Trump Blames Both Sides for Racial Violence at Virginia Rally

President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 15, 2017.

President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Aug. 15, 2017.

 

President Donald Trump went back to blaming both sides for Saturday’s deadly racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, after Monday’s statement in which he condemned the neo-Nazis and white separatists, but made no mention of counterprotesters.

Trump stood in the lobby of his New York office tower Tuesday to talk about rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.

But the news conference quickly turned into a shouting match between the president and reporters demanding to know why it took him two days to use the words neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists.

Trump’s critics say the first statement he made was weak and failed to condemn the white supremacists by name while saying all sides were responsible for the violence.

The facts

Trump said he wanted all the facts first.

“The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. ... I like to be correct. ... And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice.”

After more comments to reporters about “fake news,” Trump appeared to lose his patience, accusing what he called the “alt-left” of accusing the far-right marchers of “violently attacking the other group” with clubs. He said the counterprotesters had no permit to be there.

“I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it,” he said.

Comments bring condemnation

Some reporters who were in Charlottesville say nearly every one of the white supremacists was armed with some kind of weapon while counterprotesters were generally unarmed, noting a number of college students and clergymen were among them.

As with Trump’s statement Saturday, his comments Tuesday brought almost universal condemnation from lawmakers in both political parties.

 

On Twitter, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said: “There’s no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so.”

Fellow Republican, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida tweeted: “Blaming ‘both sides’ for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no.’’

 

Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat of Virginia, tweeted, “Charlottesville violence was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.”

 

Fellow Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said “The President of the United States just defended neo-Nazis and blamed those who condemn their racism and hate. This is sick.’’

Not outright defense

Trump stopped short of outright defending the far-right marchers but said not all of them were neo-Nazis and white nationalists. He said some were “very fine people” who the press has treated “absolutely unfairly.”

He said they came to Charlottesville to protest the city’s plans to tear down a statue of Civil War Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017.
White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they guard the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017.

He dodged a reporter’s question on whether he believes the Lee statue should remain, calling it a local matter. But he said George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — both regarded as American heroes and progressives — were slave owners and wondered if their statues need to be taken down, too.

Trump called the Nazi sympathizing driver who is charged with killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer with his car a “murderer ... a disgrace to himself and to the country.” He said Heyer was a “fantastic, fine, incredible young woman.”

He said job creation is one solution to overcome racism, saying people want great jobs with good pay.

2 Bangladeshis killed in US road crash

Prachita Dutta Tumpa and Imtiaz Ikram Ali. Photo courtesy: Prothom Alo

 

Two Bangladeshi youths were killed and another was critically injured in a road accident in Georgia State of USA on Monday.

 

The deceased are Imtiaz Ikram Ali, 26, and Prachita Dutta Tumpa, 25, PHD students at Charlotte University, North Carolina, according to Bangla daily Prothom Alo.

 

Injured Farzana Sultana Tushi, also a student of Charlotte University, was admitted to Georgia Hospital.

The accident took place around 8:00 pm (local time) at Wilkinson County, Bangla Daily Prothom Alo reports quoting Georgia State Patrol Police.



Tushi along with Imtiaz Ikram and Tumpa was travelling to her sister’s house in Florida from North Carolina after hearing the death news of her father, who died two days back, the report says quoting common friends.

Trump Denounces White Supremacists Who Staged Deadly Rally

President Donald Trump pauses as he speaks about the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 14, 2017, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington.

President Donald Trump pauses as he speaks about the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 14, 2017, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington.

 

U.S. President Donald Trump has denounced the white supremacists behind Saturday’s deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying their “racism is evil.”

For the first time since the violence, Trump mentioned by name neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and white supremacists as “criminals and thugs ... that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Trump Declares 'Racism is Evil,' Citing 'White Supremacists,' Ku Klux Klan, Others

He vowed that anyone who committed “racist violence” in Charlottesville would be held accountable, and said what happened in the city was an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence.”

