The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A day after meeting with Sen. Tim Scott, Trump repeats ‘both sides’ comments on Charlottesville

FROM LEFT: National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Trump stand at a news conference on Aug. 15. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The country's only black Republican senator left the White House on Wednesday somewhat confident that President Trump had a better grasp of why so many people criticized his response to the violence last month in Charlottesville, during which a woman was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of people protesting white supremacists.

“He's obviously reflected on what he's said, on his intentions and the perceptions of those comments,” Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told CBS on Wednesday. “He certainly was very clear that the perception that he received on his comments was not exactly what he intended with those comments.

“The president was very receptive to listening. That is a key to understanding,” Scott added.

But while talking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump appeared to double down Thursday on his criticism of progressive activists protesting white supremacists. The president's remarks were made while he was en route back to Washington from a trip to view hurricane relief efforts in Naples, Fla.

He condemned the violence by the anti-fascist protest movement known as “antifa,” saying their tactics across the country have proved him right for denouncing bad actors on both sides of the racially charged clashes with white supremacists in Charlottesville.

Trump said he explained his views on antifa to Scott 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 told reporters on Air Force One, in regards to his meeting with Scott. “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 hate groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, after white supremacists organized the Unite the Right rally.

“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said at a much-criticized news conference Aug. 15 in the lobby of the Midtown Manhattan Trump Tower.

“What about the 'alt-left' that came charging at, as you say, the 'alt-right,' do they have any semblance of guilt?” he asked. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”

“You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now,” Trump added.

Most Americans — 56 percent — had negative views of Trump's response to the incident. And even though Trump condemned white supremacy, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want him to go further.

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution this week requesting that the White House condemn white supremacy and “use all available resources to improve data collection on hate crimes and to work in a coordinated way to address the growing prevalence of hate groups.”

The White House has yet to comment on that request.