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Yearly Archives: 2017

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Analysis: Colleges brace for more violence amid rash of hate on campus

BOSTON (AP) — Nicholas Fuentes is dropping out of Boston University and heading south, pressing ahead with his right-wing politics despite receiving online death threats.

The 19-year-old joined a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend and posted a defiant Facebook message promising that a “tidal wave of white identity is coming,” less than an hour after a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Now, he’s hoping to transfer to Auburn University in Alabama.

“I’m ready to return to my base, return to my roots, to rally the troops and see what I can do down there,” Fuentes said in an interview this week.

At college campuses, far-right extremist groups have found fertile ground to spread their messages and attract new followers.

And for many schools, the rally in Virginia served as a warning that these groups will no longer limit their efforts to social media or to flyers furtively posted around campus.

“It seems like what might have been a little in the shadows has come into full sun, and now it’s out there and exposed for everyone to see,” said Sue Riseling, a former police chief at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

The violence in Charlottesville introduced many Americans to a new brand of hate, bred on internet message boards and migrating to the streets with increasing frequency.

On the eve of Saturday’s rally, young white men wearing khakis and white polo shirts marched through the University of Virginia’s campus, holding torches as they chanted racist and anti-Semitic slogans. The next morning, many donned helmets and shields and clashed with counter-protesters before a car drove into the crowd, killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring 19 others.

On Monday, Texas A&M University canceled plans for a “White Lives Matter” rally in September. On Wednesday, the University of Florida denied a request for white nationalist Richard Spencer to rent space on campus for a September event. Spencer and his supporters are promising court challenges.

Expecting more rallies to come, Riseling’s group is planning a series of training events to help campus police prepare.

“If you’re sitting on a campus where this hasn’t happened, consider this your wake-up call that it might,” she said.

Last school year, racist flyers popped up on college campuses at a rate that experts called unprecedented. The Anti-Defamation League counted 161 white supremacist “flyering incidents” on 110 college campuses between September and June. Oren Segal, director of the group’s Center on Extremism, said the culprits can’t be dismissed as harmless trolls.

“You might have a few that don’t take it seriously. But those that do, those are the ones we’re concerned about,” Segal said.

Matthew Heimbach, the 26-year-old leader of the white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, admits that dropping leaflets on campuses is a cheap way to generate media coverage.

“A dollar worth of paper, if it triggers the right person, can become $100,000 in media attention,” he said.

As a student at Towson University in Maryland, Heimbach made headlines for forming a “White Student Union” and scrawling messages like “white pride” in chalk on campus sidewalks. His college years are behind him, but Heimbach still views colleges as promising venues to expand his group’s ranks. College students are running four of his group’s chapters, he said.

“The entire dynamic has changed,” Heimbach said. “I used to be the youngest person at white nationalist meetings by 20 or 30 years.”

The Foundation for the Marketplace of Ideas, a self-described “alt-right” nonprofit educational group, says it’s offering legal assistance to students caught hanging up posters or flyers containing “hate facts.” The “alt-right” is a fringe movement loosely mixing white nationalism, anti-Semitism and anti-immigration populism.

One of the foundation’s attorneys, Jason Van Dyke, said he represented a student at Southern Methodist University who was accused last year of posting flyers on campus that said, “Why White Women Shouldn’t Date Black Men.” The student wasn’t suspended or expelled, Van Dyke added.

“Just because speech makes someone uncomfortable or offends somebody does not make it a violation of the student code of conduct,” he said.

Scores of schools publicly denounced the violence in Virginia this week, including some that learned they enroll students who attended the “Unite the Right” rally.

The University of Nevada, Reno, said it stands against bigotry and racism but concluded there’s “no constitutional or legal reason” to expel Peter Cvjetanovic, a 20-year-old student and school employee who attended the rally, as an online petition demanded.

Other schools, including Washington State University, condemned the rally but didn’t specifically address their students who attended it.

Campus leaders say they walk a fine line when trying to combat messages from hate groups. Many strive to protect speech even if it’s offensive but also recognize hate speech can make students feel unsafe. Some schools have sought to counter extremist messages with town halls and events promoting diversity. Others try to avoid drawing attention to hate speech.

After flyers promoting white supremacy were posted at Purdue University last school year, Purdue President Mitch Daniels refused to dwell on the incident.

“This is a transparent effort to bait people into overreacting, thereby giving a minuscule fringe group attention it does not deserve, and that we decline to do,” Daniels said in a statement at the time.

Cameron Padgett, a 23-year-old senior at Georgia State University, only dabbled in campus activism before he decided to organize a speaking engagement for Spencer this year. Padgett sued — successfully — for Spencer to speak at Auburn University in April after the school tried to cancel the event.

“My motivation from the beginning was just free speech,” he said.

Padgett calls himself an “identitarian” — not a white nationalist — and insists “advocating for the interests of white people” doesn’t make him a racist. Padgett said he hasn’t faced harassment for working with Spencer and doesn’t fear any.

“There are a lot of people who just sit behind keyboards,” he said. “But what are we doing this for if no one wants to show their face?”

At Boston University, Fuentes says he met a few others with similar views — he considers himself a “white advocate” — but mostly found political kinship online. He hosts his own YouTube show and is prolific on social media, but when he heard about the “Unite the Right” rally, he saw it as a chance to network in the real world.

“It was going from online to actually physically assembling somewhere,” he said. “We shake hands, we look people in the eye. We actually have some solidarity in the movement.”

So, along with a friend from Chicago, Fuentes booked a flight and headed to Virginia.

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Kunzelman reported from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

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Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at @cbinkley and Michael Kunzelman at @Kunzelman75

Spanish police kill 5 in resort hours after Barcelona attack

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Police on Friday shot and killed five people wearing fake bomb belts who staged a car attack in a seaside resort in Spain’s Catalonia region hours after a van plowed into pedestrians on a busy Barcelona promenade, killing at least 13 people and injuring over 100 others.

Authorities said the back-to-back vehicle attacks — as well as an explosion earlier this week elsewhere in Catalonia— were connected and the work of a large terrorist group. Three people were arrested, but the driver of the van used in the Barcelona attack remained at large and the manhunt intensified for the perpetrators of the latest European rampage claimed by the Islamic State group.

Authorities were still reeling from Thursday’s Barcelona attack when police in the popular seaside town of Cambrils, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the south, fatally shot five people near the town’s boardwalk who had plowed into a group of tourists and locals with their blue Audi 3. Six people, including a police officer, were injured, though it wasn’t clear how badly.

Catalonia’s interior minister, Joaquim Forn, told Onda Cero radio that the five suspects killed in a subsequent shootout with police were wearing fake bomb belts.

Footage has emerged of panic on Barcelona’s streets after Thursday’s van attack in the city’s historic Las Ramblas district. Authorities say one person is dead, and dozens have been injured. (Aug. 17)

“They were fakes, but very well made, and it wasn’t until the bomb squad carried out the controlled explosion of one that they could determine they were fakes,” he said.

The Audi and a damaged police car were towed from the scene Friday.

The Cambrils attack came hours after a white van veered onto Barcelona’s picturesque Las Ramblas promenade and mowed down pedestrians, zig-zagging down the strip packed with locals and tourists from around the world.

Forn, told local radio RAC1 the Cambrils attack “follows the same trail. There is a connection.”

He told Onda Cero that the Cambrils and Barcelona attacks were being investigated together, as well as a Wednesday night explosion in the town of Alcanar in which one person was killed.

“We are not talking about a group of one or two people, but rather a numerous group,” he said. He added that the Alcanar explosion had been caused by butane tanks stored in a house, and that firefighters and police responding to the blast had been injured.

The Barcelona attack at the peak of Spain’s tourist season left victims sprawled across the street, spattered with blood and writhing in pain from broken limbs. Others were ushered inside shops by officers with their guns drawn or fled in panic, screaming and carrying young children in their arms.

“It was clearly a terror attack, intended to kill as many people as possible,” Josep Lluis Trapero, a senior police official for Spain’s Catalonia region told reporters late Thursday.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility, saying in a statement on its Aamaq news agency that the attack was carried out by “soldiers of the Islamic State” in response to the extremist group’s calls for followers to target countries participating in the coalition trying to drive it from Syria and Iraq.

Cambrils Mayor Cami Mendoza said the town had taken precautions after the Barcelona attack, but that the suspects had centered their assault early Friday on the narrow path to Cambrils’s boardwalk, which is usually packed with locals and tourists late into the evening.

“We were on a terrace, like many others,” said bystander Jose Antonio Saez. “We heard the crash and intense gun shots, then the dead bodies on the floor, shot by the police. They had what looked like explosive belts on.”

Others described scenes of panic, and found safety inside bars and restaurants until police had secured the area.

Local resident Markel Artabe said he was heading to the seafront to get an ice cream when he heard the shots.

“We began to run. We saw one person lying on the pavement with a shot in his head then 20-30 meters further on we saw two more people, who must have been terrorists as they had explosive belts around them. We were worried so we hid.”

A third Barcelona suspect was arrested Friday in the northern town of Ripoll, where one of the two detained on Thursday had also been nabbed. The third arrest was made in Alcanar, where the gas explosion in a house was being investigated.

“There could be more people in Ripoll connected to the group,” Forn told TV3 television, adding that police were focusing their investigation on identifying the five dead in Cambrils as well as the driver of the Barcelona van.

