Trump: ‘You can’t change history’
Efforts to remove rebel monuments ‘foolish,’ he says
USA TODAY WASHINGTON President Donald Trump on Thursday blasted two critical GOP senators and defended Confederate monuments — a new flashpoint in the debate about how to bridge the nation’s racial divide.
“You can’t change history, but you can learn from it,” he said during a flurry of tweets protesting statue and monument removal. “Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!” The white supremacists who gathered at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend said they were there to protest the city’s plans to remove a statue of Lee.
Trump is still facing a political firestorm for doubling down Tuesday on his claims that “both sides” were at fault for the violence in Charlottesville, even after one alleged white nationalist was charged with murder after ramming his car into a crowd of protesters, killing 32year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19.
The clashes have energized local movements to remove Confederate statues from public areas across the country. Critics insist the monuments celebrate the Civil War defense of slavery and are a lasting symbol of white supremacy.
Trump’s response to Charlottesville has deepened divisions within the Republican Party. Earlier Thursday, Trump attacked two Republican senators who have criticized his response to the Charlottesville attack.
First, Trump went after Sen. Lindsey Graham, saying the South Carolinian falsely accused him of offering “moral equivalency” between the white supremacist groups and counterprotesters.
“Such a disgusting lie,” Trump tweeted. “He just can’t forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember!”
Trump made a more explicit threat to back a primary challenger for Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, praising the latter’s Republican primary opponent.
“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate,” Trump tweeted. “He’s toxic!”
Flake has also written a book criticizing Trump, saying his behavior is undercutting the GOP and its conservative philosophy.