Trump’s comments followed intense criticism from across the political spectrum for failing for two days to explicitly use the words white supremacists and neo-Nazis in condemning the violence.

“It should not take two days and a national tragedy for the president to take action and disavow white supremacists,” said Kristen Clarke with the non-profit Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “When it comes to the safety and the security of our communities, too many of which now feel targeted by hate-fueled protestors, two days is too late.”

Chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., Kenneth Frazier, takes part in a panel discussion during the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York, Sept. 27, 2015.
Chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., Kenneth Frazier, takes part in a panel discussion during the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting in New York, Sept. 27, 2015.

Late Monday, Trump lashed out at the media for its coverage of the last two days.

“Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the Fake News Media will never be satisfied ... truly bad people!” the president wrote on Twitter.

 

World reaction

Images of the violence in Charlottesville and the fiery debate over racism also resonated around the world, particularly in European capitals where leaders are grappling with an upsurge of xenophobia.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said she condemns “racism, hatred and violence” as well as “the far right.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also criticized what she called “racist, right-wing violence,” saying it must be dealt with forcefully.

At the United Nations, spokesman Farhan Haq said the world body condemns the violence in Charlottesville.

“We believe that there must be no place in our societies for the violence racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and discrimination that we have seen in Charlottesville, Virginia, in recent days,” he said.

In New York, Trump made a rare visit Monday to his home in Trump Tower, an area that drew some of his supporters but many more protesters who gathered to chant against the president and white supremacist groups.

Business leaders respond

Also Monday, three members of the American Manufacturing Council, the president’s advisory board of chief executive officers, resigned over the president’s reaction to the violence.

Kenneth Frazier, the chief executive of Merck Pharmaceuticals, said the president initially did not “clearly reject expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

Trump, in a Twitter response, said that since Frazier had quit the manufacturing council, he would now “have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

 

Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank tweeted that he is quitting the council because he would rather unite people and promote diversity through the power of sports, not politics.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said he was resigning to highlight the “serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues.”

“I resigned because I want to make progress, while many in Washington seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them,” Krzanich said. “We should honor — not attack — those who have stood up for equality and other cherished American values.”

Speaking at the White House Monday, Trump paid tribute to the three people died Saturday, including Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal who had gone to the rally to protest against the white nationalists. She was killed when she was hit by a speeding car driven into a group of counterprotesters.

Victim’s mother speaks out

Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, thanked Trump for denouncing “violence and hatred,” and vowed to continue her daughter’s activism against bigotry.

“That’s what America is about, that’s what made America great to begin with. We are a melting pot of everybody coming together and working as one,” Bro said.

Two Virginia state police troopers who had been monitoring the protest from the air were also killed when their helicopter crashed.

A makeshift memorial of flowers and a photo of victim, Heather Heyer, sits in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 13, 2017.
A makeshift memorial of flowers and a photo of victim, Heather Heyer, sits in Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 13, 2017.

Trump spoke after two of his top law enforcement officials, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray, briefed him on the federal probe. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Saturday’s violence.

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville, Virginia, police department.
James Alex Fields Jr., 20, is seen in a mugshot released by Charlottesville, Virginia, police department.

Sessions told ABC News, “You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America.”

Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas said the far right groups broke their agreement with police and entered a city park from different directions instead of a single entry point.

The 20-year-old charged with driving the car that hit Heyer, James Alex Fields Jr., has been charged with murder along with other counts.

A Charlottesville judge refused to grant him bond during his first court appearance Monday.

Virginia state troopers stand under a statue of Robert E. Lee before a white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017.
Virginia state troopers stand under a statue of Robert E. Lee before a white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017.

The far-right groups held the rally to protest plans by Charlottesville to tear down a statue of General Robert E. Lee. Lee was the leader of the Confederate forces that fought against federal forces in the U.S. Civil War from 1861 until 1865.

