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Monday
Aug142017

President Trump condemns 'repugnant' hate groups, including KKK, neo-Nazis

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump has condemned hate groups including white supremacists, calling them "repugnant" in remarks from the White House Monday, two days after a car drove into a crowd of people in the midst of violent clashes over a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing one woman.

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

Trump received bipartisan criticism over the weekend for his immediate response to the violence in Charlottesville, which did not label the incident as an act of terrorism, nor include a denunciation of white supremacy. During remarks addressing the rally and subsequent clashes from his golf club in New Jersey, the president condemned the "egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides."

A White House official later elaborated on Trump's comments, indicating that the president was opposed to the "hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides" and noting that "there was violence between protesters and counter-protesters."

On Monday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended Trump's response, telling ABC News that "he explicitly condemned the kind of ideology behind these movements of Naziism, white supremacy, the [Ku Klux Klan]."

"That is his unequivocal position," said Sessions.

The attorney general further said Monday that the attack met "the definition of domestic terrorism." On Saturday night, Sessions announced that the Department of Justice was opening a federal investigation into the incident.


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Monday
Aug142017

Trump has been slow to call out white nationalists before, critics say

Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Though President Donald Trump condemned hate groups on Monday following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend, for some the remarks were too little, too late.

Trump's immediate response to the violence, which left one dead Saturday after a driver rammed a car into a crowd of people in the midst of violent clashes over a white nationalist rally, was met with bipartisan backlash, particularly because he did not label the ramming an act of terrorism or include a denunciation of white supremacists.

One of the president's most vocal critics was Jonathan Greenblatt, the director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, who specifically singled out Trump for initially referring to the incident as an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

Speaking Monday to reporters, Greenblatt lambasted Trump for not taking a swift and strong stance against hate groups on Saturday, something he says the president has done repeatedly.

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

One of the clearest examples of this came when then-candidate Trump did not immediately distance himself from the endorsement of David Duke, a former Louisiana lawmaker who was once grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

At first, Trump declined to disavow the support Duke, insisting during a CNN interview that he needed "to look at the group" first, despite being reminded of Duke’s long association with the KKK.

"Honestly, I don't know David Duke, I don't believe I've ever met him, I'm pretty sure I didn't meet him, and I just don't know anything about him," Trump told CNN on Feb. 28, 2016.

He later said he "disavowed" Duke and reiterated that throughout the week following the interview.

Heidi Beirich, the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, which tracks hate groups, said that the disavowal of Duke, and the time that it took Trump to make that statement, is "another example where he just kind of pussyfooted around something."

Both Beirich and Greenblatt referenced how Trump retweeted posts from users with handles like "@WhiteGenocideTM" and how he used memes recycled from white supremacist websites as examples of his lack of separation from such groups during the campaign.

Other instances include the neo-Nazis and white supremacists sometimes spotted at Trump campaign events, a white nationalist super PAC making robocalls on Trump's behalf, and a prominent member of an alt-right group expressing his support of Trump.

Greenblatt noted Monday on the call how a number of anti-Semitic sentiments were also expressed during the Charlottesville melee this weekend and pointed out that Trump has faced accusations of anti-Semitism before as well.

Two examples of that include the controversy surrounding the Trump campaign’s use of a picture on Twitter that showed Hillary Clinton’s face superimposed on a stack of money and a six-pointed star that many likened to a Star of David, and his administration’s release of a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that failed to mention Jews.

Trump has repeatedly denied that he is anti-Semitic or racist, regularly pointing to his close ties to the Jewish community. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner practices Orthodox Judaism, and the president's daughter Ivanka Trump converted when she married Kushner.

Kushner himself has defended his father-in-law in the past, saying in a statement in July 2016, "I know that Donald does not at all subscribe to any racist or anti-Semitic thinking. I have personally seen him embrace people of all racial and religious backgrounds. The suggestion that he may be intolerant is not reflective of the Donald Trump I know."

