President Trump’s national security advisor Tim Bossert continued to blame groups “on both sides looking for trouble” for the violence in Charlottesville that resulted in the deaths of three people.
For several rounds of questions, Bossert referred to “these groups” and “groups that clashed yesterday” without calling out neo-nazis or white supremacists who incited the violence specifically.
He was quicker to frame the violence around “the individual that committed murder yesterday”, referring to the man who drove his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters and killed one.
Bossert: “Hold on one moment, Jake. I don’t for one minute, I don’t for one moment and I won’t allow you for one second to put me in a position of being an apologist for someone who is now a charged murderer. This individual should face swift justice. The president of the United States shares that view. I know he does. I share that view deeply. And I don’t want to be put in a position. I won’t allow you to put me or him in a position of not finding that justice as swiftly as possible.”
Tapper: “You just decried both sides. You just decried both sides. Here we have a situation, Mr. Bossert, where neo-nazis, the Klan, alt-right and others went to Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting other anti-semitic, anti-African American and other racist slogans provoking the people of Charlottesville, Virginia, making them feel intimidated. Yes, violence did break out. One person was killed by one of these alt-right, Klan, nazi protesters and you just decried both sides of this and this is the issue.”
Bossert: “No. No, I didn’t. You’re making this issue a little distorted. What I would decry is the individual that committed murder yesterday. What I would do, though, is quibble with this notion that any of this is acceptable. These groups showed up spewing hate. These groups showed up looking for violence.”
Tapper: “What groups?”
Bosser: “I think it’s just important for people to understand.”
Tapper: “What groups are you referring to?”
Bossert: “Well, I refer to the groups that clashed yesterday. I think it was pretty graphically evident.”
Tapper: “Are you talking about the neo-nazis or the counterprotesters?”
At which point Bossert did not answer the question but instead started talking about the difficulties of planning for the protests, but went on to reiterate again that he blamed the individual who rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters and not a group:
“I don’t assign blame or assuage blame or try to press blame to other groups, Jake. The point I’m trying to make is that what we saw yesterday was an unacceptable planned demonstration of violence. What I would say is with respect to murder and I’m a little bit indignant of the way you phrased that. Apologies if I took it the wrong way,” he said, “But I place the blame most squarely and most directly on the murderer, alleged murderer, the driver of the vehicle. It’s no question in my mind the driver of that vehicle acted with intent. That is the driver of that vehicle. He is rightly accused of being a murderer,” he said.
After Tapper pushed him several times, citing criticism from top Republicans that the administration has not condemned white supremacist and neo-nazi groups responsible for the violence on Saturday, Bossert finally condemned white supremacists and neo-nazis broadly.
“I condemn white supremacists and racists and white Nazi groups,” he said in the following exchange:
Tapper: “I guess the point is, a point being made by Republican officials like Corey Gardner and others when you condemn groups as opposed to specifically white supremacists, Nazis, members, it creates this vagueness that as I read to you in that neo-nazi website quote, allows neo-nazis to think, ‘He’s not condemning us. He’s condemning anybody that was violent.’ That’s the problem. And you, on the show today, have said that you condemn groups and condemn actions and condemn bigotry but I haven’t heard you say, ‘I condemn white supremacists, I condemn neo-nazis, I condemn the alt-right.’ I haven’t heard that and I think a lot of people were upset, a lot of Republican officials, that they didn’t hear it from President Trump. But I don’t want to belabor this point—”
Bossert: “I think you’ve belabored it so let me say that I condemn white supremacist and racists and white nazi groups, and all the other groups that espouse this kind of violence. I can’t be clearer.”
— CNN (@CNN) August 13, 2017
No-one in the administration has called the death of one woman by a man driving his car into a crowd during the demonstrations yesterday a terrorist act.
– Nidhi Prakash