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After neo-Nazis and white supremacists triggered a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Donald Trump initially failed to condemn those responsible — but that doesn’t even begin to describe the disastrous trajectory of his responses.
Here’s a rundown of Trump’s week after the tragedy in Charlottesville.
Trump fails to denounce white supremacists Day 205 — August 12
Hours after neo-Nazis, KKK members, and white supremacists terrorized Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump failed to denounce the instigators of the violence and instead decried the bigotry “on many sides.”
Earlier in the day, a car had plowed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others. The alleged driver, James Alex Fields Jr., is charged with second-degree murder. Two state troopers, keeping an eye on the demonstrations from a helicopter above, also died when their craft crashed. The president offered his condolences.
Trump’s equivocating comments immediately drew bipartisan scorn. “Mr. President — we must call evil by its name,” tweeted Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican from Colorado. “These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”
While they may not have mentioned Trump by name, many top Republicans clearly expressed their stance over the next few days.
But what Trump really meant was … Day 206 — August 13
The White House attempted to clarify Trump’s controversial comments on the violence in Charlottesville. In a statement to NBC, an unnamed White House official said that “of course” the president condemned white supremacist groups, although Trump hadn’t explicitly done so.
In a rare feat for the president, Trump didn’t tweet once but merely retweeted some positive press about himself a few times throughout the day. The backlash to Charlottesville and the president’s response was rapidly growing.
Sen. Ted Cruz even called for the suspected Charlottesville driver to be prosecuted for domestic terrorism.
Seriously he condemns it! Day 207 — August 14
Two days after Heather Heyer’s death, Trump finally condemned, in a scripted statement, the racist hate groups that marched on Charlottesville.
“To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held accountable,” Trump said.
And then he defended white supremacists Day 208 — August 15
Then, Trump backpedaled and defended the white supremacists in Charlottesville. “There is another side,” Trump said, with no teleprompter to feed him language, at a press conference in New York that was supposed to be about infrastructure. “There was a group on this side, you can call them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.”
The White House sent official talking points to GOP members that said Trump’s comments on Charlottesville were “entirely correct” and urged Republicans to stand with him, according to a memo published by The Atlantic.
Earlier that day, Trump retweeted (then swiftly unretweeted) an image of a CNN reporter being run over by a train. Even Trump’s brief dissemination of the image drew widespread condemnation, especially just days after Heyer’s death in the Charlottesville car attack.
When asked about Steve Bannon’s future at the White House, Trump said: “We’ll see.” Trump also insisted he never spoke to Bannon about his response to the white supremacist rally and car attack that happened in Charlottesville. The president’s chief strategist used to run Breitbart, a website widely credited with promoting the so called alt-right’s rise to mainstream prominence.
Bannon pulls a Mooch Day 209 — August 16
Just a day later, Bannon called an editor with The American Prospect and apparently wasn’t aware the discussion was an on-the-record interview, his colleagues told Axios. (Remember: Bannon once ran Breitbart.)
Among other candid comments, Bannon said: “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. These guys are a collection of clowns.”
Trump also decided to end two advisory councils after eight CEOs resigned from them in the wake of his disastrous Charlottesville response. But it was totally Trump’s idea, he insisted: “Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” the president tweeted.
Charlottesville’s mayor confirmed to VICE News that Trump hadn’t called him yet. “He was supposed to call me on Saturday,” Mayor Michael Signer, a Democrat, told VICE News’ Elle Reeve.
Speaking of mayors, Phoenix’s asked Trump not to host a rally in his city on August 22 almost as soon as the president announced his plans.
“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,” Mayor Greg Stanton, a Democrat, said in a statement released on Twitter.
Trump worries about the “beautiful statues” Day 210 — August 17
Trump shifted his defensiveness from white supremacists to the Confederate statues they seek to protect. In a series of tweets, the president mourned the loss of the “beautiful statues and monuments” that “will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”
By the way, Trump once boasted about destroying beautiful statues at one of his New York properties.
Bannon gets the boot Day 211 — August 18
Steve Bannon’s role as White House chief strategist has come to an end, multiple outlets confirmed. While Bannon’s future was still being discussed within the administration Friday morning, Trump later told senior aides that he’d decided to fire Bannon, according to the New York Times.
Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, said she has “not and now will not” take Donald Trump’s calls. The president tried to call Bro during her daughter’s funeral on Wednesday. At first, Bro reasoned that she would call Trump after recovering from the exhaustion of the funeral — but then she saw Trump defend white supremacists and decided she wouldn’t talk to him at all.
Sixteen members of Trump’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, as well as members of Trump’s Digital Economy Board of Advisors, confirmed to VICE News that they announced their resignation in response to Trump’s Charlottesville remarks.