President Trump on Thursday condemned the violence by the anti-fascist protest movement known as “antifa,” saying their tactics around the country have proved him right for denouncing bad actors on both sides of the racially charged clashes with white supremacists in Charlottesville last month.
Trump said he explained his views on antifa to Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) during their private meeting at the White House a day earlier. Scott had expressed disgust with Trump’s handling of the Charlottesville aftermath.
“We had a great talk yesterday,” Trump said, during an on-record discussion with reporters on Air Force One en route to Washington after a trip to view hurricane-relief efforts in Naples, Fla. “I think, especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that’s what I said.”
The president added that “because of what’s happened since then with antifa, when you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying, and people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump may have a point.’ I said there’s some very bad people on the other side also.”
Trump faced widespread political backlash after he waited two days to specifically condemn the hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, that organized the Unite the Right rally. Violent clashes on the streets culminated in the death of a woman who was killed when a man participating in the rally plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters.
Even after denouncing the hate groups by name, Trump within days mounted a defense of his initial response, asserting there were “very fine people” among the marchers and suggesting both sides were to blame for the violence.
Trump said Scott presented legislation he was working on to help create jobs and put people to work, which Trump said he supported. Asked whether the senator had pressed him to add high-ranking African Americans to his White House staff and administration, Trump said: “We did talk about that, yeah. It’s something I do, and I certainly would continue to do. We talked about that. I told him I would do it, and he knows we’ve already done it. But I told him, and I told him very strongly, I like that.”
The president was not specific about whom he might hire or when or for what positions.
Later Thursday, the White House announced that Trump had signed legislation condemning the Charlottesville violence and hate groups.
Trump issued a statement saying he was pleased to sign it.
“As Americans, we condemn the recent violence in Charlottesville and oppose hatred, bigotry, and racism in all forms,” Trump said.
“No matter the color of our skin or our ethnic heritage, we all live under the same laws, we all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. We are a Nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. As one people, let us move forward to rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that bring us together as Americans.”
Anne Gearan contributed to this report.