Here's what's happening this week:
- After an anti-racist protester was killed while demonstrating against a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, President Trump has drawn ire for his tepid handling of the deadly violence.
- Trump was criticized for at first blaming the violence on "both sides" at the rally, and it took him two days to expressly denounce neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
- But on Tuesday he held an angry press conference at Trump Tower in New York City in which he again defended those who came to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, comparing him to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who both owned slaves.
- He also used a term beloved by Fox News' Sean Hannity, "the alt-left," to again criticize what he said was violence by anti-racist counterprotesters.
- Trump's comments left Republicans reeling. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and former presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are among the conservatives who have since released statements expressly blaming the Charlottesville violence on racists.
- Democrats said they'll try to censure Trump for his reaction, but it's unclear if that would get support from Republicans.
- Trump said he decided to end two major business councils — just as CEOs were stepping down or were planning to step down because of his poor response to Charlottesville.
- A memorial service for Heather Heyer, the woman mowed down by a car in Charlottesville, was held Wednesday. On Wednesday night, thousands moved across the University of Virginia campus in a candlelight vigil.
- Early on Wednesday morning, Baltimore began removing its Confederate statues amid reignited national debate over the future of such monuments.
- Friday afternoon, Steve Bannon was ousted as White House Chief Strategist.
The University of Texas at Austin surprisingly removed Confederate statues from campus Sunday night
UT-Austin abruptly began removing four Confederate statues, including one of General Robert E. Lee, from a prominent part of campus late Sunday night.
University president Greg Fenves announced the decision in a written statement, following discusions with student leaders, alumni, and staff after the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"The statues depicting Robert E. Lee, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Reagan and James Stephen Hogg are now being removed from the Main Mall. The Lee, Johnston and Reagan statues will be added to the collection of the Briscoe Center for scholarly study. The statue of James Hogg, governor of Texas (1891-1895), will be considered for re-installation at another campus site," Fenves explained.
Workers began removing the statues at about 11 p.m. local time with no advance notice for public safety reasons, a university spokesperson told Dallas News.
The events in Charlottesville "make it clear, now more than ever, that Confederate monument have become symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism," the university's president said.
The Austin campus, which also took down statues of Jefferson Davis and President Woodrow Wilson after the June 2015 church massacre in Charleston, S.C., is the latest in a recent spate of cities across the country removing their Confederate monuments over their symbolism of white supremacy. Baltimore recently eradicated its statues overnight and mayors in Richmond, Virginia, and Lexington, Kentucky, are also making moves to topple their monuments from public spaces.
"Erected during the period of Jim Crow laws and segregation, the statues represent the subjugation of African Americans," Fenves said. "That remains true today for white supremacists who use them to symbolize hatred and bigotry."
Trump will address the US on a "path forward" in Afghanistan Monday
In his first formal address as president, President Donald Trump will outline a new US strategy for Afghanistan, the White House announced Sunday.
The president's speech, scheduled for Monday at 9 p.m. ET at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, will "provide an update on the path forward for America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia," according to a White House statement.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was also scheduled to speak live at the same time Monday night at a town hall moderated by CNN anchor Jake Tapper that was announced last week.
Earlier Sunday, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that Trump had made a decision on the US' ongoing military involvement in Afghanistan after a "sufficiently rigorous" review process.
"I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous and did not go in with a pre-set position," Mattis said. "The president has made a decision. As he said, he wants to be the one to announce it to the American people."
Trump had teased the new US strategy on Saturday, tweeting that Afghanistan was one of the "many decisions made" with "our very talented generals and military leaders" during meetings at Camp David on Friday.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin responds to Yale classmates who had called on him to resign
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday defended the president's response to the violence at the Charlottesville rally that left one person dead, telling his former Yale classmates that President Donald Trump was not comparing liberal protesters to white supremacists in his remarks last week.
"I feel compelled to let you know that the President in no way, shape or form, believes that neo Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways," Mnuchin wrote to classmates in a public letter, responding to their calls for him to resign from the Trump administration.
Mnuchin, a cabinet secretary tasked with executing the administration's economic agenda, had been standing next to Trump at a press conference last Tuesday, when the president told reporters that white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville had a permit to protest, and appeared to equate the counter-protesters with the racist ralliers..
The remarks sparked a flurry of backlash from both Democrats and Republicans. On Friday, Mnuchin's fellow alumni from Yale University's class of 1985 asked him to resign his post as Trump's treasury secretary.
Mnuchin responded Saturday with a statement condemning the violent actions at the rally and of those "filled with hate and with the intent to harm others." He did not address the request for him to resign, but noted he was "proud" to serve as treasury secretary before defending Trump's response to the violence.
Read more here.
— Salvador Hernandez
Brooklyn pastor quits Trump's religious advisory committee
After a flood of resignations from President Trump's various advisory committees, a Brooklyn preacher became the first member of Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board to announce their departure.
Pastor A.R Bernard — the head of Christian Cultural Center, a megachurch in Brooklyn, New York — tweeted that he resigned when "it became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration."