Police said the two suspects arrested Thursday were a Spanish national from Melilla, a Spanish-run Mediterranean seafront enclave in North Africa, and the other a Moroccan.

Spanish public broadcaster RTVE and other news outlets named one of the detained as Driss Oukabir, a French citizen of Moroccan origin. RTVE reported said Oukabir went to police in Ripoll to report that his identity documents had been stolen. Various Spanish media said the IDs with his name were found in the attack van and that he claimed his brother might have stolen them.

Media outlets ran photographs of Oukabir they said police had issued to identify one of the suspects. The regional police told The Associated Press that they had not distributed the photograph. They refused to say if he was one of the two detained.

The driver, however, remained at large.

“We don’t know if the driver is still in Barcelona or not, or what direction he fled in,” Forn, the Catalan interior minister, told SER Radio. “We had local police on the scene, but we were unable to shoot him, as the Ramblas were packed with people.”

The Catalan regional government said people from 24 countries were among those killed and injured in Barcelona.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy called the killings a “savage terrorist attack” and said Spaniards “are not just united in mourning, but especially in the firm determination to beat those who want to rob us of our values and our way of life.”

After the afternoon attack, Las Ramblas went into lockdown. Swarms of officers brandishing hand guns and automatic weapons launched a manhunt in the downtown district, ordering stores and cafes and public transport to shut down.

By Friday morning, the promenade had reopened to the public, and neighbors and tourist were allowed past police lines to go back to their homes and hotels. The city center remained under heavy surveillance.

At noon Friday, a minute of silence honoring the victims was to be observed at the Plaza Catalunya, near the top of the Ramblas where the van attack started. Rajoy declared three days of national mourning.

Similar vehicle attacks have been carried out at tourist sites in France, Germany, Sweden and Britain.

“London, Brussels, Paris and some other European cities have had the same experience. It’s been Barcelona’s turn today,” said Carles Puigdemont, president of Catalonia’s government.

The bloodshed was Spain’s deadliest attack since 2004, when al-Qaida-inspired bombers killed 192 people in coordinated assaults on Madrid’s commuter trains. In the years since, Spanish authorities have arrested nearly 200 jihadists. The only deadly attacks were bombings claimed by the Basque separatist group ETA that killed five people over the past decade but it declared a cease-fire in 2011.

“Unfortunately, Spaniards know the absurd and irrational pain that terrorism causes. We have received blows like this in recent years, but we also that terrorists can be beaten,” Rajoy said.

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Associated Press writers Ciaran Giles in Madrid, Albert Stumm in Barcelona, Barry Hatton in Lisbon and Alan Clendenning in Phoenix also contributed to this report.

Mattis says a decision is closer on strategy for Afghanistan

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WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of sometimes heated internal debate, the Trump administration has almost reached a decision on a new approach for fighting the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday. He gave no hint of what the strategy would look like.

In remarks at the State Department, Mattis told reporters President Donald Trump will confer with his national security team Friday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, and said the talks “will move this toward a decision.”

“We are coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future,” he added.

Months ago the Pentagon had settled on a plan to send approximately 3,800 additional troops to help strengthen the Afghan army, which is stuck in what some call a deteriorating stalemate with the Taliban insurgency. Some in the White House have questioned the wisdom of investing further resources in the war, which is the longest in American history.

The administration has said its Afghanistan strategy will be informed by a review of its approach to the broader region, including Pakistan and India. The Taliban have long used Pakistan as a sanctuary, complicating efforts to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan and stabilize the country.

The outlook in Afghanistan is clouded by the government’s struggle to halt Taliban advances on its own. In its most recent report, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said the Taliban hold sway in almost half the country.

Government forces also are battling an Islamic State affiliate that has carved out a foothold mostly in eastern Afghanistan. Trump has vowed to crush IS, so the affiliate in Afghanistan poses an additional challenge with no immediate solution. Just this week, a U.S. soldier was killed and nearly a dozen were wounded in combat with the IS affiliate.

The U.S. has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Their primary roles are to train and advise Afghan forces and to hunt down and kill members of al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

Trump has expressed frustration at the prolonged fighting in Afghanistan. Earlier this summer he raised the idea of firing the top U.S. commander there, Gen. John Nicholson. On July 18, he said, “I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years.”

Asked Monday if Trump has confidence in Nicholson, Mattis demurred.

“Ask the president,” Mattis said. “I will tell you right now, he is our commander in the field, he has the confidence of NATO, he has the confidence of Afghanistan, he has the confidence of the United States.”

Trump is “looking at all aspects” of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan “as he must in his responsibilities as the commander in chief,” Mattis said.

Lawmakers in Congress also are frustrated by the war and the prolonged debate within the administration on how to break the stalemate. Last week, Republican Sen. John McCain declared that “America is adrift in Afghanistan.” He proposed a war strategy that would expand the U.S. counterterrorism effort and provide greater support to Afghan security forces.

“Nearly seven months into President Trump’s administration, we’ve had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The thousands of Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander in chief.”

McCain said bluntly, “We are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide.”

Warship captain in collision that killed 7 to lose command

WASHINGTON (AP) — Poor seamanship and flaws in keeping watch contributed to a collision between a Navy destroyer and a commercial container ship that killed seven sailors, Navy officials said, announcing that the warship captain will be relieved of command and more than a dozen other sailors will be punished.

Adm. William Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, told reporters Thursday that the top three leaders aboard the USS Fitzgerald, which was badly damaged in the June collision off the coast of Japan, will be removed from duty aboard the ship. They are the commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson; the executive officer, Cmdr. Sean Babbitt; and Master Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin, who as the ship’s command master chief is its most senior enlisted sailor.

“The collision was avoidable, and both ships demonstrated poor seamanship,” the Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement, noting that “flawed” teamwork among those assigned to keep watch contributed to the collision.

The actions are being taken by Rear Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, based at Yokosuka, Japan, because he lost confidence in the three, Moran said.

The Navy said the three had shown “inadequate leadership.” Separately, seven junior officers were relieved of their duties because they had shown “poor seamanship” and bad teamwork, 7th Fleet spokesman Cmdr. Clay Doss said Friday.

Administrative penalties were handed out to seven others that were members of the watch teams, he said, without giving details. All 14 remain in the Navy, but they will be assigned to other jobs, he said.

The Navy’s investigation into how and why the USS Fitzgerald collided with the container ship has not yet been completed, but enough details were available to decide on Friday’s actions, the Navy said.

Doss said the specifics of what led to the collision were related to preparations for litigation and cannot be released.

“Serious mistakes were made by members of the crew,” Moran said, adding that he could not fully detail those mistakes because the investigation is ongoing.

He said “the bridge team,” or the sailors responsible for keeping watch on the ship’s bridge to ensure it remains safe, had “lost situational awareness,” which left them unable to respond quickly enough to avoid the disaster once the oncoming container ship was spotted.

Separately, the Navy released the results of a review of events that took place aboard the ship after the collision, focusing on the crew’s efforts to control damage, save lives and keep the ship afloat.

The crash occurred in the pre-dawn hours of June 17 off the coast of Japan in an accident-prone area known for congestion. That is within Japanese territorial waters. The seas were relatively calm, and visibility was unrestricted. The bow of the container ship, the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, slammed into the Fitzgerald’s right side above the waterline, quickly flooding several areas inside the ship, including a berthing, or sleeping, area.

Of the 35 sailors who were in Berthing 2 at the time, 28 escaped. Seven drowned.

The collision knocked out external communications and cut power in the forward portion of the ship.

The Navy review of what happened aboard the ship following the collision found that the seven deaths could not be blamed on misconduct. It commended the response by the ship’s crew, singling out two sailors for taking extra steps to help other out of the flooded berthing space — actions that it said likely saved the lives of at least two of their shipmates.

“No damage control efforts, however, would have prevented Berthing 2 from flooding completely within the first two minutes following the collision, or the deadly circumstances in that situation,” the review said.

Within 30 to 60 seconds, the berthing was flooded, and the water was waist deep, the study said. Mattresses, furniture, an exercise bicycle were floating in the aisles.

The sailors tried to escape and helped each other, looking for their mates. One sailor got pinned between floating lockers and was barely able to pull himself free. The seven sailors who died were sleeping in the area closest to and directly in the path of the incoming water, the study found.

The report said that although some in Berthing 2 heard a loud noise at the time of the collision or were thrown from their beds by the force of the impact, some did not realize what had happened and remained in bed. Some remained asleep.

“At least one sailor had to be pulled from his rack and into the water before he woke up,” it said.

The Japanese and U.S. coast guards are conducting their own investigations.

Japan’s Coast Guard is “not in a position to make any comments on the Navy’s investigation,” spokesman Yoshihito Nakamura said.

Yoshinori Fukushima, spokesman for the operators of the container ship ACX Crystal, also declined to comment, saying they had yet to see the Navy report.

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Associated Press Writer Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/yuri%20kageyama

Estimates of North Korea’s nuclear weapons hard to nail down

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. intelligence agencies’ assessments of the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal have a wide gap between high and low estimates. Size matters and not knowing makes it harder for the United States to develop a policy for deterrence and defend itself and allies in the region.

