Trump Defends Charlottesville Response

James Clapper, a former director of U.S. national intelligence, expressed concern at President Trump’s performance, calling it “downright scary and disturbing.”


(Reuters) — President Donald Trump revved up supporters on Tuesday with a defense of his response to a white supremacist-organized rally in Virginia and a promise to shut down the U.S. government if necessary to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

Under fire for saying “both sides” were to blame for the violence between white supremacists and left-wing counter protesters in Virginia on Aug. 12, Trump accused television networks of ignoring his calls for unity in the aftermath.

“I didn’t say I love you because you’re Black, or I love you because you’re white,” Trump said. “I love all the people of our country.”

Police used pepper spray to disperse crowds after protesters threw rocks and bottles outside the convention center where Trump spoke, police said.

Trump, who often uses news organizations as a foil, repeatedly singled out the media for criticism of how it covered the violence in the Virginia college town of Charlottesville and the resulting political fallout.

“These are truly dishonest people. They’re bad people. I really think they don’t like our country,” Trump said. “The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media.”

Adopting a glib tone, Trump said many reporters ignored his condemnation of white supremacists, including the Ku Klux Klan.

“I hit ’em with neo-Nazi, I hit ’em with everything … KKK? We have KKK. I got ’em all,” he said.

James Clapper, a former director of U.S. national intelligence, expressed concern at Trump’s performance, calling it “downright scary and disturbing.”

“I question his fitness to be in office,” Clapper told CNN.

Government Shutdown

Funding for the border wall has lagged in the U.S. Congress as many lawmakers question whether Trump’s main promise during the 2016 presidential election campaign is really necessary.

But with a budget battle looming, Trump said he would be willing to risk a politically damaging government shutdown in order to secure funding for the wall.

He visited the border region in Yuma, Ariz., earlier on Tuesday.

“If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” Trump said. “We’re going to have our wall. The American people voted for immigration control. We’re going to get that wall.”

With thousands of supporters cheering him on, Trump also weighed in on another racially charged issue, hinting he would pardon former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio, 85, who battled immigration in the Phoenix area, was found guilty last month of criminal contempt for violating the terms of a 2011 court order in a racial profiling case.

NAFTA, North Korea

Trump covered the gamut of issues, from NAFTA trade talks to the U.S. showdown with North Korea, during a raucous, rambling and defiant political speech lasting an hour and 15 minutes.

He said he might terminate the NAFTA treaty with Mexico and Canada to jumpstart negotiations, and he said the standoff with North Korea over its weapons programs might have taken a positive turn.

However, it was unclear whether the speech would help lay the foundation for a comeback from the deep political crisis Trump finds himself in after only seven months in office and an approval rating below 40 percent.

He expressed frustration that the Republican-controlled Congress was unable to approve healthcare legislation that failed to pass the Senate by one vote last month.

One of the votes against the legislation was cast by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.

Without mentioning their names, Trump criticized both McCain and his fellow Arizona Republican, Sen. Jeff Flake.

Neither McCain nor Flake attended the event.

Trump complained repeatedly about the “one vote” that stopped the Senate from repealing and replacing Obamacare, the signature domestic policy of former President Barack Obama.

“One vote away. I will not mention any names — very presidential. And nobody wants me to mention your other senator, who’s weak on border, weak on crime. Nobody knows who the hell he is! See, I haven’t mentioned any names, so now everybody’s happy,” he said.

‘Sheriff Joe’

The White House had said earlier when asked about Arpaio that “there will be no discussion of that today.”

That did not stop Trump from raising the subject.

“Do the people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” Trump asked, sparking loud applause and a chant of “Pardon Joe!”

“Was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked, before predicting that Arpaio would be just fine. “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe can feel good,” he said.

Trump drew broad criticism for blaming both white nationalists and counter-protesters for the deadly violence at the Charlottesville rally, which was organized by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. One woman was killed.

He mocked left-wing protesters in his speech.

Protesters outside Tuesday’s rally yelled, “Shame, shame, shame” and “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA” as the Trump supporters began filing into the Phoenix Convention Center.

Supporters, who lined up for hours in the Arizona heat ahead of the event, chanted, “Build the wall.” Many wore red hats with Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

Trump has held a series of 2020 re-election campaign stops despite only having taken office in January.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, had asked him to postpone Tuesday’s event while the nation healed from outrage and division after the deadly rally in Charlottesville.

A heavy police presence was deployed around the Phoenix venue for Trump’s first trip as president to Arizona, which he won in the 2016 election.

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  • This guy is truly unbelievable. He actually tried to have a do-over when he re-read his off-script comments about what happened in Charlottesville but conveniently leaving out the part where he said there was blame on both sides. Who does that but a man desperate to have his ring kissed and his fans/supporters cheer him. He needs to feed his huge ego every day or so. If this were former POTUS Obama, impeachment proceedings would’ve been started long ago. So what’s taking so long with this guy?

  • What’s with these rallies? He won the election! He constantly needs his fragile ego stroked. You are correct, EMM, if it were Obama there would be plans to impeach.

    • trumpf’s an idiot,once again he didn’t get his facts straight. First of all, that “both sides were wrong” nonsense he spouted is pure BS. Both sides were not there to beat up people, and start a riot—only one side was, and that was those neo-nazi bastards. Only one side beat a young black man so hard he would up in the hospital, ran a car into 20 people and killed a young woman,brought guns to the protest and was threatening to straight-up hurt people—-that was the neo-nazi white supremacist side who did all of that. Yet because of trumpf’s ignorant statements about both sides being the same—which is not even true–people are demonizing the anti-racists and claiming they’re dangerous—these racist punks see that as giving them the go-ahead to do whatever the hell they want. And they’re the dangerous ones, unlike the right-wing nuts claiming that Antifa (the anti-racists and anti-fascists) and BLM are “thugs and terrorists”–yeah,right.

  • That doggone wall again. So, what impact would this wall have on U.S. folks visiting and even living in Mexico? The rules for us going to Mexico are rather loose, such as, “If you enter by land and plan to travel further than 25 kilometers into Mexico, you should stop at an immigration checkpoint to obtain an entry permit, or Forma Migratoria Multiple, to present at immigration checkpoints, even if not explicitly directed to do so by Mexican officials.” per State Department instructions. Notice the “should” not must. You can visit Mexico for 180 days without a visa per the site. Though it says that passports are required, that’s not always been the case. So, the wall is to keep them out, it’s certainly not to keep us in. We can cross anywhere along the border, just “should” check in IF we plan to go further than 25 kilometers. What a life of entitlement we have.

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