His whole statement reads:
In a social and political climate such as ours, it often takes a gathering of unlikely individuals to shape the future of our nation on issues of faith and inner city initiatives. I was willing to be one of those unlikely individuals and this is why I agreed to serve on the President’s Evangelical Advisory Board. However, it became obvious that there was a deepening conflict in values between myself and the administration. I quietly stepped away from my involvement with the Board several months ago, and submitted my letter of formal resignation as of Tues, Aug 15, 2017. I am always grateful and honored by any opportunity to serve my country.
Four different presidential advisory groups have collapsed this week, following a string of resignations from CEOs, business executives and arts leaders.
After most members of the American Manufacturing Council and the Strategic and Policy Forum quit in protest at the president's support of white supremacists after Charlottesville, the councils were disbanded. All 17-members of the Arts and Humanities resigned on Friday, as did the co-chairs of the Department of Commerce's Digital Economy Board of Advisers. Billionaire Carl Icahn announced on Friday he would no longer serve as a special advisor on regulatory reform.
– Amber Jamieson
Trump praises recently departed adviser Bannon
President Trump used his preferred method of communication to praise Steve Bannon, his controversial chief strategist who left the White House yesterday, tweeting his thanks on Saturday morning.
Bannon joined Trump's campaign last August, leaving his role as chief of right-wing site Breitbart News – which he returned back to immediately on Friday after leaving the Trump administration – and immediately led the campaign into attack mode akin to the style of news he had pushed at Breitbart.
His nationalist agenda made him divisive both in the White House – against Trump staffers he saw as "globalists", such as economic adviser Gary Cohn – and to citizens who viewed him as pushing white supremacist views.
"The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over," Bannon told Weekly Standard, in an interview Friday shortly after the news dropped that he had left.
“We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over. It’ll be something else. And there’ll be all kinds of fights, and there’ll be good days and bad days, but that presidency is over," said Bannon.
In the Weekly Standard interview, Bannon blamed the "Republican establishment" for failing to support Trump and to push his policies through, such as getting funding for the border wall or pushing healthcare.
"They’re not populists, they’re not nationalists, they had no interest in his program. Zero. It was a half-hearted attempt at Obamacare reform, it was no interest really on the infrastructure, they’ll do a very standard Republican version of taxes," said Bannon.
The former chief strategist, whom many viewed as the real political ideologue behind the president, said Trump will be toned down by advisors going forward.
“I think they’re going to try to moderate him... His natural tendency – and I think you saw it this week on Charlottesville – his actual default position is the position of his base, the position that got him elected. I think you’re going to see a lot of constraints on that. I think it’ll be much more conventional," said Bannon.
– Amber Jamieson
Duke University removes Robert E Lee statue from campus
Duke University removed a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from outside the college chapel late Friday night, as towns and cities around the country remove such works after the violent white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville last weekend.
University president Vincent E. Price announced the statue's removal on Saturday morning, declaring that its removal was "above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university."
The Lee statue at Duke in Durham, North Carolina, had been vandalized earlier in the week in protests after Charlottesville, which had also centered around the removal of a statue of Lee. Marks and holes had been left on the Duke statue's face, one of 10 historical figures adorning the chapel's exterior.
In his statement, Price wrote:
I took this course of action to protect Duke Chapel, to ensure the vital safety of students and community members who worship there, and above all to express the deep and abiding values of our university.
The removal also presents an opportunity for us to learn and heal. The statue will be preserved so that students can study Duke’s complex past and take part in a more inclusive future.
Wednesday night’s act of vandalism made clear that the turmoil and turbulence of recent months do not stop at Duke’s gates. We have a responsibility to come together as a community to determine how we can respond to this unrest in a way that demonstrates our firm commitment to justice, not discrimination; to civil protest, not violence; to authentic dialogue, not rhetoric; and to empathy, not hatred.
Price said the removed statue will be preserved "so that students can study Duke’s complex past."
Durham has been among the country's hotspots in the debate over Confederate statues. Eight people appeared in court on Friday morning after being charged for toppling a statue of a Confederate soldier outside Durham's courthouse last Monday night.
On Friday, many businesses and city buildings – including the courthouse – shut early after a white supremacist rally was planned for the city center at 12 p.m. Instead, hundreds of counter-protesters turned out for a peaceful dance-filled rally, and none of the white supremacists showed up.
– Amber Jamieson
Trumps skip Kennedy Center Honors to avoid "political distraction"
President Donald Trump and the first lady will not participate in this year's Kennedy Center Honors activities to avoid politically inflaming the events, the administration announced Saturday, after two honorees had said they would boycott any White House events in protest against Trump.
Choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, writer Norman Lear, rapper and actor LL Cool J, and singers Lionel Richie and Gloria Estefan are set to be honored at the annual event in December.
But De Lavallade and Lear had already said they would skip the traditional White House reception in protest against the administration.
“In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House,” De Lavallade told the Washington Post.
“This is a presidency that has chosen to neglect totally the arts and humanities — deliberately defund them — and that doesn’t rest pleasantly with me,” Lear told the New York Times.
Richie had said he had not yet decided if he would attend, while Estefan had vowed to go in the hopes of trying to persuade Trump on the value immigrants bring to US culture, the Post reported.