The secrecy of North Korea’s nuclear program, the underground nature of its test explosions and the location of its uranium-enrichment activity has made it historically difficult to assess its capabilities.

Some U.S. assessments conclude North Korea has produced or can make around 30 to 60 nuclear weapons, said two U.S. officials who weren’t authorized to discuss sensitive intelligence matters and demanded anonymity. Such a wide range affects how the U.S. considers addressing the threat. More North Korean bombs could indicate second-strike capacity and then there are questions about how much nuclear firepower the country could mobilize on a moment’s notice.

Estimates by civilian experts cloud the picture even further. Most put the arsenal anywhere from a dozen to about 30 weapons.

“The bottom line is that we really don’t know how many nuclear weapons they have,” said Bruce Bennett, a senior international and defense researcher at RAND specializing in northeast Asian military issues. “Does it make a difference? Absolutely.”

“If North Korea only has a small number — one or two or three — they will not brandish them early in a conflict. If they have 30-plus, they are almost certainly going to consider early use of nuclear weapons in a conflict.”

Although remote, the danger of a U.S.-North Korean nuclear confrontation has escalated in recent weeks after Pyongyang’s first successful tests last month of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.

President Donald Trump has traded bombastic threats with the isolated, communist government. Last week, Trump pledged to answer North Korean aggression with “fire and fury.” He later tweeted that a military solution was “locked and loaded” after leader Kim Jong Un was said to be considering a provocative launch of missiles into waters near the U.S. Pacific island of Guam.

If a war were to break out now, North Korea could very well be destroyed. But if North Korea succeeds in building nuclear missiles that can reach the continental U.S., the equation changes. And having more than a few reliable missiles — long-range ones, plus short-range ones that could, for instance, hit South Korea where 28,000 U.S. troops are deployed — enhance North Korea’s leverage.

The risk of mass casualties makes any pre-emptive U.S. strikes problematic, as Trump’s own chief strategist recognized in an interview this week.

“There’s no military solution, forget it,” Steve Bannon says. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here. They got us.” Seoul is South Korea’s capital.

Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director-general at the U.N. nuclear agency, said an arsenal of dozens of weapons might suggest North Korea seeks the capacity to retaliate in a nuclear war. A half-dozen weapons would suggest pure deterrence, said Heinonen, who estimates that North Korea now has enough fissile material for up to 40 weapons — about 10 using plutonium and 30 using uranium.

“When you increase the number, it means normally you’re going a little bit more offensive, you plan to have a second-strike capability,” Heinonen said. “Very often it’s from submarines and we see North Korea also working with those.”

While size is important, Kelsey Davenport at the Arms Control Association thinks the more pressing problem is stopping Pyongyang from further advancing its nuclear program.

“North Korea wants to threaten the United States with a nuclear strike, not actually conduct one, so determining the exact size of North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear warheads is far less urgent than de-escalating tensions,” she said.

Sen. Deb Fischer, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s panel on strategic forces, said not knowing the size of North Korea’s nuclear program can complicate planning and limit options available to the president. But general principles of deterrence can still be applied, she said.

“Kim Jong Un is probably less likely to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile armed with a nuclear weapon at the United States, and suffer our overwhelming retaliation, if he knows our missile defense will prevent his attack from succeeding,” said Fischer, who has called for more funding for homeland missile defense.

A 2015 study by the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies said North Korea could have up to 100 weapons by the end of the decade. That is, if it had 9,000 centrifuges in operation for uranium enrichment and if a light-water reactor, long under construction, finally came online. Under that projection, North Korea would have 58 weapons by 2017, which is comparable to the high end of the intelligence estimates.

Still, most experts think the number is far less.

“It’s possible that they have discovered an additional uranium enrichment facility that we haven’t known about,” said John Schilling, a consultant with the 38 North website on North Korea at Johns Hopkins. If 60 is the high end, he said, then there “has to be an additional uranium enrichment facility to have produced that level.”

Assuming the existence of one or more covert centrifuge facilities, North Korea’s inventory of plutonium and highly enriched uranium might have provided enough fuel for 20 to 25 nuclear devices by the end of last year, according to Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist and former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory who visited North Korea’s declared centrifuge facility at Nyongbyon in 2010.

“Almost all in government believe there are two centrifuge plants,” added David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, who views an arsenal of 60 as “unlikely.”

Trump defends Confederate statues, berates his critics

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BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) — With prominent Republicans openly questioning his competence and moral leadership, President Donald Trump burrowed deeper into the racially charged debate over Confederate memorials and lashed out at members of his own party in the latest controversy to engulf his presidency.

Out of sight, but still online, Trump tweeted his defense of monuments to Confederate icons — bemoaning rising efforts to remove them as an attack on America’s “history and culture.”

And he berated his critics who, with increasingly sharper language, have denounced his initially slow and then ultimately combative comments on the racial violence at a white supremacist rally last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump was much quicker Thursday to condemn violence in Barcelona, where more than a dozen people were killed when a van veered onto a sidewalk and sped down a busy pedestrian zone in what authorities called a terror attack.

He then added to his expression of support a tweet reviving a debunked legend about a U.S. general subduing Muslim rebels a century ago in the Philippines by shooting them with bullets dipped in pig blood.

“Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” Trump wrote.

A leading Republican senator says Donald Trump has not yet shown the stability or competence required for an American president to succeed. (Aug. 17)

Trump’s unpredictable, defiant and, critics claim, racially provocative behavior has clearly begun to wear on his Republican allies.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, whom Trump considered for a Cabinet post, declared Thursday that “the president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to” in dealing with crises. And Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska tweeted, “Anything less than complete & unambiguous condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK by the @POTUS is unacceptable. Period.”

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Trump’s “moral authority is compromised.”

Trump, who is known to try to change the focus of news coverage with an attention-grabbing declaration, sought to shift Thursday from the white supremacists to the future of statues.

“You can’t change history, but you can learn from it,” he tweeted. “Robert E. Lee. Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish. …

“Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

“Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” he tweeted.

Trump met separately Thursday at his golf club in nearby Bedminster with the administrator of the Small Business Administration and Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a longtime Trump supporter. Trump also prepared for an unusual meeting Friday at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland with his national security team to discuss strategy for South Asia, including India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Vice President Mike Pence was cutting short a long-planned Latin America tour to attend the meeting.

Though out of public view, Trump sought to make his voice heard on Twitter as he found himself increasingly under siege and alone while fanning the controversy over race and politics toward a full-fledged national conflagration.

He dissolved two business councils Wednesday after the CEO members began quitting, damaging his central campaign promise to be a business-savvy chief executive in the Oval Office.

And the White House said Thursday that it was abandoning plans to form an infrastructure advisory council.

Two major charities, the Cleveland Clinic and the American Cancer Society, announced they are canceling fundraisers scheduled for Trump’s resort in Palm Beach, Florida, amid the continuing backlash over Trump’s remarks.

Meanwhile, rumblings of discontent from his staff grew so loud that the White House had to release a statement saying that Trump’s chief economic adviser wasn’t quitting. And the president remained on the receiving end of bipartisan criticism for his handling of the aftermath of the Charlottesville clashes.

On Thursday, he hit back hard — against Republicans.

He accused “publicity-seeking” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina of falsely stating Trump’s position on the demonstrators. He called Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake “toxic” and praised Flake’s potential primary election opponent.

Graham said Wednesday that Trump “took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency” between the marching white supremacists and the people who had been demonstrating against them. Flake has been increasingly critical of Trump in recent weeks.

Pressured by advisers, the president had softened his words on the dispute Monday, two days after he had enraged many by declining to single out the white supremacists and neo-Nazis whose demonstration against the removal of a Robert E. Lee statute had led to violence and the death of a counter-protester in Charlottesville.

He returned to his combative stance Tuesday — insisting anew during an unexpected and contentious news conference at Trump Tower that “both sides” were to blame.

Aides watching from the sidelines reacted with dismay and disbelief and privately told colleagues they were upset by the president’s remarks, though not upset enough for anyone to resign.

The resignation speculation around Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council and a Jew, had grown so intense by Thursday that the White House released a statement saying reports that Cohn was stepping down were “100 percent false.”

But not all of Trump’s aides were unhappy with his performance.

Adviser Steve Bannon’s job security in the White House has become tenuous — Trump offered only a “we’ll see” on Tuesday when asked if his chief strategist would remain in his post — but Bannon has been telling allies that the president’s news conference would electrify the GOP base.

And in a pair of interviews Wednesday, Bannon cheered on the president’s nationalist tendencies and suggested that a fight over Confederate monuments was a political fight he welcomes.

“The race-identity politics of the left wants to say it’s all racist,” Bannon told The New York Times. “Just give me more. Tear down more statues. Say the revolution is coming. I can’t get enough of it.”

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Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.

Business: World stocks skid as US politics, Spain attack hit sentiment

HONG KONG (AP) — World stock markets fell Friday as investors reacted to U.S. political upsets and the terror attack in Spain. European shares fell in early trading while futures pointed to a lower open for U.S. stocks on Friday.

KEEPING SCORE: France’s CAC 40 lost 1.2 percent to 5,085.00. Germany’s DAX shed 0.9 percent to 12,097.44 and Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.8 percent to 7,332.03. U.S. stocks were poised to open lower a day after posting their worst loss since May. Dow futures slipped 0.1 percent to 21,721.00 and broader S&P 500 futures fell 0.1 percent to 2,428.20.

