Trump defends 'beautiful' Confederate statues

President Trump lamented the loss of Confederate statues and monuments on Thursday in a series of tweets likely to fuel the controversy surrounding his handling of violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

Trump said it was "sad" that the "history and culture" of the United States is "being ripped apart" by the removal of Confederate statues and monuments after ripping two GOP senators earlier in the morning over their criticism of his remarks this week blaming white supremacists and counterprotesters alike for Saturday's violence.

It was a defiant move by a president who has come under fierce criticism, even from members of his own party, for not placing enough blame on white supremacists who marched through the Virginia college town on Saturday.

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Yet in defending the Confederate statues, Trump could be seeking to consolidate support within at least a portion of his base, which has looked at the removal of Confederate statues and memorials with anger.

"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," Trump tweeted. "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!"

The president's tweets revived his claim on Tuesday that by removing Confederate statues, local governments and activists are "changing history, you’re changing culture."

Efforts to remove memorials to the losing side in the Civil War have stepped up since hundreds of white supremacists descended on Charlottesville. The city of Baltimore overnight Tuesday took down four memorials. Another statue in Durham, N.C., was pulled down by protestors.

In a defiant news conference on Tuesday, Trump defended those who gathered in Charlottesville last weekend to protest the city's decision to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

He suggested that allowing the statue's removal could lead to the removal of other monuments to the country's Founding Fathers, like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

Trump also appeared to equate counterprotesters with the white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups who incited violence in the college town Saturday.

The remarks disappointed many Republicans, who believed Trump was moving beyond the controversy on Monday with a statement blaming white supremacists and neo-Nazis specifically for their roles in Charlottesville's violence.

Trump, who has a history of doubling down on his position when he comes under criticism, earlier on Thursday lashed out at Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCorker pressed as reelection challenges mount -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground Senate votes down Paul's bid to revoke war authorizations MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamTop Louisiana health official rips Cassidy over ObamaCare repeal bill Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE (R-S.C.), both of whom have criticized the president’s remarks.

Trump accused Graham of seeking publicity with his criticism, while he offered support for a GOP primary challenger to Flake.