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An apparently unapologetic Donald Trump has started his day by tweeting ‘MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN’, the day after insisting that “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly weekend violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 16, 2017
The President failed to address the barrage of criticism with which he has been met following an extraordinary press conference on Tuesday during which he ‘went rogue’, giving unscripted responses to reporters over intense questioning on his initial response to the violence in Charlottesville.
Instead, he praised the actions of Kim Jong-un in withdrawing his threat against Guam, and repeated his notorious campaign slogan on the social media site.
Tuesday’s extraordinary outburst was met with fire from all sides.
The President’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House on Monday when he branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs”.
Trump, who repeatedly criticised the “fake news” throughout his speech for failing to report the facts correctly, was immediately condemned by both senior Democrats…
As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment. This is not my President.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) August 15, 2017
By saying he is not taking sides, Donald Trump clearly is. When David Duke and white supremacists cheer, you’re doing it very very wrong.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) August 15, 2017
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) 15 August 2017
President @realDonaldTrump, standing in a city built by people of every race, creed and faith, just defended white supremacists.
— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) August 15, 2017
Blaming “both sides” for #Charlottesville?! No. Back to relativism when dealing with KKK, Nazi sympathizers, white supremacists? Just no.
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) 15 August 2017
When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you,it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them 3/6
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) August 15, 2017
David Duke, on the other hand – a white nationalist and former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan – defended the President:
I posted this to you yesterday — Thank You Mr. President & God Bless You for setting the record straight for ALL AMERICANS. https://t.co/YTthmaSS0I
— David Duke (@DrDavidDuke) August 15, 2017
And Richard Spencer, a leading voice of the alt-right was also supportive…
— Richard ☝Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) August 15, 2017
Mr Trump’s advisers had hoped those remarks might quell a crush of criticism from both Republicans and Democrats.
But his retorts on Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that clean-up effort.
A senior White House adviser told NBC News that Mr Trump’s team “was stunned” as he went off script during a heated exchange with reporters.
During an impromptu press conference in the lobby of his Manhattan skyscraper, he praised his original response to Charlottesville and angrily blamed liberal groups in addition to white supremacists for the violence.
Some of those protesting at the rally to save a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee were “also very violent”, he said.
“There are two sides to a story,” he said. He added that some facts about the violence still aren’t known.
As Mr Trump talked, his aides on the sidelines of the lobby stood in silence.
Chief of staff John Kelly crossed his arms and stared down at his shoes. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders looked around the room trying to make eye contact with other senior aides.
When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Mr Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.
He said he had yet to call the mother of the woman killed when a car ploughed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters but said that he would soon “reach out.”
As Mr Trump finally walked away from his lectern, he stopped to answer one more shouted question: Would be plan to visit Charlottesville, the college town ravaged by the hate-filled clashes?
The president’s response was to note that he owned property there and to say it was one of the largest wineries in the United States.
On Monday protesters on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue had tried to spoil Mr Trump’s homecoming with signs bearing messages such as “stop the hate, stop the lies” and chanting “shame, shame, shame” and “not my president”.
Mr Trump’s softer statement on Saturday had come as graphic images of a car ploughing into a crowd in Charlottesville were playing continually on television.
White nationalists had assembled in the city to protest against plans to take down the statue and counter-protesters gathered in opposition.
Fights broke out, and then a car drove into the opponents of the white supremacists. One woman was killed and many more badly hurt. Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields Jr of Ohio is charged with second-degree murder and other counts.