BARCELONA ATTACK: Investors shied away from riskier investments following the latest attack to hit Europe. Police in Spain’s Catalonia region said they killed five suspects after a van swerved into pedestrians in downtown Barcelona, killing 13 and injuring 100. Police called it a terror attack and the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for it.

EARNINGS JITTERS: U.S. stocks had their second worst day this year as some big companies provided disappointing forecasts in their latest quarterly earnings reports, darkening the outlook for the world’s No. 1 economy. Network equipment maker Cisco Systems and data storage company NetApp both offered poor sales forecasts for the current quarter and Victoria’s Secret parent L Brands cut its annual profit forecast on weakening sales.

TRUMP TROUBLE: More turmoil at the White House added to investor pessimism. President Donald Trump abandoned his plans to form an infrastructure advisory council, a day after the administration said it would close down two other advisory councils made up primarily of business leaders. The White House was also forced to issue a statement dispelling swirling rumors that Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, was stepping down, saying they were “100 percent false.”

MARKET VIEW: A lack of market-moving economic data due Friday “suggests that markets will firmly focus their attention on the political uncertainties that are haunting the U.S. administration as well as the fall-out from the horrible events in Barcelona yesterday,” Elwin de Groot, Rabobank’s head of macro strategy, said in a commentary.

ASIAN SCORECARD: Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 1.2 percent to close at 19,470.41 and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.1 percent to 2,358.37. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sank 1.1 percent to 27,047.57, while the Shanghai Composite index ended flat at 3,268.72. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 5,747.10. Taiwan’s benchmark also fell and Southeast Asia indexes were mostly lower.

CURRENCIES: The dollar dipped to 109.00 yen from 110.55 yen in late trading Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1746 from $1.1723.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 13 cents to $47.22 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 31 cents to settle at $47.09 a barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 3 cents to $51.06 a barrel in London.

Opinion: Will war of words turn into war for real? Views in east Asia

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BEIJING (AP) — Tensions are swirling as North Korea and President Donald Trump exchange threats over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, leading to fears in east Asia of a possible armed conflict.

Last week, North Korea said it was drawing up plans to launch missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam, and Trump promised “fire and fury” if the North continues to threaten America. Since then, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said he is holding off on the missile test, a move welcomed by Trump. Still, it’s unclear how the North will respond next week, when the U.S. and South Korea are set to begin annual joint military exercises that Pyongyang detests.

Public anxiety is rising in Japan and South Korea, U.S. allies who lie most directly in the North’s line of fire, and China, North Korea’s economic backer and former close ally, has expressed growing alarm.

Here is a selection of views from ordinary people in east Asia about who is to blame for the current tensions and what should be done to ensure war does not break out.

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SHOGO AOKI, a Japanese researcher, says that by threatening North Korea, Trump is putting America’s interests first and appears to be overlooking countries most directly threatened by the North.

“I think (Trump) is thinking that this won’t result in any deaths back home, and if a war happens it will be far from home,” said Aoki. “Whether or not he’s thinking about other countries — Japan or Korea — well, that’s a mystery.”

“In the worst-case scenario, a missile could drop on Japan, and I am very worried about that,” he said. But if Japan cooperates with countries surrounding North Korea and puts more pressure on the nation, “we could still lower the probability of something like a missile or a destructive situation from developing,” Aoki said.

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MASARU CHIBA, a Japanese salesman, said he hopes dialogue between the parties involved can head off a conflict.

“Most Japanese, including myself, hate war,” said Chiba, 50, a native of Iwate on the northeastern coast of Japan’s main island. “So I am praying it won’t turn into one.”

“If you just leave the situation to be dealt with by the United States, and a war started just like that, we in Japan would be quite scared,” he said. “Of course Japan, China and South Korea and America should create a dialogue with North Korea, and I hope they will come up with a solution peacefully.”

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CHOI DONG-SAM, from Busan at the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula, said North Korea would bear ultimate responsibility for any conflict that breaks out, regardless of the circumstances.

“I am very concerned that a war might break out because of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea by the U.S.,” said the 56-year-old South Korean.

“I think the blame is mostly on Kim Jong Un. If North Korea hadn’t developed its nuclear program, we would not be in this current situation. I think that Kim Jong Un should take the initiative and remove the country’s nuclear weapons so we can have peace on this land.”

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HEO KYUNG YON, from Pohang on South Korea’s east coast, said Trump’s personal self-regard was reflected in his approach to the region and was responsible for inflaming tensions.

“President Trump is arrogant to a large extent,” said Heo, 61. “He is self-centered and selfish in a way, and this tendency is reflected in his policy which is geared toward solely pursuing America’s profits. I think his policy could be seen as somewhat disregarding weak countries.”

“It is without a doubt that the North’s policy should undergo some changes, but Trump’s policy is the determining factor in triggering this situation,” said Heo.

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MA HONGSHUO, a translator from the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, said fundamental differences in outlook between Pyongyang and Washington were playing out in the current tensions.

“The North Korean system itself is a bit closed, while at the same time the United States has always played by hegemonic and power politics, so I think this is a problem of both sides,” said Ma, 26.

North Korean hopes for improving their quality of life would likely suffer if a way cannot be found out of the current impasse, she said: “I have some North Korean friends and sometimes they would say they wish their country would improve.”

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TIGER HAN, a student in China’s capital, Beijing, said both sides bear responsibility for the tensions, which he said threaten to draw in other countries in the region.

“If the U.S. fleets come to this region, with further threats, and both sides have no space to retreat, then it would eventually turn into a regional conflict,” said the 18-year-old. “What worries me most is if the conflict gets bigger, it would be harder to resolve.”

Han said that both sides are equally to blame, with the U.S. seeking to maintain its influence in the region.

“I think they might have an ulterior motive in mind. There may be some motives that are directed toward China,” said Han, reflecting a common sentiment among the Chinese public, officials and state media.

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AP video journalists Kim Jung Yoon in Seoul, South Korea, Emily Wang in Beijing and Sherry Zheng in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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Follow Louise Watt on Twitter at twitter.com/louise_watt

Trump Comments on Race Open Breach With C.E.O.s, Military and G.O.P.

(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT)   —-    WASHINGTON — President Trump found himself increasingly isolated in a racial crisis of his own making on Wednesday, abandoned by the nation’s top business executives, contradicted by military leaders and shunned by Republicans outraged by his defense of white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville, Va.

The breach with the business community was the most striking. Titans of American industry and finance revolted against a man they had seen as one of their own, concluding Wednesday morning they could no longer serve on two of Mr. Trump’s advisory panels.

But before Stephen A. Schwarzman, the chief executive of the Blackstone Group and one of Mr. Trump’s closest business confidants, could announce a decision to disband Mr. Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum — in a prepared statement calling “intolerance, racism and violence” an “affront to core American values” — the president undercut him and did it himself, in a tweet.

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Thank you all!”

The condemnation descended on the president a day after he told reporters in a defiant news conference at Trump Tower in Manhattan that “alt-left” demonstrators were just as responsible for the violence in Charlottesville last weekend as the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who instigated protests that led to the death of a 32-year-old woman, struck down by a car driven by a right-wing activist.

Five armed services chiefs — of the Army, the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines and the National Guard Bureau — posted statements on social media condemning neo-Nazis and racism in uncompromising terms. They did not mention Mr. Trump by name, but their messages were a highly unusual counter to the commander in chief.

Republicans, too, issued new denunciations of the hatred on display in Charlottesville, although some remained vague about Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Vice President Mike Pence abruptly cut short a trip in South America as his aides announced he would return home early to attend meetings on Friday and through the weekend at Camp David. The White House insisted that the topic of the meetings would be South Asia. During his travels, Mr. Pence stood by the president but declined to defend Mr. Trump’s comments at Trump Tower on Tuesday that “both sides” in Charlottesville were to blame.

In a tweet on Wednesday night, Mr. Trump urged supporters to “join me” at a campaign rally scheduled for Aug. 22 in Phoenix. But the Phoenix mayor, Greg Stanton, said in his own tweet that he was “disappointed” that the president would hold a political event “as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville.” He urged Mr. Trump to delay the visit.

The president’s top advisers described themselves as stunned, despondent and numb. Several said they were unable to see how Mr. Trump’s presidency would recover, and others expressed doubts about his capacity to do the job.

In contrast, the president told close aides that he felt liberated by his news conference. Aides said he seemed to bask afterward in his remarks, and viewed them as the latest retort to the political establishment that he sees as trying to tame his impulses.

Mr. Trump’s venting on Tuesday came despite pleas from his staff, including his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner. Instead of taking their advice to stop talking about the protest, the president eagerly unburdened himself of what he viewed as political correctness in favor of a take-no-prisoners attack on the “alt-left.”

On Wednesday, even Fox News, a favorite of the president’s, repeatedly carried criticism of Mr. Trump. One Fox host, Shepard Smith, said that he had been unable to find a single Republican to come on-air to defend Mr. Trump’s remarks.

No one from the president’s team has resigned as of yet, but some spoke candidly on Wednesday about whether they could continue to work much longer for a man who has expressed such sentiments. Most incensed among Mr. Trump’s top advisers, according to three people familiar with the situation, was Gary D. Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, who told people around him that he was offended, as a Jew and as an American, by the president’s reaction to the violence in Charlottesville.

