WASHINGTON — White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert on Sunday defended President Donald Trump’s remarks in response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying the president was not equivocating with his denunciation of violence from “many sides” Saturday.
But, like Trump, Bossert implicated “both sides” for Saturday’s violence, while also saying the White House was “absolutely” against white supremacists.
“I’m sure there were good people in the groups that had various opinions on the removal or maintenance of the statue,” Bossert said.
“But what they found when they showed up were groups from outside that showed up on both sides, looking for trouble, dressed in riot gear, prepared for violence.”
Members of various white nationalist factions showed up to Charlottesville this weekend as part of a protest against the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
They clashed with counterprotesters, culminating on Saturday with a man ramming a car through the counterprotesters.
Authorities said the attack killed one woman and injured 19 others. Two Virginia state patrol troopers later died in a helicopter crash while assisting in the city’s response to the protests.
Trump gave a statement condemning Saturday’s violence from “many sides” and faced bipartisan criticism for failing to name and condemn white supremacy.
Bossert said Trump’s statement was aimed at calming the situation in Charlottesville and emphasized that people should focus on the portion of the president’s statement calling for unity and denouncing bigotry.
Bossert added he and Trump wanted the attacker to face “swift justice” and noted the Department of Justice was pursuing a civil rights investigation.
“This individual should face swift justice,” Bossert said. “The President of the United States shares that view. I know he does.”
And, like Trump, he pointed to both sides for the chaos that unfolded.
“These groups showed up spewing hate,” Bossert said. “These groups showed up looking for violence.”
Asked what groups he was referring to, Bossert replied, “I refer to the groups that clashed (Saturday).”
He denied, however, assigning blame to different groups, saying the blame was squarely on the driver of the vehicle that crashed into the counterprotesters.
Bossert also praised Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer and Virginia Gov. Terry McAullife for taking actions in anticipation of the violence, and said what happened Saturday “was an unacceptable, planned demonstration of violence.”
Pressed again on the president’s position towards the white supremacists, Bossert offered a condemnation of hate groups.
“I condemn white supremacists and racists and white Nazi groups and all the other groups that espouse this kind of hatred,” Bossert said.