BEDMINSTER, N.J. — The White House on Sunday sought to quell criticism of President Trump’s failure to denounce by name the white supremacists behind a spate of violence in Charlottesville, a response that associates said was based largely on Trump’s own read of the hate-fueled melee with counterprotesters.

In a statement, and through aides appearing on Sunday talk shows, the White House defended Trump’s general public condemnation Saturday of the events that led to three deaths and dozens of injuries in the picturesque college town in Virginia.

“Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups,” the White House said in a brief statement, elaborating on Trump’s remarks from his golf club here Saturday in which he decried an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” but did not explicitly call out any party for blame.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, faced continuing questions Sunday about why it took Attorney General Jeff Sessions as long as it did Saturday to announce a hate-crime investigation and why the FBI has not labeled a deadly car-ramming incident Saturday as an act of “domestic terrorism.”

Sessions did not announce that the department would open a civil rights investigation until nearly 11 p.m. Saturday night, after Democratic and Republican lawmakers called for the action. It gave no indication of how broad that investigation will be.

Sessions is scheduled to appear on three network morning shows Monday to talk about his department’s response.


Sunday’s White House efforts did little to tamp down criticism, including from many Republicans, who said Trump had missed an opportunity for moral leadership and to distance himself from white nationalist groups that embraced his presidency.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump needs to “correct the record here.”

“These groups seem to believe they have a friend in Donald Trump in the White House, and I would urge the president to dissuade that,” Graham said.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, among the Trump officials to fan out on the public affairs shows, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump was committed “to bring all Americans together.”

“I’m sure you will hear more from the president about this,” McMaster said.

Aides said Trump would continue to get updates on events in Charlottesville, but it was unclear what other steps the White House might take. Trump stayed out of public view and remained uncharacteristically silent on Twitter through Sunday afternoon.

The president plans to return to Washington on Monday for part of the day and could face additional reporter questions if he conducts a promised news conference.

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