The relationship between the president and Mr. Cohn, who stood next to Mr. Trump during the news conference, seems to have suffered a serious blow. Although White House aides denied that he was planning to quit, they acknowledged that Mr. Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive, was upset with the president’s lack of discipline.

One aide who felt energized by the president’s actions was the embattled White House chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who shares Mr. Trump’s anger at the efforts of local governments to remove monuments honoring prominent Confederate figures like Robert E. Lee. The proposed removal of a Lee statue on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville spurred the demonstrations last weekend.

Mr. Bannon, whose future in the White House remains uncertain, has been encouraging Mr. Trump to remain defiant. Two White House officials who have been trying to moderate the president’s position suggested that Mr. Bannon was using the crisis as a way to get back in the good graces of the president, who has soured on Mr. Bannon’s internal machinations and reputation for leaking stories about West Wing rivals to conservative news media outlets.

Many in the White House said they still held on to the hope, however slim, that the new White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, could impose order on the disarray even as Mr. Trump hopscotches from one self-destructive episode to the next.

Mr. Kelly, who watched the president’s performance on Tuesday with his head hung low, grimacing at some of Mr. Trump’s remarks, is frustrated, according to people inside the White House.

Several people who participated in White House conference calls over the weekend said Mr. Kelly initially did not seem to fully grasp the effect of the controversy about the president’s remarks. But as a former Marine, Mr. Kelly is determined to try to bring order to the White House, the officials said.

The White House turmoil intensified as friends and relatives gathered to memorialize Heather Heyer, the woman who was struck and killed on Saturday. Susan Bro, Ms. Heyer’s mother, told worshipers that her daughter had been protesting hatred by the nationalist groups when she was killed by one of them.

“They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her,” Ms. Bro said.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, denounced “hate and bigotry” in a statement on Wednesday but made no mention of Mr. Trump or his comments — an example of the careful line that some Republican officials are treading as they hope to work with the president on a conservative agenda in the months to come.

Leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition were more direct, calling on Mr. Trump to “provide greater moral clarity in rejecting racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism.” They added: “There are no good Nazis and no good members of the Klan. Thankfully, in modern America, the K.K.K. and Nazis are small fringe groups that have never been welcome in the G.O.P.”

David Shulkin, the secretary of veterans affairs, delivered an emotional statement to reporters on Wednesday at Mr. Trump’s private golf club in Bedminster, N.J., where the president is vacationing. Treading carefully without chiding Mr. Trump, Mr. Shulkin said: “Well, I’m speaking out, and I’m giving my personal opinions as an American and as a Jewish American. And for me in particular, I think in learning history, that we know that staying silent on these issues is simply not acceptable.”

Paraphrasing famous words from Martin Niemöller, a German pastor and a vocal critic of Adolf Hitler, Mr. Shulkin said, “First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I wasn’t a trade unionist, so I didn’t speak out. Then they came for the Jews. I wasn’t a Jew so I didn’t speak out. Then they came for me, and there was no one to speak for me.”

Many other Jewish members of the Trump administration remained largely silent on Wednesday, even after the protesters in Charlottesville had chanted anti-Semitic slogans and demeaned the president’s Jewish son-in-law, Mr. Kushner.

Steven Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury, who is also Jewish, stood silently behind Mr. Trump on Tuesday as the president said there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville. Mr. Mnuchin has not said anything publicly about the president’s remarks.

Mr. Kushner has been silent about Mr. Trump’s comments. Ivanka Trump, who converted to Judaism, said in a tweet on Sunday, “There should be no place in society for racism, white supremacy and neo-nazis.”

Michael D. Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer, who is Jewish, denounced hate groups but defended Mr. Trump in response to a reporter’s question on Wednesday.

“I know President Trump and his heart,” Mr. Cohen wrote. “He is a good man and doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.”

Get politics and Washington news updates via Facebook, Twitter and the Morning Briefing newsletter.

Correction: August 16, 2017

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the branch of one of the leaders of the armed services who posted on social media condemning racism. It was the chief of the National Guard Bureau, not the Coast Guard.

Trump’s lack of discipline leaves new chief of staff frustrated and dismayed

(PhatzNewsRoom / NYT)   —-   BEDMINSTER, N.J. — As the new White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly routes all calls to and from President Trump through the White House switchboard, where he can sign off on them. He stanches the flow of information reaching the president’s desk. And he requires that all staff members — including Trump’s relatives — go through him to reach the president.

But none of those attempts at discipline mattered this week. Instead, Kelly stood to the side as Trump upended his new chief of staff’s carefully scripted plans — pinballing through an impromptu and combative news conference in New York in which he inflamed another self-inflicted controversy by comparing the actions of white supremacist groups at a deadly rally in Charlottesville last weekend with the counterprotesters who came to oppose them.

The uproar — which has consumed not only the White House but the Republican Party — left Kelly deeply frustrated and dismayed just over two weeks into his job, said people familiar with his thinking. The episode also underscored the difficult challenges that even a four-star general faces in instilling a sense of order around Trump, whose first instinct when cornered is to lash out, even self-destructively.

By Wednesday, Trump, back at his New Jersey golf club, was further isolated and the White House was again under attack. Some aides and confidants privately described themselves as sickened and appalled, if not entirely surprised, by Trump’s off-the-cuff comments. And the president watched, furious, as a cascade of chief executives distanced themselves from him, prompting the dissolution of his major business advisory councils.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly looks down as President Trump talked about Charlottesville and white supremacists on Tuesday at Trump Tower.© Drew Angerer/Getty Images White House Chief of Staff John Kelly looks down as President Trump talked about Charlottesville and white supremacists on Tuesday at Trump Tower.

Kelly allies say the former homeland security secretary came into the West Wing job clear-eyed and practical, with the goal of implementing discipline on the staff and processes of the White House, not controlling the president.

“It’s clear Kelly is having a stabilizing and organizing influence on the White House,” said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), an informal Trump adviser. But, he added, “He will gradually have an impact on Trump but it won’t be immediate. There are parts of Trump that are almost impossible to manage.”

Another Republican operative and unofficial White House adviser was more definitive, saying that no matter how respected or talented Kelly may be, his first 2½ weeks on the job demonstrated an essential truth about the Trump White House: The president will act as he so pleases, even despite — and sometimes to spite — the efforts of his aides.

“The Kelly era was a bright, shining interlude between failed attempts to right the Trump presidency and it has now come to a close after a short but glorious run,” the operative said. “Like all people who work for the president, he has since experienced the limits of the president’s promises to cooperate in order to ensure the success of the enterprise.”

This portrait of the White House under Kelly comes from interviews with 17 West Wing aides, informal advisers, Republican lawmakers and Trump confidants, many speaking on the condition of anonymity to offer a more candid assessment.

During Kelly’s short tenure, Trump has startled the world with his bellicose rhetoric on North Korea and attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), further imperiling his stalled legislative agenda.

Nonetheless, Kelly has largely improved staff morale, and implemented a rigor and order that has made West Wing aides feel both more optimistic and less mistrustful of one another, several White House aides said.

He has been empowered to shake up the staff, if necessary, although one confidant noted that all Kelly has done is restrict access to Trump. The chief of staff is reviewing everyone’s portfolio, and this friend noted that more West Wing consternation may occur when Kelly begins reallocating assignments.

Longtime Trump campaign associates have been left out of the loop and unable to build a rapport with Kelly. He has shown little interest in courting them or in seeking out their advice about how to improve the president’s standing. Phone calls go unreturned or handled in a friendly but curt fashion by his top aide, Kirstjen Nielsen, who came over with Kelly from the Homeland Security Department, they said.

On Wednesday, Hope Hicks, one of the president’s most loyal and trusted advisers, was elevated to the role of interim communications director — a role she has unofficially occupied for some time.

In the week before Trump departed for an August vacation in Bedminister, N.J., the entire West Wing team began showing up at the 8 a.m. senior staff meetings. Even Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump — who rarely if ever appeared at staff meetings led by Reince Priebus, the previous chief of staff — began regularly attending.

Kelly has transformed the West Wing from a political Grand Central Station — with aides and hangers-on cycling through the Oval Office — into an actual place of business. One outside adviser recalls stopping by the White House to say hello to his friends on days he had free time. Under Kelly, he said, approvingly, “If you’re coming, now it’s, ‘Why are you coming? Who are you coming to see? And why does the White House care about what you have to say?’ ”

Aides usually work through Nielsen, and she funnels information to Kelly, who decides what to show the president.

One key difference between Kelly and Priebus, two White House officials said, is that aides respect Kelly and think his efforts to control the information flow to Trump are about better serving the president — not self-preservation.

Nonetheless, Trump has shown signs of chafing. Despite Kelly’s switchboard requirement, the president has used his personal cellphone to reach people. And one person close to Trump described him as a “caged animal” under Kelly, saying he is always going to respond negatively to attempts to corral him or keep him to a script.

The president was upset by the almost uniform backlash toward his initial statement Saturday about the violent rally in Charlottesville, in which he did not condemn the white supremacists and neo-Nazis by name, and decried violence from both sides.

Although he did offer a broader scripted condemnation Monday, he reverted Tuesday to what aides and confidants say are his more authentic views, arguing that both sides were to blame for the violence.

Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, who is Jewish, appeared with Trump at Tuesday’s news conference, standing behind the president in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York as he said that there were good people who protested alongside the white supremacists and neo-Nazis who organized the rally. Those close to Cohn described him as “disgusted” and “frantically unhappy,” although he did not threaten to resign.

But Trump felt vindicated after the remarks, said people familiar with his thinking. He believes that his base agrees with his assertion that both sides are guilty of violence and that the nation risks sliding into a cauldron of political correctness.

On Capitol Hill, Kelly’s evident lack of an ideological compass has drawn mixed reactions from Republicans who have dealt with him, said lawmakers and aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly.

Republican leaders appreciate Kelly’s light touch on strategy and planning for a busy September. Instead of dictating terms, he is listening to their mounting concerns about legislative expectations and assuring them that he will be a partner.

“He’s not an Alexander Haig giving orders,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), referring to the late four-star Army general who served as chief of staff under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. “He’s been very direct, to the point, making clear what the president’s position is. He’s firm and tough, but not heavy-handed. He’s seen as a totally responsible person.”

But some of Trump’s conservative allies said they wish Kelly would do more to force the Republican establishment to rally behind the president, and they worry that Kelly is following the model of Priebus by showing too much deference to congressional Republican leaders.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus have talked about Kelly as a “black box” who is unreadable on policy, several people close to the group said.

But within the West Wing, Kelly remains popular. Late last week in Bedminster, he gathered at Trump’s clubhouse restaurant for a relaxed, social dinner with the senior staff members. The group included Ivanka Trump, son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Hicks, Nielsen and others. The president also came by, staying for the full meal.

As they reminisced about the campaign and told jokes, Kelly offered a quip. “The best job I ever had was as a sergeant in the Marine Corps,” he said with a laugh, “and after one week on this job, I believe the best job I ever had is as a sergeant in the Marine Corps.”

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Costa reported from Washington.

Trump isolation growing as business panels dismantled

(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)    —-    NEW YORK — With corporate chieftains fleeing, President Donald Trump abruptly dismantled two of his White House business councils Wednesday —an attempt to manage his increasing isolation and the continued fallout from his combative comments on racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump announced the action via tweet, although only after one of the panels had already agreed to disband earlier in the day. A growing number of business leaders on the councils had openly criticized his remarks laying blame for the violence at a white supremacists rally on “both sides.”

“Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!” Trump tweeted from New York.

The decision came as the White House tried to manage the repercussions from Trump’s defiant remarks a day earlier. Presidential advisers hunkered down, offering no public defense while privately expressing frustration with his comments.

Some Republicans and scores of Democrats denounced Trump’s statements as putting white supremacists on equal moral footing with counter-protesters in Charlottesville and called for an apology. Most of those Republicans, including congressional leaders, did not specifically criticize the president.

Leaders of the four major branches of the military — who typically avoid political debate — have all issued statements decrying racism and extremism.

Trump himself stayed out of sight, tweeting occasionally about a primary in Alabama, the stock market and, once, his campaign slogan. Midday, he traveled from New York to his golf club in New Jersey for the night.

The president told associates he was pleased with how his press conference went, saying he believed he had effectively stood up to the media, according to three people familiar with the conversations who demanded anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about them.

Business leaders felt differently.

Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell Soup, declared she was leaving Trump’s manufacturing council, saying, “The president should have been — and still needs to be — unambiguous” in denouncing white supremacists.

CEOs had begun tendering their resignations from White House panels after Trump’s initial comments following the Saturday violence. The first to step down, Kenneth Frazier of Merck, drew a Twitter tongue-lashing from the president. Later, Trump called those who were leaving “grandstanders” and insisted many others were eager to take their places.

On Wednesday, he appeared to be pre-empting the CEOs own decision to disband.

Members of the Strategy and Policy group, led by Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, concluded after a 45-minute conference call in the morning that they would end the council and announce their decision in a statement, according to two people familiar with the discussions. They insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations.

In a subsequent call with Trump, the president agreed it was the right course of action. He tweeted before they could announce the decision they’d reached — making it appear it was his choice.

Publicly criticizing the president and resigning from his councils is a significant step for big-name corporate leaders. Though the policy influence of such advisory groups is sometimes questionable, simply meeting with Trump with TV cameras going is valuable face-time for the executives — and for the president.

Though not as outspoken as the business leaders, some fellow Republican leaders are going after Trump forcefully, too.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday the president “took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency” between the marching white supremacists and the people who had been demonstrating against them.

Former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney tweeted a similar slap shortly after the president’s explosive press conference on Tuesday: “No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.”

Other leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, made forceful anti-racism statements — but steered clear of mentioning Trump and his comments.

Meanwhile on a trip through South America, Vice President Mike Pence skirted questions about whether he agreed with Trump’s assessment that some “fine people” participated in the Charlottesville rally. However, he said he stands by the president.

Under pressure, Trump made his condemnation of the Charlottesville violence more specific on Monday, naming white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. But he returned to his defiant self on Tuesday, effectively erasing the statement he’d read a day earlier.

In an impromptu press conference in the lobby of his skyscraper, he said there were “some very bad people” among those who gathered to protest Saturday. But he added: “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

Several White House aides told colleagues they were dismayed with Trump’s return to the Charlottesville episode on Tuesday. But no one moved to leave the administration.

Chief strategist Steve Bannon told associates he thought Trump’s performance would electrify his conservative base, according to a person who spoke to Bannon and insisted on anonymity. Bannon’s job has been in question, with Trump refusing Tuesday to say he had confidence in him.

In an interview posted online Wednesday by The American Prospect, a liberal magazine, Bannon dismissed white nationalists, calling them “losers,” ”a fringe element” and “a collection of clowns.”

As Trump navigates this latest controversy, the White House on Wednesday said his longtime aide Hope Hicks would temporarily step into the role of communications director. Hicks is White House director of strategic communications, and a near-constant presence at the president’s side.

She served as spokeswoman for Trump’s presidential campaign and worked for years in public relations for the Trump Organization and his daughter’s fashion and lifestyle brand.

Trump had no public appearances on Wednesday, yet made his presence felt online.

In addition to announcing the dissolution of the business councils via tweet, he congratulated Sen. Luther Strange for advancing to a runoff in the Alabama special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ seat.

He also retweeted someone complimenting him on the stock market’s gains and consumer confidence highs and wrote that Heather Heyer, the woman mowed down by a car during the Charlottesville violence, was “beautiful and incredible.”

Trump said Tuesday that he had planned to call her family to offer condolences. The White House did not answer questions Wednesday about whether he’d yet done so.

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Bykowicz reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Bridgewater, new Jersey, and Josh Boak in Washington contributed to this report.

Charlottesville woman’s family: Fight injustice like she did

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Family members of the young woman mowed down while protesting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville used her funeral as a rallying cry, telling mourners the best way to honor Heather Heyer is to continue her fight against injustice.

“Let’s find that spark of conviction,” Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, told the hundreds who packed a downtown theater to remember Heyer on Wednesday. “Find what’s wrong and say to yourselves, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’”

Heyer’s death on Saturday — and President Donald Trump’s insistence that “both sides” bear responsibility for the violence — continued to reverberate across the country, triggering fury among many Americans and soul-searching about the state of race relations in the U.S. The uproar has accelerated efforts in many cities to remove symbols of the Confederacy.

Heyer, 32, was eulogized as a woman with a powerful sense of fairness. The mourners, many of them wearing purple, her favorite color, applauded as her mother urged them to channel their anger not into violence but into “righteous action.”

“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what? You just magnified her,” said Bro, receiving a standing ovation from mourners inside the Paramount Theater.

Confederate statues come down, Confederate memorials covered up and public debates over Confederate symbols rage across the country in the wake of deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. (Aug. 16)

State troopers were stationed on the surrounding streets, but the white nationalists who had vowed to show up were nowhere to be seen among the residents, clergy and tourists outside the theater, just blocks from where Heyer died.

Heyer, a white legal assistant from Charlottesville, was killed and 19 others were injured Saturday when a car plowed into counter-protesters who had taken to the streets to decry what was believed to be the country’s biggest gathering of white nationalists in at least a decade. Hundreds of neo-Nazis, skinheads and Ku Klux Klan members had descended on Charlottesville after the city decided to remove a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The driver of the car, James Alex Fields Jr., a 20-year-old Ohio man described as an admirer of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, was arrested and charged with murder and other offenses.

In other developments:

— Trump tweeted for the first time about Heyer, calling her “beautiful and incredible” and a “truly special young woman.” The White House did not respond to questions about whether the president had contacted Heyer’s family.

— Baltimore dismantled four Confederacy-related monuments under cover of darkness, including statues of Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, while the mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, had the city’s 52-foot (15-meter) Confederate memorial obelisk covered over with wooden panels.

-The number of protesters arrested in connection with the toppling of a Confederate statue Monday night in Durham, North Carolina, climbed to four.

—Citing security concerns, the University of Florida denied a request by a group headed by white nationalist Richard Spencer to rent space on campus for a September event.

Jody and Brent Dahlseng, of Rockford, Illinois, said they were traveling to Virginia Beach for vacation and made a special stop in Charlottesville to honor Heyer. They stood outside the theater with purple ties around their shoulders.