And in remarks on Monday, Trump called out hate groups for their behavior, saying, "Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the [Ku Klux Klan], neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans." Trump again did not use the term "terrorism" to describe the incident, however.

Monday's comments were not enough for Greenblatt, who sees Trump's initial Charlottesville statement as a call to action.

“This wasn’t a subtle dog whistle. This was like a bullhorn and a signal for them to try and rise,” Greenblatt said of Trump’s repeated instances of not taking swift action in condemning such hate groups.

Beirich said that Trump "waits too long" to make his public criticisms, and when he does speak out, the earlier message resonates.

"What is so hard about saying 'I decry the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists that were in Charlottesville,'" she said, referencing the first statement Trump made about the violence in Virginia on Saturday. "He went out of his way to not decry neo-Nazis and white supremacists."

"When it comes to white supremacist terrorism, Donald Trump doesn't seem to care," she said.

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Monday
Aug142017

Lawmakers slam Trump for delay in denouncing hate groups by name

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- Following bipartisan criticism of his response to the unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president publicly condemned white supremacists and other hate groups by name for the first time since violence broke out.

“Racism is evil,” Trump said on Monday. "Those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the [Ku Klux Klan], neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."

“As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. It has no place in America,” Trump added.

Trump condemned the specific hate groups two days after a rally organized by white supremacists in Charlottesville turned deadly. Heather Heyer, 32, died after a man intentionally drove into a crowd of counter-protesters and 35 more people were injured. James Alex Fields Jr., an alleged Nazi sympathizer, has been charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count related to leaving the scene.

But while Trump addressed the situation in Charlottesville during a briefing on Saturday, calling for “the swift restoration of law,” he failed to mention the hate groups by name, instead condemning "violence on many sides."

Susan Bro, Heyer's mother, thanked the president for his words of “comfort and for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred” after his address on Monday.

A significant number of lawmakers criticized Trump's delay in condemning those groups.

"It shouldn’t take the President of the United States two days to summon the basic decency to condemn murder and violence by Nazis and white supremacists," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.

“If the President is sincere about rejecting white supremacists, he should remove all doubt by firing Steve Bannon and the other alt-right white supremacist sympathizers in the White House,” Pelosi added.

Sen. Lindsey Graham kept his response short, tweeting, “Well done Mr. President,” following Trump’s comments on Monday.

A spokesperson for Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said the senator “applauds the president for clearly communicating the evilness of racism and clearly calling out the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.”

But Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., criticized Trump's initial response and delay in condemning the specific groups involved.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. and the state's former governor, took on a different stance, telling MSNBC that Trump “sounded presidential” but he “wished he would have said those words on Saturday.”

"But I will give the president the benefit today. He said those words and now, we have to make sure his Department of Justice acts on those words. We fully pursue not only this one individual [James Alex Fields Jr.] ... but the DOJ will also go after these hate groups across the country because they’ll be back," Warner told MSNBC.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said she found it puzzling how Trump “didn't hesitate to attack” Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier over his resignation but “balks at calling out avowed white supremacists” for what they stand for.

Trump has accused Frazier of focusing on “lower rip-off drug prices” on Monday, just hours after Frazier resigned from the president’s American Manufacturing Council in what he described as a stand “against intolerance and extremism.”

Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., criticized the president shortly after his speech on Twitter: “Donald Trump's decision to support Arpaio *during* the Charlottesville crisis, as he refused to condemn white supremacy, speaks volumes.”

Beyer is referencing Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt for refusing a state judge’s order to stop targeting people he believed were undocumented immigrants during traffic patrols. The president told Fox News Sunday that he is “seriously considering” a pardon for the sheriff.

Beyer also pointed out that it took two full days of bipartisan criticism and “pleading by aides” as well as senior officials like Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his own daughter, Ivanka, for Trump to “issue this basic condemnation.”

Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, said while he was pleased Trump "had finally identified this hate," he added that such comments should have come 47 hours ago and that “words only mean so much.” Quigley added that America was “watching and waiting.”

Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, said he hoped Trump’s words “would begin to unite what white supremacists and bigotry in VA aimed to divide."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also responded to the president’s brief remarks, calling it “inexcusable” that Trump waiting so long.

"Denouncing white supremacists, KKK, & neo-Nazis should have been instinctive & instant. Trump's failure shows lack of moral leadership,” Blumenthal said in his first tweet, adding “delay greatly dilutes the message.”

Chair of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez also criticized Trump's delay, writing: “History won’t forget that when the streets of Charlottesville echoed with evil, Donald Trump responded with silence.”

For his part, Rep. David Cicilline, D-Rhode Island, tweeted: “It shouldn’t take 72 hours for the President to condemn Nazis marching in the street.”

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Monday
Aug142017

Nancy Pelosi calls on Trump to fire Steve Bannon after Charlottesville violence

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After President Donald Trump denounced "white supremacists" and "hate groups" Monday in remarks about the violence over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is calling on the president to fire his chief strategist, Steve Bannon.

Bannon has been singled out by critics of the administration who believe his viewpoints reflect that of the so-called "alt-right," a right-wing group with ideologies often defined as promoting white nationalism. In Charlottesville, a white nationalist rally protesting the decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee erupted in violence Saturday, eventually leading to the death of a woman who was struck by a car driven by an alleged Nazi sympathizer into a group of counter-protesters.

"If the president is sincere about rejecting white supremacists, he should remove all doubt by firing Steve Bannon and the other alt-right white supremacist sympathizers in the White House," said Pelosi, D-Calif. in a statement Monday. The minority leader additionally described Bannon as "shameless enforcer of those un-American beliefs."

In November, upon Bannon's appointment to the White House team, Pelosi released a statement in which she called the former executive chair of the conservative news outlet Breitbart a "white nationalist" and criticized his hiring by Trump.

"Bringing Steve Bannon into the White House is an alarming signal that President-elect Trump remains committed to the hateful and divisive vision that defined his campaign," said Pelosi at the time. "There must be no sugarcoating the reality that a white nationalist has been named chief strategist for the Trump administration."

On Monday, Pelosi was one of many politicians who expressed their disappointment with Trump's delay in forcefully identifying and condemning the hate groups involved in the rally and subsequent clashes.

"It shouldn’t take the president of the United States two days to summon the basic decency to condemn murder and violence by Nazis and white supremacists," she said.

Pelosi's call for Bannon's dismissal came the same day that the leader of the Anti-Defamation League, an advocacy group that combats anti-Semitism, told reporters that he thinks there should be a government inquiry into whether members of the White House staff have "links to white supremacy or white nationalist organizations."

"I think the appropriate thing is to use the Department of Justice and Office of Government Ethics to do the investigation themselves," said Jonathan A. Greenblat, the CEO of the ADL. He added, "The best way to determine if there are people with links these organizations is to use government resources," rather than to simply take their word for it.

Bannon has previously denied that his political beliefs are racist in interviews given shortly after Trump's election victory last year.

"I'm not a white nationalist, I'm a nationalist," Bannon told The Hollywood Reporter in November, explaining that his positions have been misinterpreted and are pegged to economic policies intended to assist the "American working class."

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Monday
Aug142017

Trump says he's seriously considering pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Scott Olson/Getty Images(BEDMINSTER, N.J.) -- President Donald Trump may soon issue a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“I am seriously considering a pardon for Sheriff Arpaio,” Trump said Sunday in an interview with Fox News from his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is on a working vacation.

Trump told Fox News he could issue the pardon - his first as president - in the next few days, if he decides to do so.

Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County and a vocal Trump supporter during the 2016 presidential campaign, spoke at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer on Trump’s behalf.

Earlier this month he was found guilty of criminal contempt for ignoring a court order to stop detaining suspected illegal immigrants. He faces up to six months in prison.

