Anger over Charlottesville follows US President to Trump Towers

Anger over Charlottesville follows US President to Trump Towers

President Donald Trump is back in the New York skyscraper that bears his name as anger over his reaction to race-fuelled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend shows few signs of dying down.

Protesters on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue tried to spoil Mr Trump's homecoming on Monday night with signs bearing messages such as "stop the hate, stop the lies" and chanting "shame, shame, shame" and "not my president".

After two days of public equivocation and internal White House debate, the president condemned white supremacist groups by name on Monday, declaring "racism is evil".

In a hastily arranged statement at the White House, Mr Trump branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as "criminals and thugs".

The groups are "repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans", he said.

The move did not quiet the uproar, however. The leaders of four minority House caucus groups wrote a letter to Mr Trump calling for the removal of White House staff aides Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.

The heads of the black, Hispanic, Asian and progressive caucuses called in the letter for the Trump administration officials to be fired in the wake of a violent, racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The letter asserts their continuing presence in the White House is emboldening a resurgent white supremacist movement in America.

This came a day after Anthony Scaramucci, who was fired as White House communications director after a less than two weeks, called for Mr Bannon to go.

In his initial remarks on the violence on Saturday, Mr Trump did not single out the groups and instead bemoaned violence on "many sides".

Those remarks prompted stern criticism from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, who urged him to seize the moral authority of his office to condemn hate groups.

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 a statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, 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.

Anger over Charlottesville follows US President to Trump Towers

Mr Trump was reluctant to adjust his remarks.

The president had indicated to advisers before his initial statement on Saturday that he wanted to stress a need for law and order, which he did.

He later expressed anger to those close to him about what he perceived as the media's unfair assessment of his remarks, believing he had effectively denounced all forms of bigotry, according to outside advisers and White House officials.

Several of Mr Trump's senior advisers, including new chief of staff John Kelly, had urged him to make a more specific condemnation, warning that the negative story would not go away and that the rising tide of criticism from fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill could endanger his legislative agenda, according to two White House officials.

Aides were dispatched to Sunday talk shows but struggled to explain the president's position. A stronger statement was released - but attributed only to an unnamed spokesman.

Tougher condemnations began on Sunday night with Vice President Mike Pence, travelling in South America, declaring that "these dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life".

On Monday, Mr Trump had planned to interrupt his 17-day working vacation at his New Jersey golf club to travel to Washington for an announcement he hoped would showcase some tough talk on China's trade practices.

But by the time he arrived at mid-morning, it was clear all other messages would be drowned out until he said more about Charlottesville.

Mr Trump returned to a White House undergoing a major renovation. With the Oval Office unavailable, he worked from the Treaty Room as aides drafted his remarks.

Reading from a teleprompter, he made a point of beginning with an unrelated plug for the strength of the economy under his leadership. Then, taking pains to insist "as I said on Saturday," Mr Trump denounced the hate groups and called for unity.

"We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence," he said.

Mr Trump for the first time mentioned Heather Heyer by name as he paid tribute to the woman killed by the car.

At the trade event later in the day, he was asked why it took two days for him to offer an explicit denunciation of the hate groups.

"They have been condemned," Mr Trump responded before offering a fresh criticism of some media as "fake news".

He followed with a tweet declaring "the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied."

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