“This country can do better than this,” Brent Dahlseng said.

Charlottesville resident Danielle Notari, who was also outside the theater, spoke through tears.

“We wanted to come say goodbye and pay our respects,” she said, her arms wrapped around her young daughter.

Heyer’s family members and friends said her death would only inspire them to fight harder for justice.

“This is not the end of Heather’s legacy,” her mother said.

Speaking firmly, Bro urged those who wanted to honor her daughter to “find in your heart that small spark of accountability.”

“You poke that finger at yourself like Heather would have done, and you make it happen,” she said. “You take that extra step and you find a way to make a difference in the world!”

Heyer’s grandfather, Elwood Shrader, said she always wanted fairness, even from a young age, and was quick to call out something that wasn’t right. He said she wanted respect for everyone and believed “all lives matter.”

Mark Heyer, her father, said his daughter wanted to “put down hate.”

“She’s very compassionate, she’s very precise, got a big heart,” said Larry Miller, her boss at the law firm where she worked. “She wants to make sure that things are right. She cares about the people that we take care of.”

Two Virginia state troopers also died Saturday in the crash of their helicopter, which was used to provide video of the rally before it was diverted to lend support for Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s motorcade.

The funerals for Berke M.M. Bates and H. Jay Cullen are set for Friday and Saturday.

Trump aide: No military solution in North Korea

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon says there’s no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president’s recent pledge to answer further aggression with “fire and fury.”

In an interview with The American Prospect posted online Wednesday, Bannon tells the liberal publication that the U.S. is losing the economic race against China. He also talks about purging his rivals from the Defense and State departments.

Bannon is also asked about the white supremacist movement, whose march on Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend led to deadly violence. He dismisses them as “losers,” ″a fringe element” and “a collection of clowns.”

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“There’s no military solution (to North Korea’s nuclear threats), forget it,” Bannon says. “Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Trump tweeted earlier Wednesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “made a very wise and well-reasoned decision” by backing down after heightening fears of nuclear conflict in a series of combative threats, including against the U.S. territory of Guam.

Bannon also outlined his push for the U.S. to adopt a tougher stance on China trade, without waiting to see whether Beijing will help restrain Kim, as Trump has pressed China’s leader to do. Trump also has lamented U.S. trade deficits with China.

“The economic war with China is everything,” Bannon says. “And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said Thursday both sides have benefited from trade.

Asked about Bannon’s comments, Hua said at a regular new briefing, “There is no winner in a trade war. We hope the relevant people can refrain from dealing with a problem in the 21st century with a zero-sum mentality from the 19th or the 20th century.”

Hua appealed for dialogue to “preserve the sound and steady growth of China-U.S. relations.”

Bannon was a key general election campaign adviser and has been a forceful but contentious presence in a divided White House. The former leader of conservative Breitbart News, Bannon has drawn fire from some of Trump’s closest advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The president is under renewed pressure to fire Bannon, who has survived earlier rounds of having fallen out of favor with Trump.

Earlier this week, the president passed up an opportunity to offer a public vote of confidence in Bannon. Trump said he’s a “good person” and not a racist, adding that “we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon.”

The latest anti-Bannon campaign comes as Trump faces mounting criticism for insisting that white supremacist groups and those who opposed them were both at fault for deadly violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In the interview, Bannon muses about getting rid of administration officials who disagree with his strategy toward China and North Korea and replacing them with “hawks.”

“We gotta do this. The president’s default position is to do it, but the apparatus is going crazy,” Bannon says. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s like, every day.”

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Business: Global shares meander after upbeat Japan trade report

TOKYO (AP) — Shares were mixed in narrow trading Thursday, with European benchmarks falling back after recent gains. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slipped as the yen strengthened against the U.S. dollar, despite the release of upbeat trade data for July.

KEEPING SCORE: Germany’s DAX edged 0.1 percent lower to 12,258.20 and the CAC 40 of France also fell 0.1 percent to 5,172.18. Britain’s FTSE 100 gave up 0.1 percent to 7,425.97. Dow futures were down 0.03 percent to 22,004.00 and S&P 500 futures lost 0.4 percent to 2,466.40, pointing to a tepid start on Wall Street.

ASIAN TRADING: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1 percent lower to 19,702.63. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 0.2 percent to 27,344.22. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.6 percent to 2,361.67 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.1 percent lower to 5,779.20. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.7 percent to 3,268.43. Shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.

FED MINUTES: Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee meeting last month lacked details about the central bank’s plans for letting its balance sheet shrink. The notes showed a divided Fed, as some members of its policy committee think that interest rates should stay about where they are because inflation is still low. But others felt that interest rates should be raised because delays might lead to dangerously high inflation later.

ANALYST VIEWPOINT: “U.S. investors shrugged off Fed fretting over low inflation, weaker than forecast housing data and crumbling business support for the White House to maintain stock market levels within 1 percent of all-time highs. U.S. dollar weakness followed the release of FOMC minutes that indicated ‘many’ members feared inflation will stay lower for longer,” Michael McCarthy of CMC Markets said in a commentary.

JAPAN TRADE: Japan’s exports and imports rose at a fast clip in July, reflecting a recovery in demand in China, Southeast Asia and the U.S., though export prices rose faster than volumes for many products. Exports rose more than 13 percent from a year earlier to 6.5 trillion yen ($59 billion) while imports jumped 16 percent to 6.1 trillion yen ($55 billion), helped by a surge in oil and coal shipments, according to data released Thursday.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude gained 4 cents to $46.82 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 77 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $46.78 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 9 cents to $50.37 per barrel. It dipped 53 cents, or 1 percent, to $50.27 a barrel in London.

CURRRENCIES: The dollar slipped to 110.00 yen from 110.20 yen. The euro fell to $1.1738 from $1.1767.

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NEW FORD CEO SAYS COMPANY WILLBALANCE PRESENT WITH FUTURE

The new CEO of Ford Motor Co. saysthe company isn’t taking its eyes off the present as it prepares fortransportation in the future. Jim Hackett, who replaced Mark Fields in May,says new mobility projects such as buying a shuttle company and the purchase ofan artificial intelligence startup have not taken money from car and truckdevelopment.

 

BUSINESS EXECS SHUNNED TRUMPPANELS BEFORE HE DISBANDED THEM

Trump pushed many of America’s topcorporate leaders to the breaking point with his inability to decisivelycondemn white supremacist. Frustrated members of a White House policy formhuddled on a conference call Wednesday and decided to dissolve their advisorypanel.

 

FUGITIVE’S TRAIL EXPOSES RED BULLCO-OWNERS’ OFFSHORE DEALS

In partnership with the owners ofthe leaked Panama Papers, The Associated Press has found that the Thai familythat co-owns Red Bull used offshore companies to cloak purchases of aircraftand luxury properties. The firms were revealed after a scion of the family fledto avoid hit-and-run charges. Offshore companies aren’t illegal, but agents forthe family were twice warned they weren’t complying with anti-money launderingrules.

 

UK RETAIL SALES GROW MODESTLY ASCONSUMERS REMAIN CAUTIOUS

Retail sales in Britain, a keycomponent of the economy, rose by a solid if unspectacular 0.3 percent in Julyfrom the month before as consumers remain constrained by falling real incomes.

 

GLOBAL SHARES MEANDER AFTER UPBEATJAPAN TRADE REPORT

Shares were mixed in narrowtrading Thursday, with European benchmarks falling back after recent gains.Germany’s DAX edged 0.1 percent lower to 12,258.20, Britain’s FTSE 100 gave up0.1 percent to 7,425.97, Dow futures were down 0.03 percent to 22,004.00, andJapan’s Nikkei 225 index edged 0.1 percent lower to 19,702.63, Hong Kong’s HangSeng dropped 0.2 percent to 27,344.22 and the Shanghai Composite index added 0.7percent to 3,268.43.

Analysis: How President Trump Failed His Biggest Leadership Test Yet

(PhatzNewsRoom / TIME)    —-    For seven months, President Donald Trump giddily has ignored the norms of his office and tried the patience of those who had more than a passing knowledge of its history.

But during Tuesday’s press conference, before the gold-plated bank of elevators inside his Midtown temple to himself, the President defended those linked to white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other racist corners of American society in a display that defied any historical precedent. So striking was his bold protection of a small but vocal part of his political base, many reporters in the marble foyer dared to interrupt the President. If he was breaking with custom, so, too, would they.

“If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said of the Friday night march around the University of Virginia campus. That torch-lit procession featured white nationalists chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.”

Presidents can make war, but the truest test of a commander in chief is his power to heal: Standing on burning rubble in Lower Manhattan or visiting a mosque a few days later, addressing an auditorium to memorialize those killed in coal mines or by a gunman in an elementary school classroom. A president’s words have the capacity to console a nation in grief, settle its collective fears, and call its people to action.

That was the task before Trump as he spoke for the third time since the events in Charlottesville. His first brief remarks, in which he blamed “many sides” for the violence, were heavily criticized. In heavily scripted remarks on Monday, he said all the right words, though he seemed to resent the effort. And finally, at home in Manhattan for the first time since he became president, Trump cut loose.

Still smarting from Monday’s forced statement condemning neo-Nazis, Klansmen and white supremacists, Trump shoved a finger into the gaping wound of race relations in America. The President repeated his assertion that there is “blame on both sides” of the violence.