But rather than let a controversial boycott continue to build, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced early Saturday that the president and First Lady Melania Trump would not participate in any Kennedy Center Honors activities "to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction."
Read the rest here.
– David Mack and Lissandra Villa
Another advisory council to Trump administration is falling apart
The co-chairs of the Department of Commerce's Digital Economy Board of Advisers have resigned in what is the latest fallout over President Trump's reluctance to completely denounce racism following the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The co-chairs — Zoë Baird, CEO of the Markle Foundation; and Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of Mozilla — submitted their resignations on Thursday. In doing so, Baird said "there must never be equivocation in denouncing hate, bigotry, violence and racism."
According to The Register, other members of the Digital Economy Board have also resigned, including Karen Bartleson, president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; Sonia Katyal, a professor of law at the University of California; and Corey Thomas, CEO of Rapid7.
The economic board would be the fourth advisory group to the president to fall apart this week after a cascade of CEOs quit the American Manufacturing Council, and the Strategic and Policy Forum decided to disband on Wednesday. In response, the president said on Twitter that he was "ending both" groups.
All 17 members of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities also resigned their posts this week.
Read more here.
Bannon leaves behind a White House of foreign policy hawks and internationalists
The long-rumored ouster of White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon finally came to pass on Friday, eliminating an influential skeptic of military intervention and trade in a White House stocked with internationalists and foreign policy hawks. The shakeup could tip the balance on a range of foreign policy debates from China to Afghanistan to Venezuela to the broader Middle East, and bring order to a chaotic policy-making process.
Bannon, an unapologetic nationalist who sought to turn the president’s campaign promises into reality, clashed famously with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster who he viewed as a “globalist” seeking to increase America’s military footprint in the Middle East and South Asia at the expense of the US middle class.
His departure also removes a key source of tension between the White House and the State Department, which had been at odds over both personnel and policy due to Bannon’s interjections.
Read more here.
Carl Icahn is ending his role as advisor to Trump on regulatory reform
In a statement to President Trump on Friday, billionaire Carl Icahn said he would "cease to act as special advisor to the President on issues relating to regulatory reform," and blamed perceived conflicts of interest by "Democratic critics." "I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration," he wrote.
Icahn's letter comes following a string of CEO resignations from various policy advisory groups this week following Trump's response to the violence in Charlottesville, leading to the collapse of four of them.
I’ve received a number of inquiries over the last month regarding the recent appointment of Neomi Rao as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (or “regulatory czar,” as the press has dubbed her) – specifically questions about whether there was any overlap between her formal position and my unofficial role. As I know you are aware, the answer to that question is an unequivocal no, for the simple reason that I had no duties whatsoever.
I never had a formal position with your administration nor a policymaking role. And contrary to the insinuations of a handful of your Democratic critics, I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest. Indeed, out of an abundance of caution, the only issues I ever discussed with you were broad matters of policy affecting the refining industry. I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole.
Nevertheless, I chose to end this arrangement (with your blessing) because I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration or Ms. Rao’s important work.
Icahn said he regrets "I have not had the opportunity to spend nearly as much time as I’d hoped on regulatory issues," do to his and the president's busy schedules.
Charlottesville mayor Michael Signer calls for the Virginia General Assembly to allow the city to remove the Robert E. Lee statue
Signer, who is a "strong-supporter of the Second Amendment," also asked Friday for the General Assembly to allow for local governments to ban open or concealed carry of weapons from public events that authorities deem to pose a potential threat.
"Just as machine guns guns cannot be owned by civilians in this country (a restriction supported by the National Rifle Association), it should not be acceptable to open-carry or concealed-carry firearms at an event of the sort we saw last weekend," Signer said.
Of the removal of the Confederate statue from the city's center he said:
The the terrorist attack, these monuments were transformed from equestrian statues into lightning rods. We can, and we must, respond by denying the Nazis and the KKK and the so-called alt-right the twisted totem they seek. And so for the sake of public safety, public reassurance, to magnify Heather's voice, and to repudiate the pure evil that visited us here, I am calling today for the removal of these Confederate statues from downtown Charlottesville.
Signer released his decisions in a statement Friday after canceling a previously scheduled press conference.
Signer also opened a dialogue with the city council to start discussing ways the city can memorialize Heather Heyer's name, saying "I believe that we must act to consecrate the memory of Heather Heyer – a martyr in what Senator John McCain recently described as the battle here between our better angels and worst demons."
Meanwhile, Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe signed an executive order Friday to stop demonstrations at the Lee statue
Steve Bannon is out at the White House
Steve Bannon is out as President Trump's controversial chief strategist. He was seen as the architect of Trump’s nationalist message that helped lead him to electoral victory and drove the White House’s early agenda.
"Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best," said Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.
Bannon’s ouster comes after weeks of speculation. The former executive of right-wing news site Breitbart had functioned as a tie between the administration and the nationalist faction in Trump's base. New York magazine reported that Bannon would return to Breitbart.
A dejected Bannon ally told BuzzFeed News on Friday the news means the administration will be led by ascendant generals, like chief of staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser HR McMaster, and New York Democrats, a label frequently tossed onto Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and economic adviser Gary Cohn.
