WASHINGTON (ABC) — President Donald Trump condemned hate groups including white supremacists in remarks from the White House Monday, after receiving criticism for his initial statement on the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.
“Racism is evil,” said Trump, two days after a car drove into a crowd of people in the midst of violent clashes over a white nationalist rally. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the [Ku Klux Klan], neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Trump’s immediate response to the violence, which did not label the incident as an act of terrorism, nor include a denunciation of white supremacy, was met with bipartisan backlash. During remarks addressing the rally and subsequent clashes from his golf club in New Jersey, the president condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”
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A White House official later elaborated on Trump’s comments, indicating that the president was opposed to the “hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides” and noting that “there was violence between protesters and counter-protesters.”
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Trump’s address Monday came after a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray. He noted that, on Saturday, the Department of Justice opened a federal civil rights investigation into the incident involving the car, and addressed those who contributed to the violence in the Virginia city.
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“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable,” said Trump. “Justice will be delivered.”
On Monday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended Trump’s initial response, telling ABC News that “he explicitly condemned the kind of ideology behind these movements of Naziism, white supremacy, the KKK.”
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“That is his unequivocal position,” said Sessions.
The attorney general further said Monday that the attack met “the definition of domestic terrorism.”
The president did not use the term “terrorism” during his speech from the White House Monday.