President Donald Trump's initial response to the Unite the Right protest that descended into violence was to condemn both sides and take a seemingly soft stance on Nazis. There were "very fine people on both sides" Trump said, adding: "you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest."
According to a New York Times report citing unnamed folks close to the situation, the president's daughter Ivanka and her husband and Trump adviser Jared Kushner tried to temper the former reality TV star's comments but were on vacation at the time.
White House correspondents Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman wrote the couple "urged him to take a more moderate stance.… But as with so many other critical moments in Mr. Trump’s presidency, the two were on vacation, this time in Vermont." Politico reported the vacation was pre-planned and the couple were scheduled to meet up with the president in New Jersey later in the week.
Ivanka Trump did tweet after the attack, however, "There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis."
Days after the rally turned violent, Trump eventually did issue a statement that condemned racism, white supremacists and the KKK, but the president soon reversed course yet again. In a press conference Sunday, Trump defended his original remarks saying, "I think there is blame on both sides."
He also compared a Confederate general to George Washington. "Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee," Trump said. "So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?"
While Kushner and Ivanka Trump are viewed as more moderate conservatives who hold some liberal stances on social issues, they've proven largely incapable of moderating some of the president's more extreme views. Ivanka reportedly pushed her father to keep the United States in the landmark Paris climate change agreement and failed in that effort. "Obviously, Jared and Ivanka don't have as much pull as we think," a source told CNN after Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. Ivanka was also surprised to learn her father tweeted out a ban on transgender soldiers from the military just a month after she tweeted her support for LGBT rights, Politico reported.
The weekend's deadly rally was also explicitly anti-Semitic with chants of "Jews will not replace us" as well as the Nazi slogan "blood and soil." Kushner is Jewish, as is Ivanka Trump, who converted when the couple wed. One of the white nationalist leaders of the rally, Christopher Cantwell, even made anti-Semitic remarks about Kushner in a Vice News Tonight interview. He said he hoped for someone he considered capable to soon lead the country, "somebody like Donald Trump, who does not give his daughter to a Jew."
When asked if that meant "Donald Trump but more racist," Cantwell responded "a lot more racist.… I don't think you could feel the way about race that I do and watch that Kushner bastard walk around with that beautiful girl, OK?"
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