Read more here.
Bannon's Next Move: A Return To Breitbart And Possible War With Drudge
Steve Bannon is only just out of the White House, but he's already got plans for his next phase.
Sources who have spoken to Bannon say the nationalist firebrand is expected to return to his old news site Breitbart. And one person close to Bannon says he has his eye on who he believes helped accelerate his ouster: Matt Drudge.
"Matt Drudge worked to remove Steve Bannon, that is the reality," said former Trump campaign adviser Sam Nunberg, who regularly talks with Bannon. "And I hope Matt is happy because his work helped Bannon not be in the West Wing, but it helped Democrats and people that didn’t vote for Trump be in the West Wing."
Nunberg is specifically frustrated with the continued presence and influence of chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, National Security Adviser HR McMaster, and the duo he derisively calls Javanka, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Bannon has openly feuded with Cohn, and Breitbart has for weeks been waging a battle against McMaster.
Read more here.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos and Adrian Carrasquillo
Mueller's team focusing on Trump Jr.
Federal prosecutors working for special counsel Robert Mueller are focusing keenly on the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and are trying to determine his intent when he attended a controversial June 9, 2016, meeting with a Russian lawyer, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
Trump Jr. has acknowledged that he was looking for negative information about Hillary Clinton when he, as well as Jared Kushner and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort, met with the lawyer. But he claimed he did not receive any useful opposition research.
The source familiar with the investigation said that prosecutors have been trying to determine exactly what information was provided and are scrutinizing Trump Jr.’s statements about the meeting.
Requesting or accepting anything of value for a presidential campaign from a foreign national violates federal election law, legal experts told BuzzFeed News.
Trump Jr.'s attorney, Alan Futerfas, did not respond to calls or an email requesting comment.
Read the full story here. —Aram Roston
Trump's committee on arts and humanities resigns in protest
The entire 17 members of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Committee – including author Jhumpa Lahiri, Harold & Kumar star Kal Penn, and artist Chuck Close – announced their resignation on Friday morning due to the president's support of white supremacists.
"Reproach and censure in the strongest possible terms are necessary following your support of the hate groups and terrorists who killed and injured fellow Americans in Charlottesville. The false equivalences you push cannot stand," begins the committee members' joint letter.
The group is an advisory committee on arts and humanities issues, and although they were appointed by President Obama, they had continued to meet and serve under Trump.
The letter was signed by 16 members of the group. Playwright and director George C. Wolfe did not appear on the original letter, but representatives of Wolfe say that's only because he believed he was no longer on the committee already because of Trump's election and that he'd been busy working and simply missed the deadline. Wolfe supports the decision of the committee and his name is being added to the letter.
As Politico noted, the PCAH is an actual government department, meaning it's the first White House department to resign under Trump, unlike the two recent business advisory councils which Trump disbanded after CEOs and business leaders resigned following the president's comments after Charlottesville.
Several members, including Penn, tweeted the letter:
The resignation didn't just focus on Trump's handling of last weekend's white supremacist rallies but also mentioned several Trump administration issues, including pulling out of the Paris agreement and threats over nuclear war.
“You released a budget which eliminates arts and culture agencies. You have threatened nuclear war while gutting diplomacy funding. The administration pulled out of the Paris agreement, filed an amicus brief undermining the Civil Rights Act and attacked our brave trans service members. You have subverted equal protections, and are committed to banning Muslims and refugee women & children from our great country,” the members write.
"This does not unify the nation we all love,” reads the letter, whose signatories also include architect Thom Mayne, chairman of Ovation TV Ken Solomon, lawyer Fred Goldring, and Vicki Kennedy, widow of former Sen. Ted Kennedy.
“Ignoring your hateful rhetoric would have made us complicit in your words and actions. We took a patriotic oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," it continued.
The members then called on the president to resign.
And being the arts and humanities committee, there was even some poetry snuck in. The first letter of every paragraph forms an acrostic poem spelling "resist."
Committee member Eric Ortner, a TV producer and manager, tweeted that he hoped others "will join us in being on the right side of" history.
Melania Trump is honorary chair, due to her role as First Lady.
– Amber Jamieson
Romney pens Facebook post on Trump, demands apology for Charlottesville comments
Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican nominee, called on President Trump to apologize to the American people for supporting white supremacists after last weekend's rally in Charlottesville that left a woman dead.
"He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville," wrote Romney on Facebook.
He argued that Trump needed to "definitively repudiate the support of David Duke [a former Ku Klux Klan leader] and his ilk."
"This is a defining moment for President Trump," added Romney, who waited three days after the president's press conference on Charlottesville before he commented publicly.
Romney and Trump have a complicated relationship, and the former governor served as one of the biggest GOP critics of Trump during the campaign. Romney's name was bandied around as a possible pick for Secretary of State after the November election and he met with the president a handful of times – but was not chosen for an administration role.
That was a contrast from earlier in the campaign, when Romney gave a speech calling Trump "a phony, a fraud".
“His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers," said Romney last March. A few weeks later, Trump told a campaign rally that Romney "choked like a dog" during his 2012 run.
