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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Trump increasingly a lone voice in not condemning white supremacists

And now he praises controversial monuments which many associate with American's slave-owning past

US president Donald Trump speaks in front of a portrait of George Washington in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on August 14, 2017. Evan Vucci / AP Photo
US president Donald Trump speaks in front of a portrait of George Washington in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on August 14, 2017. Evan Vucci / AP Photo

Donald Trump risked further inflaming America’s race divide yesterday with a Twitter tirade echoing far right arguments in defending what he described as “beautiful” Confederate monuments.

Already under fire for refusing to single out white supremacist groups for their role in racially-charged violence last week, the president’s words suggest he has no intention of backing down.

The controversy has escalated since the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car drove into counter-protesters who objected to the presence of neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Saturday’s violence in the college town began with plans to remove a statue of General Robert Lee,a commander of the Confederate army during the American civil war.

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Mr Trump wrote in a string of tweets. “You ... can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!

“Also ... the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!

Symbols of the Confederate army - which was defeated by the Union in 1865 - remain controversial across the south, where they are seen either as oppressive reminders of the legacy of slavery or a monument to America’s history, depending on one's point of view. But officials in several states and cities have called for their removal.

Earlier this week authorities in Baltimore whisked away four controversial statues honouring Gen Lee, his fellow Confederate general Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and Roger Taney, author of a supreme court opinion saying African-Americans could not be considered full US citizens. The operation was carried with no debate or warning and under cover of darkness to avoid the attention of white supremacists.

The issue has come to symbolise America’s divisions on race and Mr Trump’s intervention puts him firmly on one side.

Mr Trump also used Twitter to turn his fire on fellow Republicans, using another volley of messages to accuse them of distorting his response to the tragic events in Charlottesville.

The president has cut an increasingly isolated figure this week as senior figures distanced themselves from his decision to blame both sides for the trouble in Charlottesville. He lost the support of a string of chief executives, forcing him to shut down two business advisory councils set up to energise American industry.

On Thursday morning he fired back, lashing out at two senators, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake, as well as the media, insisting he had not made moral comparisons between the two sides.

“Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK [Ku Klux Klan], neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer. Such a disgusting lie. He just can't forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember!” the president wrote.

There was further embarrassment for Mr Trump as it emerged that his chief strategist told a journalist there could be no military solution to the stand-off with North Korea, directly contradicting the president’s promise to meet further aggression with “fire and fury”.

In a rare and wide-ranging interview with the Left-leaning magazine American Prospect, Steve Bannon said: "There's no military solution, forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us."

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Read more:

Trump must heed the lessons of Charlottesville

US Muslims show solidarity in pushback against bigotry

Trump finds favour with far-right after praising 'fine people' on neo-Nazi march

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