Arpaio has been a lightning rod in the national immigration debate for decades and has been praised by immigration hawks for his crackdown on illegal immigration. Activists, however, have criticized Arpaio for conditions in the open-air jail he managed outside of Phoenix known as Tent City.

Should Trump decide to pardon Arpaio in the near future, he'd be exercising his presidential power earlier than his two most recent predecessors. President George W. Bush didn't issue a pardon until December 2002, and President Barack Obama granted his first pardons in December 2010.

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Monday
Aug142017

Top US general says it's Trump's decision whether to strike N. Korea

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The decision on whether to strike North Korea ultimately rests with President Donald Trump, his top military adviser told reporters at a news conference Monday, adding that the focus is now on diplomatic and economic efforts to solve the standoff.

The United States is watching closely whether Pyongyang will fire missiles near Guam, with North Korea’s stated "mid-August" deadline for doing so falling Tuesday on a major Korean holiday, Liberation Day, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News' Martha Raddatz.

"I don't know if they're going to do what they say they're going to do. But we're not complacent about it,” Dunford told ABC News after the news conference in Seoul. “We're paying attention to everything that they say, everything that they do and we're preparing accordingly.”

Dunford attempted to reassure Americans, as well as Japanese and South Koreans, that the U.S. military has the "capability to defend them against a limited attack that North Korea is capable of delivering today."

Asked during his news conference about Trump's rhetoric and whether it has made the situation worse, Dunford said the president is communicating to a number of different audiences, including North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and China.

"My job is not to access whether the president's rhetoric is helpful or not," Dunford said. "My job is to make sure that when a president makes a decision, and he makes a decision to use military force, that I provide him with good options."
 
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Monday
Aug142017

Trump to return to Trump Tower for 1st time as president

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- President Trump is set to spend his first night at his Manhattan penthouse since becoming president.

Trump is making his return visit Monday night in the midst of what his administration has called a "working vacation" away from the White House, which is undergoing renovations. The president has been staying at his New Jersey home for over a week.

While this may be the president's first visit back to his Fifth Avenue skyscraper, it is hardly the first time he has retreated from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave to one of his Trump properties. The president has already made a dozen trips to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and his home in New Jersey since assuming the presidency.

Trump has previously referenced the costs associated with presidential protection as one of the reasons he has opted to return to his New Jersey estate rather than Trump Tower.

The New York Police Department said in February that it costs up to $308,000 a day to protect Trump Tower when the president is in town.

Prior to becoming president, Trump repeatedly criticized his predecessor, Barack Obama, for taxpayer-related expenses for his vacations.

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Monday
Aug142017

Trump's attorney general says 'evil' Charlottesville car-ramming fits domestic terror definition

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the incident of a man ramming his car into a crowd of demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, that left a young woman dead and sent 19 people to hospitals "does meet the definition of domestic terrorism" in U.S. law.

"It does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute," Sessions said on ABC News' "Good Morning America" today. "We are pursuing it in the [Department of Justice] in every way that we can make a case."

"You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought because this is unequivocally an unacceptable evil attack," he said.

The car-ramming incident occurred shortly after authorities in Charlottesville called off a planned white nationalist rally and ordered crowds to disperse following violent clashes between rallygoers and counterprotesters.

Heather Heyer, 32, who was with a group protesting against the white nationalist gathering, was killed when the car plowed into the crowd.

A 20-year-old Ohio man, James Alex Fields Jr., was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the incident.

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Sunday
Aug132017

White House: Trump 'condemns' white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups

The White House(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- In the wake of the violence that led to three deaths and 19 injuries during and after a planned white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, a White House spokesperson said Sunday that President Donald Trump "condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred," including white supremacy.

The new statement on Sunday comes a day after the president was widely criticized for not explicitly condemning white supremacy in his remarks. The president himself has still not addressed the omission directly.

"The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred. And, of course, that includes white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together," a White House spokesperson said.

