A truly remarkable event occured this week. Who could have imagined that this would even be necessary?
The House and Senate unanimously passed a joint resolution urging President Trump to denounce racist and anti-Semitic hate groups, sending a blunt message of dissatisfaction with the president’s initial, equivocal response to the white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Va., last month. Congress Passes Measure Challenging Trump to Denounce Hate Groups:
The nonbinding measure specifically singles out for condemnation “White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups.”
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The House version of the resolution, introduced by Republican and Democratic House members from Virginia, asks Mr. Trump to “use all resources available to the President and the President’s Cabinet to address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”
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The text does not include any reference to counterprotesters.
It also calls on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “investigate thoroughly all acts of violence, intimidation, and domestic terrorism by White supremacists, White nationalists, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and associated groups” and to “improve the reporting of hate crimes” to the F.B.I.
“What happened in Charlottesville was an act of domestic terrorism perpetrated by a white supremacist, one that tragically cut short the life of a young woman, Heather Heyer, who was speaking out against hatred and bigotry,” Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and a co-sponsor of the measure, said in a statement.
Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, met with President Trump on Wednesday for more than 30 minutes in the Oval Office and spent most of the meeting advising the president on “what do we do next” after his divisive comments about “both sides” being to blame for the racist carnage in Charlottesville. Inside President Trump’s meeting with Tim Scott:
Scott echoed the critical comments he made about the president after Charlottesville, explaining why he was troubled by them, and rooting them in the black experience in America — a history of slavery, grotesque violence and discrimination.
Trump didn’t go so far as to admit he made a mistake with his Charlottesville response. Trump said, “I understand,” after Scott shared his concerns about what he said about the white supremacists.
Scott has made clear in his interviews after the meeting that he believes the president took his concerns seriously, and that he has “obviously reflected” on his comments.
President Donald Trump on Thursday again defended his blaming of “both sides” for violence that broke out last month in Charlottesville, Virginia, a day after discussing the topic during a meeting with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.
“We had a great talk yesterday,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One of his meeting with Scott, the sole African-American Republican in the Senate. “I think especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that’s what I said.”
“Now, because of what’s happened since then with antifa, you look at, you know, really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying – in fact a lot of people have actually written – ‘Gee, Trump might have a point,'” Trump added. “I said, ‘You’ve got some very bad people on the other side also,’ which is true.”
After Trump’s Thursday remarks on the plane, Sen. Scott’s office said in a statement that he “was very clear about the brutal history surrounding the white supremacist movement and their horrific treatment of black and other minority groups” during his meeting with Trump.
But “Rome wasn’t built in a day, and to expect the president’s rhetoric to change based on one 30-minute conversation is unrealistic,” the statement said. “Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but white supremacists have been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There is no realistic comparison. Period.”
President Trump has now signed the joint resolution of Congress. Trump signs resolution condemning white supremacists:
Donald Trump signed into law a Congressional resolution condemning white supremacists on Thursday,”rejecting White nationalists, White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups,” which was unanimously passed by Congress earlier in the week.
In a statement, Trump said he was “pleased to sign” the measure, adding that “as Americans, we condemn the recent violence in Charlottesville and oppose hatred, bigotry, and racism in all forms.”
The joint resolution of Congress called on President Trump to forcefully condemn white supremacists, and specifically did not include counterprotestors. Yet the only group that Trump has been comfortable criticizing is antifa. This is a middle-finger to Congress and to the American people. Lesson clearly not learned by this racist.
UPDATE: Why is Trump so unrepentant? Because this is his “base.” David Neiwert, an expert on the radical right, explains White supremacists have been marching in President Trump’s name. Literally.
[N]o matter what Trump and his advisers might prefer, he’s unlikely to be able to put questions about hate groups behind him for the rest of his presidency. And that’s because the white nationalists and supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen, Neo-Confederates and alt-righters who gathered in Charlottesville and continue to try to organize across the nation are all marching together in his name.
Maybe these elements have come to support Trump coincidentally, without his conscious encouragement. But it is undeniable that the most extreme elements of the American right uniformly see Trump as their champion, their Great White Hope for achieving their agenda. Whatever half-measures he has made to distance himself from them has not been enough to convince anyone, especially the extremists themselves, that they do not have a champion in the White House.
All the alt-right rallies in various cities nationwide, including Charlottesville, since the election have featured prominent pro-Trump rhetoric. As they did that weekend in Virginia, the marchers in these various factions — in addition to full complements of armed militiamen and weapon-and-shield-toting “Proud Boys” — have worn red “Make America Great Again” ball caps and pro-Trump T-shirts, carried pro-Trump signs and chanted his name as often as they chant “U-S-A!”
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I’ve tracked and monitored these alt-right events closely and attended many in person as a reporter. All these rallies have featured a diverse array of far-right extremists, reflective of the alt-right as a movement: nativists and Neo-Confederates and Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white nationalists and well-armed “Patriot” militiamen, men’s rights activists, and, of course, the smirking, polo-shirt-wearing, Pepe-banner-waving adherents of the online alt-right. They are a contentious lot, inclined to internal warfare and bickering. However, one thing unites all these groups, both within the movement and at these rallies, beyond a general loathing of all things liberal, often papering over their usual disagreements: Trump.
All of these rallies have featured speeches and chants about the president. In Charlottesville, the alt-right marchers chanted: “Hail Trump!” Moreover, alt-right organizers specifically urged rally-goers in the months beforehand to bring their “Make America Great Again” ball caps to emphasize their connection to the president. “Bring your MAGA hats if you’ve got ’em,” wrote “Unite the Right” chief organizer Jason Kessler in a recently uncovered June post. “If Antifa f‑‑‑s with us it’ll look like average Trump supporters … are under attack.”
The problem is not just reflected in these protests, but in what has happened nationally since the election. In the first three months after Trump won the presidency, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded an astonishing 1,372 hate incidents, nearly all of them election-related. A deep dive into the data reveals that nearly half of these incidents involve people referencing Trump, either by name or by parroting his rhetoric: groups of white thugs intimidating minorities while chanting “Trump,” for instance, or swastika graffiti accompanied by the words “Make America White Again.” The cold, hard fact that racist thugs shout and chant Trump’s name (something we all saw happening in Charlottesville) while threatening and intimidating minorities should give us all pause — particularly the president himself.
This, really, is the crux of the problem the nation faces: not Trump’s fumblings and prevarications or his reflexive reliance on “both sides do it” equivocation, but his steadfast refusal to acknowledge his overpowering role in the toxic violence that is being plotted and carried out on his behalf.
Read Neiwert’s entire illuminating piece.