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Timeline: How growing anger finally pushed Trump to denounce white supremacists

President Trump on Aug. 14 condemned racist groups such as the KKK, saying racism “has no place in America,” after a woman died in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

By the time President Trump held a news conference Monday, when he finally explicitly denounced white supremacists, it had been nearly two full days since a car, allegedly driven by a Nazi sympathizer, plowed into a crowd of people.

By then, several Republicans, including Vice President Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and several senators had delivered forceful and specific condemnations that their boss, himself, had not said. As far as critics were concerned, Trump's window to exceed expectations by unequivocally denouncing the racist voices that invoked his name had long passed.

The president's response to the unrest that besieged Charlottesville this past weekend has been widely criticized by people from both sides of the political aisle. It began with a seemingly delayed tweet condemning the violence on Saturday, when white nationalists planned to hold a “Unite the Right” rally, and ended with three prominent corporate chief executives resigning from Trump's economic council.

Recounting a day of rage, hate, violence and death

Here's how it all unfolded:

SATURDAY: Deadly unrest

Trump's first response addressing the violent clash between white nationalists and counterprotesters (anti-fascist groups, church group members, civil rights leaders and local residents), came in the form of a tweet at 1:19 p.m.: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!”

By then, the fight between the opposing sides had been going on for several hours. They punched, shoved and sprayed chemical irritants at each other. Law enforcement officials canceled the rally less than an hour before it was supposed to start.

The violence turned deadly around 1:40 p.m.

After Charlottesville, Trump retweets — then deletes — image of train running over CNN reporter

Disturbing videos show a car driving at high speed into a crowd of counterprotesters. Bodies flew and shoes fell on the streets of downtown Charlottesville. A woman, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed and 19 others were injured.

Twenty minutes later, Trump announced a news conference from his resort in Bedminster, N.J., where he had been staying. It started an hour and a half later.

“The hate and division must stop. And must stop right now,” Trump said. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

The vagueness of the last phrase immediately struck a chord.

A handful of Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Cory Gardner (Colo.), Orrin G. Hatch (Utah) and Marco Rubio (Fla.), called out Trump for not singling out white supremacists. Over the next hours, several Republicans issued statements that specifically condemned far-right extremist groups.

Trump didn’t call out white supremacists. He was rebuked by members of his own party.

The neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, meanwhile, praised Trump for his vagueness.

“Trump's comments were good. He didn't attack us ... Nothing specific against us,” the Daily Stormer wrote, declaring that the president was implicitly supporting their cause while denouncing the counterprotesters.

Republican and Democratic politicians criticized President Trump for not calling out white supremacy while administration officials defended his statement. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde, Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Aside from offering condolences to the families of Heyer and the two Virginia State Police troopers who died after a helicopter crashed, Trump largely remained quiet for the rest of the day.

SUNDAY: Advisers defend Trump; McMaster calls the attack terrorism

The White House sought to clarify its messaging as three of his top advisers appeared on the morning shows to defend Trump.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster said on NBC's “Meet the Press” that it “ought to be clear to all Americans” that Trump's comments about bigotry and hatred included white supremacists and neo-Nazis. He also called the death of Heyer an act of terrorism.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said on CBS's “Face the Nation” that Trump was “specific,” “very clear” and, “frankly, pretty unambiguous” in responding to the violence.

Homeland Security adviser Tom Bossert on CNN's “State of the Union” praised Trump for not naming specific groups, saying that people from “both sides” went to Charlottesville “looking for trouble.”

The White House also said in a statement that Trump's condemnation of “violence, bigotry and hatred” is includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.”

Earlier in the day, Ivanka Trump tweeted a forceful condemnation absent from her father's words: “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”

Around 7 p.m., Pence also specifically called out extremist groups during his brief comments in Cartagena, Colombia: “We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo-Nazis or the KKK.”

Trump, who usually fires off series of tweets on weekends, remained quiet.

MONDAY: CEOs resign

That silence promptly ended Monday morning.

Merck chief executive Kenneth C. Frazier announced that he was resigning from Trump's American Manufacturing Council in the wake of the president's failure to directly condemn white supremacists. Citing a “matter of personal conscience,” Frazier said in a statement that he felt “a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and racism.

A little less than an hour later, Trump attacked the man, whom just a month ago, he called one of the “great, great leaders of business in this country.”

He did so again in the evening:

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was on “Good Morning America” where he defended Trump, saying that people are making “too much out of” the president not singling out white supremacists.

“Racism, white supremacy is totally unacceptable,” Sessions said.

Shortly before 1 p.m. — and after two days of criticisms — Trump held another news conference and finally denounced hate groups, “including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists.”

White House: Trump’s condemnation includes ‘white supremacists, KKK, neo-Nazi and all extremist groups’

Critics argued that he had to be pressured into saying those words himself. Supporters, like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, came to his defense:

"@POTUS couldn’t be more explicit in condemning racist thugs. Will critics be satisfied? Of course not! They can’t see past THEIR hate!," Huckabee tweeted.

Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr., later echoed those sentiments:

Indeed, the White House's latest messaging was not enough to quell the anger. He was met with protesters chanting “New York hates you!” when he returned to Manhattan Monday night.

Shortly after, two more chief executives resigned from Trump's economic council. Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plank made the announcement shortly after 8 p.m. and Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich did around 10:30 p.m.

“I love our country & company. I am stepping down from the council to focus on inspiring & uniting through power of sport,” Plank said on Twitter.

Merck, Intel, Under Armour CEOs quit council over Trump’s initial response to rally

Krzanich wrote in a blog post that he's resigning “to call attention” to the country's divided political climate. He criticized people in Washington who “seem more concerned with attacking anyone who disagrees with them.”

In response, Trump on Tuesday called them “grandstanders.”

Jenna Johnson and Karoun Demirjian contributed to this story.


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