– Amber Jamieson
Heather Heyer's mom said she won't speak to Trump or forgive him for comparing her daughter to Nazis
Heather Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, said she will not speak to President Trump after he equated the white supremacists and Nazis who marched on Charlottesville last weekend with anti-racist protesters such as her daughter.
Heyer died when a white supremacist allegedly drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters.
When asked if she had spoken to Trump, despite his administration's "frantic" efforts to reach out to her, Bro told Good Morning America on Friday, "I have not and now I will not."
Bro said she couldn't forgive Trump for comparing her daughter to the KKK and white supremacists during his combative press conference on Tuesday.
Read more here.
— Tasneem Nashrulla
Trump blamed Democrats and the courts for making the country's security "very difficult" following the terror attacks in Spain
In tweets on Friday, Trump said Homeland Security and law enforcement were on alert and "watching for any sign of trouble" following the terror attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils in which 14 people died and more than a 100 were injured.
He then followed up by blaming "Obstructionist Democrats" for making the security of the country "very difficult" — essentially trying to preemptively blame the court system and his political opponents for any incidents here, despite his being in control of the federal government.
He also said "Radical Islamic Terrorism must be stopped by whatever means necessary," adding that the courts "must give us back our protective rights." Trump was quick to call out this terror attack — while earlier in the week, in reference to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, Trump said there were two sides to the issue.
— Tasneem Nashrulla
Four fundraising organizations pull their galas from Mar-a-Lago
Four organizations canceled their fundraising events at Mar-a-Lago within two days following Trump's controversial response to the fatal race-fueled riots in Charlottesville.
On Friday, the Susan G. Komen organization to help end breast cancer, told the Washington Post that it was pulling its 2018 Perfect Pink Party from Mar-a-Lago and was searching for another venue.
"As you know we are not a political organization," the organization told the Post.
Three other philanthropic organizations pulled their events from Mar-a-Lago on Thursday.
"After careful consideration, Cleveland Clinic has decided that it will not hold a Florida fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago in 2018," the hospital network said in a statement. "We thank the staff of Mar-a-Lago for their service over the years."
A spokesperson for the medical center told the Washington Post that there were a "variety of factors" for the cancellation but did not elaborate.
Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove was one of the executives who decided to disband the President's Strategic and Policy Forum following the events in Charlottesville.
Citing its commitment to diversity, the American Cancer Society also announced its decision to pull its 2018 gala from Trump's Florida resort.
"Our values and commitment to diversity are critical as we work to address the impact of cancer in every community," the American Cancer Society said in a statement. "It has become increasingly clear that the challenge to those values is outweighing other business considerations."
The American Friends of Magen David Adom which supports Israel's disaster-relief programs — told the Palm Beach Post that it was canceling its 2018 fundraising gala at Mar-a-Lago.
"After considerable deliberation, AFMDA — an apolitical and humanitarian aid organization — will not hold its 2018 Palm Beach Celebration of Life Gala at Mar-a-Lago,” the organization said in a statement.
— Tasneem Nashrulla
Republican senators question Trump's competence, moral authority after Charlottesville
Two more Republican senators on Thursday questioned President Trump's leadership after his controversial handling of the deadly violence in Charlottesville.
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who was once considered a possible Trump 2016 running mate, on Thursday told reporters in his home state that the president "has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."
"He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today," Corker said.
The influential senator also said without "radical change" at the White House or the US would go through "great peril."
Separately, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, questioned the president's moral standing after he defended white supremacists protesting in Virginia.
"I’m not going to defend the indefensible," Scott told Vice News.
"[Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that," he said.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers, corporate CEOs, and even military leaders have distanced themselves from Trump's comments.
Fox CEO criticizes Trump, will give $1 million in response to Charlottesville
James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch and the CEO 21st Century Fox, plans to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League in response to the deadly white supremacist rally in Virginia, as well as Presidents Trump's controversial response to the event.
Murdoch revealed the donation in an email, according to Yahoo Finance and other media. The email states that what "we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people."
Murdoch reportedly added: "I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists."
The donation comes after one person died when a man drove a car into counter-protesters at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Afterward, Trump said that "both sides" were to blame for the violence.
Trump's comments about the rally were widely criticized and numerous other business leaders responded by abandoning his industry councils.
"These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation — a necessary discipline for the preservation of our way of life and our ideals," Murdoch reportedly continued in his email.
The ADL and 21st Century Fox did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
— Jim Dalrymple II
Steve Bannon detonates his Trump survival plan, worrying allies
Allies who spend too long in Donald Trump's dog house usually get sent away for good. Chief strategist Steve Bannon is trying to forestall that fate.
Bannon — the polarizing and enigmatic hero of the alt-right, who has become a flashpoint in the aftermath of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia — has for months drawn the president's ire, with Trump feeling his strategist seeks too much credit for his election win.
"That fucking Steve Bannon taking credit for my election," Trump recently told a confidante, referring to a new book focused on Bannon's influence, Devil's Bargain by Joshua Green, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.
People close to Bannon in and outside of the administration have long worried Trump's frustrations will result in Bannon being tossed from the White House. Rumors hit a fever pitch in recent weeks, with the elevation of new chief of staff John Kelly, and Bannon's renewed open war with National Security Adviser HR McMaster.