The war was essentially about slavery in the U.S. South. Statues of Lee and other Confederate generals have become the center of demonstrations in several U.S. cities.

(VOA's William Gallo contributed to this report from the White House)

Private Security Firms Possibility in US Afghan Strategy

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 13, 2017, before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense department's budget.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens while testifying on Capitol Hill in Washington, June 13, 2017, before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense department's budget.

 

U.S. policymakers are “very, very close” to a new military strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, but options still range from withdrawal to an increased reliance on private security contractors.

 

“I believe we are close,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters late Monday, cautioning a range of options are under consideration.

 

“We’re sharpening each one of the options so you can see the pluses and minuses of each one,” he said.

 

The U.S. has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan helping Afghan forces fight the Taliban, while also targeting militants aligned with the al-Qaida and Islamic State terror groups.

 

Plans to send perhaps an additional 4,000 troops to boost U.S. efforts there have been delayed while the White House and military planners review various options.

 

Private contractors

 

One possibility that has reportedly caught the President Donald Trump’s attention is a proposal to decrease U.S. reliance on its military forces and instead turn to private contractors.

 

One plan put forward by the founder of a private security firm, formerly known as Blackwater, calls for replacing U.S. troops with about 5,000 contractors who would be backed by a 90-plane private air force.

 

“The United States, right now, is spending more than the entire U.K. defense budget, just in Afghanistan. And the U.S. can’t continue that forever,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told VOA’s Afghan service.

 

Prince described Washington’s current approach “very chaotic and disorganized,” and says his plan would get the job done for less than $10 billion a year.

 

Legal and mutual security questions

 

Afghanistan’s government has not yet officially responded to the proposal. But a senior Afghan defense official told VOA, “The plan has legal problems and raises questions about our mutual security agreements with the U.S.”

 

Still, Mattis said the possibility of using more private security contractors has not been ruled out.

 

“It’s part of the options being considered, and the president is open to the advice of the secretary of state and myself and the director of CIA,” he said.

 

Mattis also expressed confidence in the current commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson.

 

Trump reportedly suggested firing Nicholson last month for not winning the war against the Taliban.

 

“He has the confidence of NATO. He has the confidence of Afghanistan. He has the confidence of the United States,” Mattis said.

 

But when asked if Trump remained confident in Nicholson’s leadership, Mattis said, “Ask the president.”

William Gallo, Ayub Khawreen and Hasib Danish Alikozai contributed to this report.

Trump’s Tweets, Use of Rhetoric, Keep World on Edge

FILE - An illustration photo shows President Donald Trump's Twitter feed on a computer screen.

 An illustration photo shows President Donald Trump's Twitter feed on a computer screen.

 

Walking outside to address reporters at his golf estate in Bedminister, New Jersey, U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday showcased the bravado that has become one of the hallmarks of his presidency.

"Maybe it wasn't tough enough," he said, responding to a question about his increasingly tough talk about North Korea following Pyongyang's threat to launch missiles in the direction of Guam, or at other U.S. allies.

On Friday, the president returned to the theme on Twitter.

"Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely," Trump tweeted.

Within hours, the president's post had been retweeted more than 22,500 times, getting more than 57,000 likes.

Trump's words, both in person and on social media, fell into a pattern of what U.S. allies and partners describe as a concerning new reality, that of a world leader constantly ratcheting up his rhetoric while playing to his political base, even on the world stage.

At best, these officials describe Trump's rhetoric and tweets as distractions to be ignored. At worst, they say, they can be a complication.

The officials, from several countries long considered key U.S. allies or which have forged important relationships with the U.S., agreed to speak to VOA over a course of several months, insisting on anonymity because of the high degree of sensitivity surrounding such matters.

"We always have important things to discuss with our American allies… but it is the elephant in the room," one Western diplomatic official told VOA of Trump's tweets. "People see it."

