US president Donald Trump dug in defiantly in his response to racial violence in Virginia, echoing the position of white nationalists by intensifying his opposition to the removal of monuments to the pro-slavery Civil War Confederacy.
Mr Trump’s presidency has been further engulfed in controversy over his response to last Saturday’s events in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville.
Violence erupted when white nationalists marched in protest over the planned removal of a statute of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate army commander in the Civil War that ended in 1865. A woman was killed when a man described as a white nationalist crashed his car into the counter-protesters.
Mr Trump blamed the violence on not just the white supremacist rally organisers but also the anti-racism counter-protesters, and said there were “very fine people” among both groups. He has been rebuked by lawmakers of both parties, numerous American business leaders, and US allies abroad.
Last night, he showed no sign of backing down.
He took aim at the removal or consideration for removal of Confederate statues and monuments in a long list of cities in states such as California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, and New York.
Opponents call the statues a festering symbol of racism, while supporters say they honour American history. Some of the monuments have become rallying points for white nationalists.
Mr Trump also sharply criticised two fellow Republicans in the US Senate, Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham, while denying he had spoken of “moral equivalency” between white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, and anti-racism activists.
Since taking office in January, Trump has periodically feuded with lawmakers in his own party. The latest spats could hinder his efforts to work with the Republican-controlled Congress on a legislative agenda that includes tax cuts and spending bills when lawmakers return next month from their summer break.
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