Trump, Pence, White House try to detach Charlottesville events from any specific group

Developments on Day 205 of the Trump Administration:

See Podcast: Trump’s Disgraceful Evasion Over Charlottesville
Podcast: How Trump’s Threats v. North Korea Are Blunted by Advisors & China

Trump Avoids Reference to White Supremacists, Invokes “All Sides”

Donald Trump has failed to criticize white supremacists for violence during a Virginia rally in which a car rammed counter-protesters, killing one person and injuring 19.

A 32-year-old woman was killed by the car — which barreled into another vehicle, pushing it into a crowd — as she was walking across the street. A journalist was punched in the face by a protester as he recorded the incident.

James Alex Fields, 20, of Maumee, Ohio has been charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of failure to prevent a hit-and-run incident. Earlier in the day, he was photographed with other protesters holding flags and makeshift shields, standing in the center of this picture:


Two Virginia State Patrol troopers were killed in a helicopter crash as they assisted local law enforcement. In addition to the casualties from the ramming, at least 15 more people were wounded during the day.


The car ramming counter-protesters (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress)

Trump’s Vague Statements

Trump — in the middle of his 17-day vacation at his New Jersey golf club — had maintained Twitter silence on Friday night as white supremacists gathered in Charlottesville with burning torches in a scene reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan. He maintained his unusual blackout throughout Saturday as protesters reconvened for a “Unite the Right” rally, some with salutes and flags associated with Nazi Germany, some in military-style fatigues and carrying assault rifles. After news broke of the car-ramming, he finally tweeted, but with no specific reference to the white supremacists:

Two hours later, Trump gave a brief statement which began “We condemn hatred, bigotry and violence” but immediately added “on many sides” and repeated the phrase for emphasis. Vice President Mike Pence added:

An unidentified White House spokesperson reinforced the vague attributions and bolstered the detachment from any blame of the white supremacists: “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter-protesters today.”

Introducing the video of the statement on Twitter, Trump — or White House Social Media Director Dan Scavino in Trump’s name — wrote, “We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST.” However, he did so with a distinction between the supposed achievements of his Administration and “citizens” who needed to step up to the mark: “My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another.”

He later concluded his Twitter thoughts:

David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK and a vocal promoter of white supremacy, was displeased, “After decades of White Americans being targeted for discriminated & anti-White hatred, we come together as a people, and you attack us?”. However, the Daily Stormer — which assessed that the man who rammed counter-protesters was “Jewish” — was happy with the outcome:

Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. … No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.

Ironically, the one Trump Administration to come close to an acknowledgement of events was Attorney General Jeff Sessions who, as a judge in Alabama, was accused of racist views and actions. Announcing an investigation with the full support of the Department of Justice, he said:

The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice. When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated. Justice will prevail.

“Repeat After Me, Donald Trump”

Trump’s reticence to address the specific events — there was never a mention of how the “young woman” was killed — was in stark contrast to statements for others across party lines.

The Democratic Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, directly addressed the protesters: “Go home. … You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you.”

Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives, chided Trump:

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who stood for the Republican nomination in the 2016 Presidential election, wrote:

Democratic Congressman John Dingell, 91, asserted:

GOP Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado:

On Sunday morning, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a contender for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, spared no criticism in a Facebook post: “It’s tragic and heartbreaking to see hatred and racism once again mar our great Nation with bloodshed….These bigots want to tear our country apart, but they will fail. America is far better than this.”

Duke: March “Fulfills the Promises of Trump”

The catalyst for Saturday’s march was the decision of Charlottesville’s leaders to remove symbols of the Confederacy, such as a statue of General Robert E. Lee, but organizers had always cast it in wider terms as an assertion of white “nationalism”.

David Duke, the ex-KKK Grand Wizard, emphasized:

Statements like Duke’s and images from the rally, combined with Trump’s vague statements, reinforced speculation of a White House acceptance — and possibly even support — for the march’s aims. The events are likely to revive Trump’s discomfort from the 2016 Presidential campaign — Maggie Haberman of The New York Times recalled yesterday how Trump fervently denied any knowledge of Duke “and told me he would work with other outlets if I kept asking about Duke during the RNC [Republican National Convention]”.