White House braces for fallout from Trump
remarks on Virginia violence
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[August 16, 2017]
By Jeff Mason
NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Donald Trump
no doubt pleased part of his political base on Tuesday by passionately
arguing that both right- and left-wing extremists were responsible for
violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia on Saturday.
But his remarks, one day after he, under pressure, explicitly condemned
neo Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, left White House officials bracing for
fallout from disappointed Republicans whose support he needs to govern
in the coming months and years.
"Your base isn’t going to win you re-election ... nor is it going to
keep you a majority in Congress,” said one administration official. It
was political reality that the controversy over Trump's response would
last for some time, he said.
The remarks at Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday that sparked that
reality at times bordered on the surreal.
Trump pulled out the statement he read on Saturday in an apparent effort
to show, despite the subsequent criticism, that his initial instincts
that "many sides" had been at fault were correct.
"What about the alt-left that came charging at the ... alt-right? Do
they have any semblance of guilt?" he demanded, using terms that refer
to right- and left-wing extremists.
He lashed out at the news media, a frequent foil, for its reporting
about his reaction to the violence.
And he praised Susan Bro, the mother of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who
died after a car driven by a man reported to have harbored Nazi
sympathies plowed into the rally opponents.
The praise, however, was for her warm remarks about Trump.
[to top of second column]
President Donald Trump speaks about the violence, injuries and
deaths at the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville as he talks
to the media with Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (R) at his
side in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S.,
August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
"Under the kind of stress that she’s under and the heartache that
she’s under, I thought putting out that statement, to me, was really
something," the president said.
Trump's political supporters embrace his style, and the Tuesday
back-and-forth with reporters was an example of a characteristic
that defines him, said a former adviser: a dislike for being
criticized or pressured.
"When you push the president to do something, he’s not going to do
it. He’s going to make a point not to do it,” said Sam Nunberg, a
former campaign aide.
White House officials said time would tell how long the issue would
remain in the headlines, and whether it would hurt Trump badly with
legislators and others within his political base.
For now, the administration official said, the best strategy to deal
with the fallout was to stay mum.
"Let's just put a pin in it, and you know, not tweet, not comment
any further," he said. "Right now explaining is losing.”
(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Robert Birsel)
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