ABC News asked the president Saturday if he wants the support of white nationalist groups, who say they support him, and whether he feels he's denounced them strongly enough. The president on Saturday did not answer any questions from reporters, however, after he’d taken questions from reporters extensively in prior days.

Trump first tweeted about the violence in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon.


Later on Saturday, speaking from his golf club in New Jersey, Trump made a statement to address the violence.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides," Trump said. "It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama -- this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives."

Afterwards, former Vice President Joe Biden responded on Twitter, writing, "There is only one side."

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., directly called out the president on Twitter, writing, "Mr. President -- we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists, and this was domestic terrorism."

On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., agreed with Gardner.

Graham said President Trump "missed an opportunity to be very explicit here.”

"These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House," he said. "I don't know why they believe that, but they don't see me as a friend in the Senate, and I would urge the president to dissuade these groups that he's their friend."

On Saturday, white nationalists held the Unite the Right rally to protest the city of Charlottesville's decision to remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park downtown. They were met with hundreds of counterprotesters and fights quickly broke out, which led Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency.

Later in the day, a silver Dodge Challenger rammed into a crowd of counterprotesters. One woman -- 32-year-old Heather Heyer -- was killed and 19 others were injured, according to Charlottesville City Police Department.

Authorities said the driver of that car was 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. Fields, along with three other individuals, was arrested.

Two Virginia State Police officers were killed in connection to the rally. Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates of Quinton, Virginia, died when their helicopter crashed as they were "assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation in Charlottesville," a Virginia State Police spokesperson said in a statement. The crash is still being investigated.

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Sunday
Aug132017

Scaramucci: Bannon's 'toleration' of white nationalism is 'inexcusable'

ABC News(NEW YORK) --  Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci hit at Steve Bannon for his controversial views a day after a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, descended into violence.

During ABC News’ livestream interview after This Week, Scaramucci was asked if he believes Bannon is a white supremacist or white nationalist. Scaramucci said he didn't know and hasn't directly asked Bannon about his views.

“I’ve never sat down with Steve Bannon and said, ‘Hey, are you a white nationalist or a white supremacist?’ But I think the toleration of it by Steve Bannon is inexcusable,” Scaramucci said.

Ahead of the livestream, Scaramucci gave his first television interview since his short-lived tenure in the White House, speaking out against Bannon and saying the president “knows what he’s going to do with” him.

Speaking with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on This Week, Scaramucci criticized the influence of the website Breitbart and Steve Bannon, who was the executive chairman of Breitbart before joining the Trump campaign and later the administration, saying that there's "this sort of 'Bannon-bart' influence" in the White House that he thinks "is a snag on the president."

When asked by Stephanopoulos if that influence stemmed from Bannon, Scaramucci said, "I think the president knows what he's going to do with Steve Bannon."

"Let's leave it up to the president. It's his decision, but at the end of the day, the president has a very good idea of who the leakers are inside the White House. The president has a very good idea of the people who are undermining his agenda, that are serving their own interests," Scaramucci added.

Asked if that included Bannon, Scaramucci said, "Well, yeah." He then said, "I would prefer to let the president make the decisions the president needs to make."

Scaramucci’s frustration with Bannon was put on full display last month after New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza published an article detailing an expletive-laced phone conversation he had with Scaramucci.

In the call, Scaramucci went after Bannon, using vulgar language to describe the chief strategist.

Asked about the call on This Week Sunday morning, Scaramucci said “the words were mischaracterized in the original article," before noting that Lizza is "not misquoting me, but he is mischaracterizing me."

“Obviously I paid the consequences,” Scaramucci told Stephanopoulos.

When discussing the influences that he thinks are impacting Trump, Scaramucci urged the president to take a more mainstream approach in order to sell his agenda.

“If the president really wants to execute the legislative agenda that I think is so promising for the American people, the lower middle-class people and the middle-class people, then he has to move away from that 'Bannon-bart' nonsense,” he said.

“That whole thing is nonsensical. It’s not serving the president’s interests. He's got to move more into the mainstream."

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