BEDMINSTER, N.J. — The White House scrambled Sunday to elaborate on President Donald Trump’s response to deadly, race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, as he came under bipartisan scolding for not clearly condemning white supremacists and other hate groups immediately after the altercations.
As the chorus of criticism grew, White Houses aides were dispatched to the morning news shows, yet they struggled at times to explain the president’s position. A new White House statement on Sunday explicitly denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups.
Trump himself remained out of sight and silent, save for a retweet about two Virginia state policemen killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the Charlottesville protests.
In the hours after a car plowed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters on Saturday, Trump addressed the violence in broad strokes, saying that he condemns “in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
Speaking slowly from his New Jersey golf club while on a 17-day working vacation, Trump added: “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”
The White House statement Sunday went further. “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.” It added: “He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”
The White House did not attach a name to the statement. Usually, a statement would be signed by the press secretary or another staffer; not putting a name to one eliminates an individual’s responsibility for its truthfulness and often undercuts its significance.
Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said Sunday that he considered the attack to be terrorism. On Saturday, Trump had not responded to reporters’ shouted questions about terrorism.
“I certainly think anytime that you commit an attack against people to incite fear, it is terrorism,” McMaster told ABC’s “This Week.” ″It meets the definition of terrorism. But what this is, what you see here, is you see someone who is a criminal, who is committing a criminal act against fellow Americans.”
The president’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, defended the president’s initial statement…