NEW YORK CITY – President Trump on Tuesday defended his initial response to the Charlottesville violence, arguing that members of the “alt left” were just as violent as the white supremacists who staged a demonstration in the city.
“What about the alt-left?” Trump said. ” They came charging … that was a horrible day.”
Trump said he couldn’t have made his condemnation of white supremacists and other hate groups earlier “because I didn’t know all the facts” behind the incident that left one person dead and wounded 19 others.
“I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct,” Trump said from Trump Tower in New York, after an event otherwise devoted to a new infrastructure executive order.
Trump faced heavy criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for chiding “many sides” for their role in the violence in Charlottesville on Saturday.
A full two days later, on Monday, Trump in a scripted statement directly condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and announced the Justice Department would open up a civil rights investigation into the driver of the car that crashed into a group of protesters, killing one and wounding 19 others.
Yet on Tuesday, Trump called his initial response a “fine statement” and blamed the press for being dishonest in its coverage.
“There was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts. Unlike a lot of reporters – I didn’t know (prominent white supremacist) David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts.”
Trump returned to his residence in the gold-leaf comfort of Trump Tower for the first time since he took office in January – but it hasn’t been a particularly joyful homecoming.
After arriving late Monday night, when his motorcade passed throngs of protesters gathered on Fifth Avenue chanting “New York hates you” and “Black Lives Matter,” Trump spent part of Tuesday dealing with the continued fallout from his belated response to the violence over the weekend Charlottesville, Va.
Trump huddled with staff and signed an executive order on infrastructure – at a podium affixed with the presidential seal in front of the elevator bank – that did little to change the conversation.
In the gray marble and gold-mirrored lobby of his famed tower, shoppers and tourists, having passed through metal detectors at the Fifth Avenue entrance, milled with Secret Secret agents and other law enforcement officials keeping ever-watchful eyes on the proceedings.
Reporters, meanwhile, remained in a small pen bordered by velvet ropes. Television cameras stood like an artillery line.
The infrastructure announcement – intended to streamline the permitting process for infrastructure projects – is part of Trump’s ongoing effort to try and toll back federal regulations that he says undermine economic development. Many of the targeted regulations involve environmental restrictions.
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