House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday amplified her calls for President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — State Dept. employees targets of spyware Ohio Republican Party meeting ends abruptly over anti-DeWine protesters Jan. 6 panel faces new test as first witness pleads the Fifth MORE to fire Stephen Bannon, accusing the White House strategist of being a “white supremacist” who’s empowered racist groups like those that marched in deadly protests in Virginia over the weekend.
Pelosi said Trump’s initial statement, which blamed “many sides” for the violent clashes in Charlottesville without mentioning the various racist groups involved, was “a direct reflection of the fact that … Bannon is an alt-right white supremacist sympathizer and a shameless enforcer of those un-American beliefs.”
“In his long overdue statement today, President Trump called white supremacists ‘repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,’ ” Pelosi said in a statement, referring to Trump’s more aggressive response from the White House on Monday.
“If the President is sincere about rejecting white supremacists, he should remove all doubt by firing Steve Bannon and the other alt-right white supremacist sympathizers in the White House."
“President Trump’s failure to immediately denounce white supremacy is well in line with the unmistakable conduct of his administration toward immigrants, Muslims, and communities of color,” she said.
It’s not the first time Pelosi has launched such barbs at Bannon, a former executive at Breitbart News whose embrace of nationalist views has fueled charges of bigotry from his critics.
In November, Pelosi urged then Vice President-elect Pence to convince Trump to drop Bannon from any White House role, referring to him as “a white nationalist.” And in February, Pelosi escalated the criticisms, characterizing Bannon as “a white supremacist” after Trump tapped his top adviser to sit on the National Security Council. Trump removed Bannon from the council in April.
The White House did not respond to questions about Pelosi’s remarks. But addressing the violence Monday, Trump characterized racism as “evil” and condemned, by name, “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups.”
The Democrats, though, are not convinced, and the weekend violence in Charlottesville has only heightened their attacks on Trump and his previously reticent approach to the white supremacist groups that have supported him.
Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally, organized to protest the city’s decision to remove a statue of former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, quickly devolved into a series of violent clashes between marchers and counterprotesters. Amid the chaos, a car sped into a group of counterprotesters, injuring 19 and killing Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal. Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsPress: For Trump endorsement: The more sordid, the better Those predicting Facebook's demise are blowing smoke If bitcoin is 'digital gold,' it should be taxed like gold MORE has launched a federal investigation, labeling the episode a case of domestic terrorism.
Many Democrats were quick to accuse the president of empowering the racist groups.
“It starts with Donald Trump; it ends with Donald Trump,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) said in Memphis over the weekend. “He has encouraged people to come out and be willing to go without any hiding of their images and their names and show their racist attitudes.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for hearings into the threat of domestic terrorism posed by racist groups.
“If Muslim men were the aggressors, my Republican colleagues would be decrying an act of terror,” Thompson said.
Republicans on both the Homeland Security and Judiciary committees have no plans to examine the Charlottesville episode, GOP sources said Monday. The Homeland Security panel will stage a broader hearing in September on worldwide threats to the country, where Democrats are sure to broach the white supremacist issue.
Some Republicans, however, said they’re open to the idea of examining the Charlottesville tragedy, including veteran Rep. Tom Cole (Okla.).
“I certainly don’t object to having hearings. That’s perfectly fine,” Cole told The Hill on Monday. “I just hope if we do it, we do it in a way so that we're not trying to score political points.
“It should be a serious substantive look at what are the problems. But it’s worth pointing out that this country broadly has moved in the right direction.”
Cole, one of two Native Americans in Congress, said Washington has taken on the complicated issue of race relations in the past. In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson created the Kerner Commission to investigate the causes of race riots in cities across the country.
“Congress always had a role in setting examples, making sure the law is enforced,” Cole said. “I think the congressional response here [to Charlottesville] has been pretty unequivocal.”