President Donald Trump interrupted his 17-day working vacation to return to Washington, D.C., Monday morning in order to address pressing trade and national security issues — while a cloud of division from Saturday’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, looms over the country.
Last week and over the weekend, the president dealt with increasing tensions arising from North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s increasing nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities and Kim’s threat to strike Guam, a Pacific U.S. territory. Trump also attempted to balance pressuring China to exert its influence over North Korea with holding China accountable for its unfair trade practices and U.S. copyright infringements.
On top of all this, the president was sharply criticized for omitting the words “white nationalists” or “white supremacists” from his condemnation of the Charlottesville rally, which left one woman dead and injured several others.
Trump took to Twitter Monday morning to announce his change of plans while highlighting the serious issues he will be dealing with in Washington.
“Heading to Washington this morning. Much work to do. Focus on trade and military,” Trump tweeted. “The Obstructionist Democrats have given us (or not fixed) some of the worst trade deals in World History. I am changing that fast!”
The president is expected to sign an executive order Monday afternoon requesting that his trade office launch an investigation into Chinese trading practices and the alleged theft of U.S. intellectual and technological property.
As he balances trade with China, pressuring North Korea to halt its nuclear program, and ensuring U.S. readiness for any upcoming global conflict, Trump will also deal with the aftermath of the Charlottesville protest. The president will hold a meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Chris Wray to discuss the Department of Justice’s civil rights probe into the violence that took place in Charlottesville.
In his statement Saturday afternoon, Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence” that took place at the rally in Charlottesville. But the mainstream media, Democrats and Republicans alike came out in full force to criticize Trump for choosing not to mention “white nationalists,” “white supremacists,” or “Neo-Nazis” specifically in his rejection of all “hatred, bigotry and violence.”
The White House issued a follow-up statement Sunday insisting that Trump “said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred. Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.”
But this wasn’t enough for the critics. Vice President Mike Pence blasted the media for its reaction to Trump’s call for national unity during a press conference in Cartagena, Colombia, according to the White House press pool.
“We have no tolerance for hate and violence, white supremacists or neo-Nazis or the KKK,” he said, adding that Trump “clearly and unambiguously” condemned the “dangerous fringe groups” who clashed in Charlottesville.
“I take issue with the fact that many in the national media spent more time criticizing the president’s words than they did criticizing those that perpetuated the violence to begin with,” the vice president continued. “We should be putting the attention where it belongs, and that is on those extremist groups that need to be pushed out of the public debate entirely and discredited for the hate groups and dangerous fringe groups that they are.”
“I think the president yesterday spoke to a national moment, words the American people needed to hear — that we condemn acts of violence, acts of hatred,” Pence added. “The president called on our nation to look for ways to come together, to make sure that these extremist groups are pushed out of the public debate and not given the attention that they too often receive.”
(photo credit, homepage and article images: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)