict between Egypt and Israel, according to the State Department’s Office of the Historian. Sadat and Begin were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a result of the agreement.

In the midst of the energy crisis in 1979, Carter traveled to Camp David for a series of secret meetings over the course of ten days, according to the Carter Center. After leaving the camp, Carter delivered his famed “malaise speech” in which he discussed problems facing the country, including a “crisis of confidence.”

“I invited to Camp David people from almost every segment of our society -- business and labor, teachers and preachers, Governors, mayors, and private citizens,” Carter said in the address.

Former president Ronald Reagan hosted prominent foreign leaders including Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone at Camp David, according to Reagan’s presidential library archives. Reagan reportedly loved the camp, and particularly enjoyed riding horses with his family at the retreat.

In her memoir, "My Turn," former first lady Nancy Reagan described how Camp David “gave her a tremendous feeling of release” and helped her and the president “get their thoughts in order.”

In 1989, then-president George H.W. Bush invited Britain's Prince Charles to Camp David. In 1992, his daughter Dorothy married Bobby Koch at the retreat, the first wedding at the camp.

Former president Bill Clinton attempted to broker a peace accord between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat at the retreat. The leaders stayed at the camp for more than a week in 2000, with Arafat and Barak both threatening to walk out on talks. Despite round the clock efforts, the summit ended without an agreement.

Visiting Camp David 150 times in his two terms, former president George W. Bush hosted many foreign leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Former president Barack Obama hosted the 38th G8 summit at Camp David in 2012 with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former British Prime Minister David Cameron, former French President Francois Hollande and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the camp, according to Obama’s White House archives. During the summit, Obama discussed climate change and announced a new alliance on food security with African leaders.

“I think the surroundings gave us an opportunity to hold some intimate discussions and make some genuine progress,” Obama said of the location in a statement.

In 2015, Obama hosted the Gulf Cooperation Council summit at the retreat, welcoming leaders from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss topics including Iran’s nuclear activities and the Syrian chemical war, an archived statement read.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug172017

White House: Trump finding 'convenient' time to speak with Charlottesville victim's family

Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has yet to speak with the family of Heather Heyer, the woman killed in Saturday's violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, the White House said, despite his assurances on Tuesday that he would do so.

Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters told reporters in New Jersey on Thursday that the White House is working to identify a convenient time for the discussion between Trump and Heyer's family to take place.

"We appreciate the unifying words that Heather's mother spoke yesterday," Walters told reporters. "We are working on identifying a time that is convenient for the family to speak with the president. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.

In the midst of a highly charged press conference Tuesday, Trump highlighted the fact that Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, had thanked him for saying something about her daughter publicly.

"Thank you, President Trump, for those words of comfort and for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred," Bro had said in a statement on Monday.

Trump said Tuesday that a conversation with the family would be forthcoming.

"I will be reaching out, I'll be reaching out," he said.

When a reporter followed up to ask when the call would take place, the president pivoted to talk instead about Bro and his remarks denouncing the "hatred, bigotry and violence" that occurred over the weekend.

"I thought that the statement put out -- the mother's statement -- I thought was a beautiful statement," said Trump of Bro's comments. "I’ll 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 she’s under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won't forget. Thank you all very much. Thank you."

Trump was criticized both for not specifically condemning hate groups on Saturday, and again during Tuesday's news conference when he reiterated that "both sides" were to blame for the violence in the central Virginia city.

Trump has utilized social media in recent days to speak about Heyer and the two Virginia state police officers who died in a helicopter crash as they were assisting in response efforts related to the protests. Trump's most recent tweet was published ahead of Heyer's memorial service Wednesday.

Memorial service today for beautiful and incredible Heather Heyer, a truly special young woman. She will be long remembered by all!

On Saturday, he tweeted, "Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!"

The White House has not commented on whether Trump has reached out to the families of the police officers who were killed in the helicopter crash or if he intends to.

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Thursday
Aug172017

Trump calls removal of Confederate memorials 'sad'

ABC News(WASHINGTON) --  President Donald Trump Thursday called the removal of Confederate statues and memorials "sad," days after deadly violence at a rally to protest the removal of such an effigy in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he wrote in a series of three tweets. “You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"




The tweets echo a sentiment he touched on during a particularly combative news conference Tuesday when he questioned whether statues of former Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, for example, should be removed as well because they were slaveowners.

"So you know what, it’s fine,” Trump said Tuesday. “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 [in Charlottesville] other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

"There were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee," Trump said.

He deferred to local authorities on whether all statues of Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee should remain in place.

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

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Thursday
Aug172017

Top US general: North Korean nuclear attack is 'unimaginable'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The top U.S. general on Thursday warned that allowing North Korea to launch a nuclear attack on the United States would be "unimaginable."

Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in Beijing that President Trump had asked military commanders to "develop credible viable military options" and "that's exactly what we're doing." But Dunford also called a military solution to the North Korean threat "horrific."

Dunford's comments came at the same time South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the U.S. has promised to seek its approval before taking military action against North Korea.

The U.S. has over 28,000 service members stationed in South Korea.

"I would consider that North Korea is crossing a red line if it launches an intercontinental ballistic missile again and weaponizes it by putting a nuclear warhead on top of the missile," Moon said Thursday.

Trump has promised "fire and fury" in response to recent North Korean threats. But his chief strategist Steve Bannon said in an interview published Wednesday night that there are no military solutions to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula.

“There’s no military solution, forget it," Bannon told The American Prospect. "Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 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.”

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un threatened to launch missiles into the waters off of Guam last week. Guam is a U.S. island territory and hosts two U.S. military bases.

However, after reviewing the plans, Kim seemed to walk back his threat, saying he would wait and observe the "foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees."

North Korea tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile in late July.

Dunford's comments to reporters followed a nearly week-long trip to Asia, which included stops in South Korea and China.

Earlier in the week, Dunford and his Chinese counterparts signed an agreement designed to "improve communication between their militaries and reduce the chances of miscalculations." A direct line of communication at the three-star level would also be established.

U.S.-Chinese communications are especially crucial as "the region and world are facing the dangers of a nuclear-armed North Korea," according to a Joint Staff press release.

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Thursday
Aug172017

Trump slams 2 GOP senators as 'toxic' and 'publicity seeking'

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump went after Sen. Jeff Flake Thursday morning, tweeting that the Arizona Republican is “toxic” and a “non-factor” in the Senate.


Trump attacked Flake after he refused to vote for Trump in the presidential election. Earlier this year, Flake published “Conscience of a Conservative,” a book that can be seen as strong rebuke against Trump.

Trump also singled out Sen. Lindsey Graham by name Thursday, slamming the South Carolina senator as “publicity seeking.”

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. [Heather] Heyer,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“Such a disgusting lie,” he continued. “[Graham] just can't forget his election trouncing.”

Graham on Wednesday criticized the president for saying that white supremacists and counterprotesters were equally at fault for the violence that took place in Charlottesville, which killed 32-year-old Heyer and injured dozens more.

“Through his statements [Tuesday], President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer. I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency,” Graham said.

Graham released a statement on Thursday morning after the president's tweets, saying, "Mr. President, like most I seek to move our nation, my state, and our party forward - toward the light - not back to the darkness ... because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation -- as our President -- please fix this."


When Trump addressed the country on Sunday - his second statement on Charlottesville - condemning the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists by name and stating that “racism is evil,” Graham had initially responded with a simple tweet: “Well done Mr. President.”

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Thursday
Aug172017

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.

 Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug172017

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!"

 Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug172017

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.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Aug162017

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.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Aug162017

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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