Read more here.
Nancy Pelosi calls on Republicans to support removing Confederate statues from US Capitol
A handful of Democratic members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are calling for the removal of Confederate statues from the US Capitol building following the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible," Pelosi said in a statement on Thursday. "If Republicans are serious about rejecting white supremacy, I call upon Speaker Ryan to join Democrats to remove the Confederate statues from the Capitol immediately."
Pelosi asked Ryan to join Democrats in supporting legislation to remove the statues.
Ryan's office deferred to the states, which are each allowed to place two statues of their choosing in the Capitol. “These are decisions for those states to make,” said Doug Andres, a spokesperson for Ryan.
Read more here.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher says Julian Assange told him Russia wasn't behind the DNC hack
California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher said on Wednesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told him Russia was not behind the leaks from the Democratic National Committee when the two met at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Rohrabacher said in a statement that he spent three hours with Assange, who "emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved in the hacking or disclosure of those emails."
The US intelligence community has agreed that Russia was behind the leak of the DNC emails, as part of an effort to influence the 2016 election.
The statement said their discussion "ranged over many topics," but did not detail anything further.
Rohrabacher, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, said he plans to divulge more of his conversation with Assange directly to President Trump.
As one of Trump's most outspoken defenders, the California lawmaker has often showed sympathy for Russia, having called for friendlier relations between the two nations.
In an interview with the LA Times, Rohrabacher said the US doesn't hold "a moral high ground" when it comes to influencing foreign elections.
He has on several occasions suggested that Russia's reports of human rights abuse are inflated.
"There are some bad guys in Russia and Putin is one of them," he said earlier this month at a panel, adding there are also "bad guys" in the US.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
Trump is worried about parks once "beautiful" Confederate statues are removed
President Trump tweeted on Thursday that the removal of Confederate statues from cities and towns across the country is "beauty that... will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"
The white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday was inspired by the planned removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park. Baltimore city authorities removed four statues this week. Activists pulled down a statue in Durham, North Carolina. Cities including Baltimore; Lexington, Kentucky; Dallas; and Memphis are planning to remove statues from their public spaces.
Trump started tweeting on Thursday morning that it was "sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart".
Read the full story here.
Trump denies drawing moral equivalency between white supremacists and Heather Heyer, and slams Lindsey Graham
President Trump's Thursday morning Twitter rant saw him angrily deny he had drawn "moral equivalency" between "the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists... and people like Ms. [Heather] Heyer" — the anti-racist campaigner who was killed during the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Sunday.
He slammed the statement as "such a disgusting lie" and turned his ire to "publicity seeking" US Sen. Lindsey Graham for saying so, suggesting the comments were linked to his "election trouncing" in the 2016 presidential primaries.
Yesterday, Graham commented on Trump's now-infamous Tuesday press conference at Trump Tower, in which the president angrily compared the actions of the racists who marched in Charlottesville to those of the "alt-left."
"Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer. I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency," Graham said yesterday.
Graham later responded to Thursday's tweets from the president:
Mr. President, like most I seek to move our nation, my state, and our party forward - toward the light - not back to the darkness. Your tweet honoring Miss Heyer was very nice and appropriate. Well done. However, because of the manner in which you have handled the Charlottesville tragedy you are now receiving praise from some...of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our Nation -- as our President -- please fix this. History is watching us all.
In the rest of his early morning screed, Trump proceeded to once again berate the mainstream media outlets he describes as "the Fake News," before endorsing challenger Kelli Ward against Arizona's Sen. Jeff Flake.
— Francis Whittaker
Thousands of people march in candlelight vigil on the campus of the University of Virginia
A candlelight vigil at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville was attended by 5,000 people Wednesday on night, according to the school's dean, Allen Groves — far outnumbering the crowd of torch-wielding white supremacists who had marched in the same area last week.
The peaceful march through campus ended at the steps of the university's rotunda, where there is a statue of the school's founder, Thomas Jefferson. It was the same place where white supremacists surrounded counterprotesters last Friday night, igniting a weekend of violence in Charlottesville that led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, as well as two Virginia State Police officers.
On Wednesday night, videos feeds and social media posts showed people leading the crowd in a soft chorus of hymns and protest songs, like "This Little Light of Mine," "Amazing Grace," "We Shall Overcome," and "This Land Is Your Land," altering the lyrics occasionally to pay tribute to the setting. Someone read Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise." The gathering also observed a moment of silence for the three people who lost their lives in Charlottesville over the weekend.
Earlier on Wednesday, mourners attended a vigil for Heyer, who was killed when a car driven by 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. plowed into a group of liberal protesters in downtown Charlottesville. Memorial services for the two state troopers killed in a helicopter crash while assisting the police response on Saturday are scheduled for later this week.
—Michelle Broder Van Dyke
Phoenix mayor asks Trump to put off planned rally after Charlottesville
The mayor of Phoenix on Wednesday asked President Trump's campaign to delay a planned rally, saying the nation is "still healing" from the violence in Charlottesville.
Trump is set to hold a rally on Tuesday at the Phoenix Convention Center. But after the event was announced on Wednesday, Mayor Greg Stanton said he hoped the president would show "sound judgement" and postpone it.
