After holding a press conference in front of Trump Tower on Tuesday, the White House sent a memo of talking points to Republicans on Capitol Hill and administration allies which was apparently leaked to the media. The memo directs everyone to say that President Trump was “entirely correct” in his of the .
The memo, which has the subject line “President’s Presser,” stated that Trump “with no ambiguity” condemned the hate groups that descended upon Charlottesville for the “Unite the Right” rally, and added that the president has been “a voice for unity and calm,” and that he’s “taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.”
It ended by saying both leaders and the media “should join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.” The memo was distributed to allies of the White House in an effort to get conservatives on board to defend Trump.
“Despite the criticism, the President reaffirmed some of our most important Founding principles: We are equal in the eyes of our Creator, equal under the law, and equal under our Constitution,” reads one bullet point.
Although the press conference was scheduled to discuss American infrastructure, reporters only wanted Trump to talk about the violence in Charlottesville, which he did, insisting “both sides” were at fault, and citing the “ ,” who he said came “charging with clubs in their hands.”
He also said, “There are two sides to a story.”
Placing blame “on many sides” was Trump’s initial response to Saturday’s events, but two days later, the president specifically condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
After Trump’s reiteration Tuesday that both protesters on the far left and far right were to blame, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke tweeted, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”
White House officials apparently were caught off guard by his remarks Tuesday. Trump had reportedly signed off on a plan to not answer questions from journalists during an event touting infrastructure policy, according to a White House official speaking to The Associated Press. Once behind the lectern and facing the cameras, Trump overruled the decision.
Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and business leaders have begun abandoning a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.
Here is a list of some of the talking points on the White House memo:
- “The President was entirely correct — both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.”
- “… the President reaffirmed some of our most important Founding principles: We are equal in the eyes of our Creator, equal under the law, and equal under the Constitution.'”
- “He has been a voice for unity and calm, encouraging the country to ‘rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.'”
- “The President condemned — with no ambiguity — the hate groups fueled by bigotry and racism over the weekend …”
- “Even a New York Times reporter tweeted that she saw club-wielding antifa beating ‘white nationalists’ being led out of the park.”
- “The President is taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.”
While the talking points leaned heavily on praise for Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville fallout and criticism of the media, critics are noting that the memo did not include further rebukes of white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis.
Trump is hearing it from all sides for his repeated equivocations about who is responsible for the violence that unfolded in Charlottesville. Though he specifically called out hate groups by name on Monday, he appeared to revert to his original claim on Tuesday that “many sides” were to blame.
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