Trump says recent antifa violence justifies his condemnation of both sides in Charlottesville
President Trump on Thursday condemned the violence by the antifascist protest movement known as ‘‘antifa,’’ saying their tactics around the country have proved him right for denouncing bad actors on both sides of the racially charged clashes with white supremacists in Charlottesville last month.
Trump said he explained his views on antifa to Senator Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina, during their private meeting at the White House a day earlier. Scott had expressed disgust with Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville aftermath.
‘‘We had a great talk yesterday,’’ Trump said, during an on-the-record discussion with reporters on Air Force One en route back to Washington from a trip to view hurricane relief efforts in Naples, Fla. ‘‘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.’’
The president added that ‘‘because of what’s happened since then with antifa, when you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying, and people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump may have a point.’ I said there’s some very bad people on the other side also.’’
Trump faced widespread political backlash after he waited two days to specifically condemn the hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, that organized the Unite the Right rally. Violent clashes on the streets culminated in the death of a woman who was killed when a man participating in the rally plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters.
Even after denouncing the hate groups by name, Trump within days mounted a defense of his initial response, asserting there were some ‘‘very fine people’’ among the marchers and suggesting both sides were to blame for the violence.
Trump said Scott presented legislation he was working on to help create jobs and put people to work, which Trump said he supported. Asked whether the senator had pressed him to add high-ranking African Americans to his White House staff and administration, Trump said: ‘‘We did talk about that, yeah. It’s something I do and I certainly would continue to do. We talked about that. I told him I would do it and he knows we’ve already done it. But I told him, and I told him very strongly, I like that.’’
Despite planned boycott, conference call will go on
President Trump will hold a conference call on Friday morning with Jewish leaders ahead of the High Holy Days, moving ahead with a standard White House event that several rabbinical groups have vowed to boycott.
The tradition of the conference call had been nonpartisan in previous years ahead of the holidays of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur. But late in August, four coalitions of rabbis said they would boycott the call, in the wake of Trump’s equivocating response to the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va.
Issues related to the Jewish community have been problematic for the president throughout his presidency. A statement from the White House on Holocaust Remembrance Day made no mention of the millions of Jews who were killed, instead focusing on “all” who suffered.
And the president’s statement that there were “very fine people” among the white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville prompted an outcry.
It was not immediately clear how many groups were invited to participate on the conference call. Still, some people thought the president deserved praise for going ahead with it.
“It is important that President Trump is holding this outreach call with Jewish leaders and rabbis ahead of Rosh Hashana,” said Nathan Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union.
But Graham Roth, a spokesman for the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said the group’s position has not changed.
“Reform rabbis, along with Reconstructionist and Conservative rabbis, decided to forgo hosting the annual High Holiday call with the president this year,” he said in an e-mail. “This was not a decision made lightly, but the president’s lack of moral leadership in the wake of Charlottesville made it necessary.”
Senate panel may hit Manafort with a subpoena
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort may be subpoenaed because his lawyers aren’t returning the Senate Judiciary Committee’s phone calls, panel chairman Chuck Grassley said Thursday.
The committee had previously announced that Manafort — a central figure in multiple investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign — had agreed to start producing documents and negotiate for a transcribed interview.
‘‘I’m not very satisfied that their lawyers — his lawyers — aren’t returning our calls,’’ Grassley, an Iowa Republican, told reporters in Washington. ‘‘If there’s a next step,’’ he said, he would need an agreement with the Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat, Dianne Feinstein of California, to issue a subpoena.
Feinstein would support a subpoena for Manafort if he doesn’t promptly agree to an interview, said Tom Mentzer, a spokesman.
One focus of the panel’s probe is on Manafort’s finances, in particular the circumstances surrounding multimillion-dollar loans, according to a person familiar with the matter.
While serving as Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort participated in a June 9, 2016, meeting involving Trump’s son, Donald Jr., other campaign representatives, and a Russian lawyer promising damaging information on Hillary Clinton. Manafort’s financial dealings and previous work for a Russian-backed party in Ukraine have come under scrutiny.