"I am disappointed that President Trump has chosen to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville," said Stanton, who is a Democrat. "If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation."
Trump has said he's seriously considering a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt of court. Arpaio, the self-styled "America's Toughest Sheriff" who lost his bid for reelection in Maricopa County in November, had failed to follow a court order related to a separate racial profiling case.
Stanton added that he believes in free speech, and that police would work to ensure anyone attending or protesting the event is safe.
Steve Bannon says that, despite rumors to the contrary, he's waging a winning fight inside the White House
White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said he remains committed to fighting his opponents within the Trump administration and he expects to succeed in ousting them entirely.
Bannon spoke in a phone call with the American Prospect's Robert Kuttner on Tuesday. Kuttner said Bannon reached out to him out of the blue and began expounding on the administration's internal fights.
Bannon appeared confident he'd succeed in getting rid of people who did not share his "hawk" perspective on China and trade.
"They’re wetting themselves," he told the Prospect.
“I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense; I’m getting hawks in," he continued. "I’m getting Susan Thornton [acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs] out at State.”
The White House did not return a request for comment, but a State Department official said Thornton was continuing in her capacity as acting assistant secretary for the bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. "[Secretary of State Rex Tillerson] asked Susan Thornton to lead in a very important role and he continues to rely on her to lead the State Department’s diplomacy in Asia," the official said.
According to Axios, Bannon told associates that he did not intend for his phone call with the journalist to be an interview; Kuttner said Bannon did not ask for anything to be off the record.
The interview came after days of questions about whether Bannon would remain in the administration. He had fallen out of favor with Trump recently, the New York Times reported, though the president continued to say he considered Bannon a friend.
Speculation on Bannon's future came as Republicans and Democrats demanded Trump denounce white supremacists and the violence at an alt-right rally over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia. In his previous role heading Breitbart, Bannon promoted the emerging alt-right, which has also been championed by racists.
Talking to the American Prospect, however, Bannon attempted to distance himself from white supremacists.
"Ethno-nationalism — it's losers. It's a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more,” he said.
“These guys are a collection of clowns,” he added.
And he told the Prospect the reaction from Democrats was playing straight into his hands.
"The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em," he said. "I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats."
Steve Bannon is apparently really happy with how things are going
As business leaders turn their backs on the president and the country grapples with newly emboldened white supremacists, at least one person is reportedly happy with how things are going: Steve Bannon.
Axios reported that Bannon was pleased with the president's break from business leaders, whom he disparages as "globalists."
Breitbart, the far-right site once run by Bannon, also heralded the developments, singling out National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn by putting globe emoji around his name, apparently to signify him as a "globalist."
Though Bannon did not formally advise the president on his response to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, he agreed that "both sides" are to blame, Axios reported.
That view puts him and the president at odds with a number of other Republicans — something Bannon sees as a defining moment for Trump to cast off establishment ties and focus on his base of supporters, Axios reported.
Ben Carson recounts "less than kind" behavior of neighbor who flew Confederate flag
A day after President Trump defended white supremacist protesters opposed to the removal of a Confederate monument in Charlottesville, Virginia, the sole black member of the president's cabinet recounted an incident in which a bigoted neighbor flew a Confederate flag.
Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, used a post on a Facebook page he shares with his wife to "relate a story" in connection to the "the racial and political strife emanating from the events in Charlottesville."
"Several years ago we bought a farm in rural Maryland. One of the neighbors immediately put up a Confederate flag," Carson wrote. "A friend of ours who is an African-American three-star general was coming to visit and immediately turned around concluding that he was in the wrong place. Interestingly, all the other neighbors immediately put up American flags shaming the other neighbor who took down the Confederate flag."
Carson then wrote about how his Virginia neighbors recently cleaned up anti-Trump graffiti on their home.
"In both instances, less than kind behavior was met by people taking the high road. We could all learn from these examples," he wrote. "Hatred and bigotry unfortunately still exists in our country and we must all continue to fight it, but let's use the right tools."
Carson said the neighbor who flew the Confederate flag "subsequently became friendly."
Read the full post here. —David Mack
Twitter mocks Trump over business council "breakup"
As news broke on Wednesday that multiple CEOs wanted out of President Trump's two major business councils in protest over his handling of the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the president took to Twitter to let the world know that, actually, he was going to close the councils altogether.
Trump's statements were made all the more confusing because of a tweet he sent yesterday, which said he had no issue with the business leaders dropping out of his councils because he had "many to take their place."
And as the news of Trump's decision broke, the jokes rolled in.
Check 'em all out here. —Brad Esposito
Trump's military leaders are condemning the white supremacist violence
The nation's top military leaders are tweeting against racism and intolerance in the wake of the white supremacist rally and car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Several members of the joint chiefs of staff spoke publicly about the need to condemn extremism and embrace diversity after President Trump's tumultuous press conference on Tuesday, in which he defended the white supremacists' actions as being just one side of the violence.
First was Navy Adm. John Richardson, who tweeted on Saturday night that the events in Charlottesville were "unacceptable & mustnt be tolerated." And Gen. Mark Milley, chief of the US Army, said the Army "doesn't tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks."
