Trump under pressure to explicity condemn hate groups after Virginia violence

Pressure has mounted on US president Donald Trump to explicitly condemn white supremacists and hate groups involved in race-fuelled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one woman dead.

Mr Trump, who has been at his New Jersey golf club on a working holiday, is set to make a one-day return to Washington to sign an executive action on China's trade practices.

He will likely be unable to escape questions and criticism for his initial response to Saturday's violence, for which he blamed bigotry on "many sides".

This comes as the man accused of ploughing his car into counter-protesters at the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville is set to make his first court appearance.

James Alex Fields Jr, 20, will face a bond hearing on Monday morning.

Fields is charged with second-degree murder and other counts after allegedly driving his silver Dodge Challenger into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 other people.

Mr Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions, vigorously defended Mr Trump in a nationally televised interview on Monday morning, saying Mr Trump had "clearly" denounced such violence and "totally opposes" the values of white supremacy organisations.

On NBC's Today show, Mr Sessions also said Mr Trump will be conferring with advisers and that the president would "do what is correct" in connection with the Virginia incident.

The attorney general said a more sweeping condemnatory statement released by the White House on Sunday, a day after Mr Trump's remarks, reflected the president's views.

The White House statement came as Mr Trump aides tried to stem the damage.

Senior aides were dispatched to the morning news shows, yet they struggled at times to explain the president's position.

The new White House statement explicitly denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups, but it was attributed to an unnamed spokesperson and not the president himself.

Vice President Mike Pence, travelling in South America, condemned "these dangerous fringe groups" and said they "have no place in American public life and in the American debate".

Mr Trump said nothing, save for a few retweets. One was about two Virginia state policemen killed in a helicopter crash while monitoring the Charlottesville protests, another about a Justice Department probe into the violence.

In the hours after a car ploughed into a group of anti-racist counter-protesters, Mr Trump addressed the violence in broad strokes, saying that he condemns "in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides".

Mr Trump added: "It's been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It's been going on for a long, long time."

The White House statement Sunday went further, saying: "The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry and hatred and of course that includes white Supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups."

It added: "He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together."

Mr Trump's national security adviser, HR McMaster, said he considered the attack to be terrorism.

AP


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