"The tweets are more for his national base," said a second Western diplomatic official from another country, noting that even so, they cannot be ignored.

"We follow them," he said.

Both of the officials, along with others who spoke with VOA, said they and their colleagues do their best to ignore Trump's so-called tweet storms and have advised their governments to do the same.

Yet they admit the attention-grabbing nature of Trump's rhetoric, whether on social media or during speeches or interviews, makes it hard for their compatriots to ignore.

Often, these U.S.-based officials say, they are forced to deal with questions from those hoping to understand what the U.S. president really means, whether it is important and what all of this says about the state of affairs in Washington.

VOA contacted the White House, asking about the concerns being raised by foreign officials, and about whether any countries have raised such concerns directly with the administration. A White House spokesperson said a response would be sent via email but VOA had not yet received any email at the time this article was published.

Still, the president himself has used Twitter to defend his use of social media, indicating he will not give it up.

 
Allies changing diplomatic tactics

Already, though, the foreign officials who spoke with VOA said Trump's use of rhetoric and social media has impacted the way they prepare their heads of state and other officials for trips to Washington.

In addition to familiarizing the visiting dignitaries with Trump's background and how he is likely to greet and act during the visit, the briefers say they constantly remind their principles to be careful not to take any of the U.S. president's public statements too seriously.

All that matters, according to these foreign officials, is what is discussed in private, directly with the president. And even then, many treat any verbal promises or agreements with caution, a development they find worrying.

"A lot of people are now concerned," the second diplomat told VOA. "We have to see the concrete action and the operational decisions on the ground."

Despite such unease, many of these same officials play down concerns about more far-reaching consequences, at least when it comes to ongoing areas of cooperation.

Joint efforts on issues like intelligence sharing and counterterrorism remain strong, the officials say, pointing to long-running relationships forged over the years by their countries and U.S. agencies.

"It's very hard for the U.S. to go back on this," a Western diplomatic official told VOA earlier this year. "This goes way beyond the president."

Still, there are those who wonder how long such cooperation can remain unaffected by President Trump's unscripted communications, which at times have undercut statements from other, key U.S. officials. Several weeks ago, Trump took to Twitter to proclaim a new policy banning transgender individuals from serving in "any capacity" in the military.

The tweets caught U.S. military officials by surprise, as no official guidance had been issued on any change in policy.

There are also numerous examples of Trump using his Twitter account to call out leaders, such as North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

He also used the platform to go after the mayor of London, following the London Bridge terror attack in June.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan accused Trump of taking his statement out of context and promptly called on the British government to cancel a planned visit by the U.S. leader.

And then there has been Trump's steady stream of tweets about Russia, often seeming to downplay concerns that Russia tried to meddle in the U.S. presidential election, contrary to the assessment of the top U.S. intelligence agencies.

 

"The problem is that when anyone other than [President Trump] is describing U.S. policy, no one believes it is definitive because he is so erratic with his tweets,' former CIA and NSA Director, ret. Gen. Michael Hayden told VOA via email.

"It's unnerving to allies. It sends mixed signals to adversaries," added Terence Szuplat, who served as a foreign policy speech writer for former U.S. President Barack Obama, further describing President Trump's use of Twitter as "grossly irresponsible."

"It just diminishes and cheapens the role of this president," he said. "The words of this president are just not taken seriously around the world."

Other long-time observers of international affairs think such assessments may be overstated.

"Sometimes too much is read into the Twitter statements," said Nile Gardiner, who was a foreign policy researcher for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. "I don't think they undercut the United States on the world stage."

Gardiner, now the director of the Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation, said the way President Trump uses social media could very well become the norm as a new generation of leaders steps to the forefront.

"Twitter is just one component that helps inform foreign governments about the possible position or thinking of another administration. But nothing replaces good old-fashioned diplomacy and one-on-one conversations," he said. "And I do think that President Trump devotes a lot of time to old fashioned diplomacy, actually."

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