Read more here.
Democrats will introduce a bill to censure Trump over his response to Charlottesville
Three Democratic members of Congress are introducing a resolution to censure President Donald Trump over his "inadequate response" to the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this past weekend.
While a vote to censure the president has no legal ramifications, it is a significant and rare symbolic vote of disapproval. Only three presidents have been successfully censured by the House or Senate in history.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Bonnie Watson Coleman, and Pramila Jayapal announced on Wednesday that they would introduce the resolution on Friday during a brief session of the House, which is in recess until after Labor Day.
Members of Congress from both parties have been frustrated that it took Trump two days to explicitly condemn white supremacists in the wake of racist violence in Charlottesville, which left 32-year-old Heather Heyer dead and many more injured. On Tuesday, he did an about-face during a press conference in Trump Tower, angrily defending the white supremacists in Charlottesville and, once again, blaming "both sides" for the violence there.
Read more here.
Mike Pence says he stands by Trump following Charlottesville and that he's cutting his international trip short
Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday said he stood by President Trump's controversial response to the deadly violence that broke out at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"What happened in Charlottesville was a tragedy," Pence said at a news conference in Santiago, Chile. "And the president has been clear on this tragedy and so have I. I spoke at length about this heartbreaking situation on Sunday night in Colombia. And I stand with the president and I stand by those words."
Pence, who is on an international tour, went on to say that he hopes "we will not allow the few to divide the many."
"The strength of the United States of America is always strongest as the president has said so eloquently when we are united around our shared values and so it will always be," Pence said.
The vice president also announced that he is ending his trip early and returning to the United States on Thursday.
—Mary Ann Georgantopoulos
Trump just ended two major business councils because the members were fleeing them after the president's poor response to Charlottesville
So far, nine prominent leaders had stepped down from Trump's manufacturing council.
And shortly before Trump tweeted his decision, the New York Times reported that the Strategic and Policy Forum, a council of CEOs, was considering stepping down en masse:
President Trump’s main council of top corporate leaders appeared on the verge of disbanding on Wednesday, said people briefed on the matter, following controversial remarks from Mr. Trump on Tuesday when he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Late Wednesday morning, Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Mr. Trump’s closest confidants in the business community, organized a conference call for members of the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum.
It's unclear if the CEOs reached a decision and notified the White House of it before Trump's tweet. The Wall Street Journal said they disbanded before Trump's tweet.
The business leaders were leaving the councils after Trump's poor response to the race-fueled riots in Charlottesville and his subsequent defense of white supremacists.
Fox & Friends, Trump's favorite TV show, remains supportive of him despite Charlottesville
President Trump backed white supremacists on Tuesday in a mind-boggling press conference that left even elected Republicans reeling.
But the next morning on Fox & Friends, Trump's most beloved show (his morning tweet rants often reflect exactly what is being covered on Fox News' breakfast program), the president's support of white supremacists received only a small amount of criticism — only one of the hosts made a gentle criticism, but two guests, both of whom were black, spoke out more strongly against the commander in chief's inflammatory comments defending white supremacists in Charlottesville.
Read the full story here. —Amber Jamieson
Trump's lawyer posts photos of him with black friends to prove he's not racist
After President Trump angrily defended white supremacists on Tuesday, Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, tweeted a collage of pics with his black friends in a bid to show he's not racist.
Among those pictured with Cohen were Trump adviser Omarosa Manigault-Newman, and online comedians and Trump supporters Diamond and Silk.
Cohen told BuzzFeed News the people in the photos are "not random people," and that they "all know me for a while and call me a friend."
He said he had been receiving "horrific comments" all morning "about being anti-black, racist etc. for supporting Trump. It's just wrong!"
Many people criticized Cohen's tweet as a tone-deaf attempt at proving one's views on race.
Read the full story here. —David Mack and Julia Reinstein
Sessions says Charlottesville attack may be a hate crime
The fatal car attack on anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville on Saturday, in which one woman was killed and at least 19 others injured, may be prosecuted as a civil rights violation or hate crime, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on Wednesday.
Speaking to NBC News, the attorney general said no decisions have yet been made over whether alleged driver James Fields Jr. will be tried in state or federal court.
He said it's still not clear what charges the suspect will face.
"It very well could be a civil rights violation or a hate crime, and there might be other charges that could be brought," Sessions said. "So we are working it intensely on the assumption we may well might want to prosecute him. We're also working with the state and local authorities that clearly have jurisdiction, too. And often they're the ones that have the best charges."
Sessions said he could not comment on whether the attack was pre-planned.
Both former presidents Bush condemn racial bigotry
As Republicans continue to distance themselves from President Trump's defense of white supremacists on Tuesday, both former presidents Bush have released a statement expressly condemning racial bigotry and anti-Semitism.
Trump was roundly criticized for taking two days to expressly denounce the hate groups protesting in Charlottesville, but on Tuesday defended some of the protesters there by blaming violence on the "alt-left."
Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush on Wednesday released a statement to BuzzFeed News via their spokesperson.
The statement referenced Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence whom Trump equated with Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee:
America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.