Pressed, the President refused to yield and went even further. “You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,” he said, his voice echoing in the chasm of a lobby. “You had a group—you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.” Nearby, John Kelly, his newly minted chief of staff — brought on to calm Trump’s id—hung his head.

If the President was looking to win praise from both-sides, he failed. For the second time in a week, a bipartisan parade of lawmakers lined up to scold the president. The loudest cheerleader of his statement was none other than David Duke, saying this was what the President truly felt in his heart. Others on the alt-right, racist and bigoted fringes of the Republican Party cheered, even as its elders watched, yet again, as their brand went into yet another tailspin of Trump’s making.

The press conference followed a presidential statement on infrastructure where aides had hoped he would not take questions. But Trump, still frustrated by critics in both parties who condemned his tepid response to the unrest Saturday, came ready to brawl. In his breast pocket he carried a copy of his initial remarks. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,” Trump read, leaving off his phrase that provoked so much consternation hours after a white supremacist allegedly rammed his car into a group of counter-demonstrators: “on many sides.”

Explaining his delayed condemnation of racist groups, Trump said he was waiting for more information at the time. “When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts,” he said. Republicans throughout Washington chortled at that, given Trump’s years of planting false seeds that President Obama was born in Kenya, that millions of people voted illegally during the last election and any number of incomplete statements about his own campaign’s interactions with Russian officials.

Yet the motivation of those fighting in the Virginia streets was clear as day—and Trump’s own fidelity to the facts appears increasingly to be a unicolor endeavor. His administration has rushed to condemn terror attacks and acts of violence perpetrated by racial and religious minorities, but have slow-walked those in which they are victimized. He still has not commented on an Aug. 5 attack on a mosque in Minnesota.

It was not without merit to note that the counter-protestors turned violent as well, but in painting with such a broad brush Trump suggested moral equivalency—between those preaching racial supremacy and those upholding the national ideals of pluralism.

“You’re changing history. You’re changing culture,” Trump said of those looking to remove town statues of Confederate generals and slave owners, some to museums where more context about their place in history could be explored. Trump mockingly suggested that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson—founders and slaveholders alike—would be next. In doing so, he washed over the painful debate spanning the country over the competing virtues of reckoning and acceptance.

It was a sobering reminder of the forces that propelled Donald Trump to the White House in a campaign rooted on exploiting fears and feelings of dislocation, but also a sign of how, in the end, it was still about Trump.

As he walked away from the cameras, Trump, who acknowledged he had yet to speak with the family of the woman killed Saturday, Heather Heyer, was asked if he intends to visit Charlottesville soon. “Do you know I own a house in Charlottesville?” he responded to reporters. “I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States, that’s in Charlottesville.”

Scientists potentially narrow MH370 search area to 3 spots

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CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Scientists have potentially narrowed the search area for the missing Malaysian airliner to three specific locations in the southern Indian Ocean through new satellite and drift analysis of the 2014 crash released Wednesday.

But the Australian Transport Safety Bureau cautioned that the drift analysis by Australian science agency CSIRO is based on French satellite images of “probably man-made” floating objects without evidence that they were from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

Still, the locations could provide potential starting points to search within a 25,000-square-kilometer (9,700-square-mile) expanse identified by a panel of experts in November as the most likely resting place of the Boeing 777 and the 239 passengers and crew on board.

That expanse adjoins the original search zone far southwest of Australia that was identified through satellite analysis of the final hours of the flight, which apparently ended when the plane ran out of fuel.

Malaysia, China and Australia agreed to suspend the deep-sea sonar search in January after 120,000 square kilometers (46,000 square miles) of seabed were combed without finding any trace of Flight 370.

The new analysis is based on French military satellite images gathered on March 23, 2014 — two weeks after Flight 370 mysteriously veered far off course during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing — that were taken near the original underwater search zone.

The Australian bureau took over the search for Flight 370 from Malaysia a week later. Satellite experts at Geoscience Australia were not asked to analyze the images until March this year. The experts concluded that a dozen objects appeared to be man-made.

CSIRO then investigated where the objects might have originated before drifting for two weeks. CSIRO identified three potential crash sites — 35.6 degrees S, 92.8 degrees E; 34.7 degrees S, 92.6 degrees E and 35.3 degrees S, 91.8 degrees E.

“So that is a way of potentially narrowing down the search area with the very important caveat that, of course, we can’t be totally sure that those objects seen in the images are actual pieces of plane,” CSIRO oceanographer David Griffin said.

“This might be a really good clue. It might be a red herring. But if you are going to search, then you’d be silly to ignore this potential clue,” he added.

The Australian bureau’s chief commissioner, Greg Hood, said in a statement, “Clearly we must be cautious” of the lack a definite link to Flight 370.

Malaysian Deputy Transport Minister Aziz Kaprawi said the civil aviation department would need to evaluate the data since it’s based on satellite images from a few years ago. “We will need to verify the data to see if it’s credible before we make any decision,” Aziz told The Associated Press.

Malaysia, China and Australia have decided that the search will remain suspended unless new evidence pinpoints the wreckage’s whereabouts.

But seabed exploration company Ocean Infinity, based in Houston, Texas, said last week it has offered to launch a private search for the Malaysian-registered airliner.

Voice370, a support group for victim’s families, said under the terms of the offer made to Malaysia in April, Ocean Infinity “would like to be paid a reward if and only if it finds the main debris field.” They urged Malaysia to accept the offer.

Aziz said Wednesday that the offer was still being negotiated. He said there were some other “monetary terms” set by the firm that were unacceptable to the government.

“There are three categories of findings in the offer. The terms are a bit ambiguous,” Aziz said. “The government wants the terms to be transparent and clear.” He declined to give details.

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Associated Press writer Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.

Iraqi Shiite cleric’s Saudi, UAE trips show Gulf realpolitik

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An influential Iraqi Shiite cleric, notorious for his followers’ deadly attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq over a decade ago and thought at times to have ties to Iran, has two new stamps in his passport — from the two fiercest Sunni critics of Tehran in the Gulf.

Muqtada al-Sadr’s trips to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates come as the two nations want to limit Iran’s influence in the wider Middle East, especially with Iranian-backed Shiite militias leading the fight against the Islamic State group on Iraqi battlefields.

Meanwhile, the chameleonic cleric hopes to cement his own standing ahead of Iraq’s parliamentary elections next year, part of his makeover from a militia warlord whose fighters battled American forces to an Iraqi nationalist who can fill Baghdad’s streets with his protesting followers.

How far any possible alliance between al-Sadr and the Gulf Arab countries could go remains to be seen, though photos of the black-turbaned Shiite cleric meeting with Sunni rulers already has stirred speculation in Iran.

“Why has Muqtada al-Sadr sold himself to the Al Saud?” the hard-line Iranian newspaper Keyhan bluntly asked after his visit, referring to Saudi Arabia’s royal family. The paper also warned that if al-Sadr continued on this path, “his popularity will fall and he will become an isolated person.”

Such harsh criticism from Iran would have been unthinkable in the years immediately following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

While Sunni Muslims represent the world’s principal branch of Islam, Shiites are the majority in Iraq. Neighboring Iran has had a government overseen by Shiite clerics since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated government massacred Shiites after the 1991 Gulf War and continued imprisoning, torturing and executing others up to his overthrow.

Al-Sadr, the son of a prominent Shiite cleric assassinated in a 1999 attack believed to be organized by Saddam, quickly organized Shiite dispossessed under Saddam against the American occupation.

“The little serpent has left and the great serpent has come,” al-Sadr told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” program in 2003.

Saddam loyalists and Shiite extremists alike would soon fight an insurgency against the American forces. Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia fought American forces throughout much of 2004 in Baghdad and other cities.

Al-Sadr’s forces are believed to have later taken part in the sectarian killings between Shiites and Sunnis that plagued Iraq for several years after the bombing of one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam. Al-Sadr left for Qom, a holy Shiite city in Iran, for religious studies around the time that his forces accepted a cease-fire in the 2008 battle of Basra, in southern Iraq.

Since that time much has changed.

Al-Sadr’s followers have taken part in Iraqi military offensives against the Islamic State group in Tikrit and other cities. He has organized rallies against government corruption, including breaching the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, the highly secure area housing government offices and many foreign embassies.

On July 30, al-Sadr traveled to Saudi Arabia to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the next in line to the throne. The state-run Saudi Press Agency published a photograph of King Salman’s son smiling next to the cleric, only saying the two “reviewed the Saudi-Iraqi relations and a number of issues of mutual interest.”

In the UAE, al-Sadr met on Sunday with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nayhan, Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, and other officials.

“Experience has taught us to always call for what brings Arabs and Muslims together, and to reject the advocates of division,” Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement carried on the state-run WAM news agency.

Anwar Gargash, the Emirati minister of state for foreign affairs, tweeted after the meeting that it was part of an effort to “build bridges” between the Gulf Arab nations and Iraq.

“Our ambition is to see a prosperous, stable Arab Iraq,” Gargash wrote. “The challenge is great and the prize is bigger.”

Using “Arab” to describe Iraq is no accident for the UAE, which opposed the 2003 American invasion. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia want to limit Shiite-ruled Iran’s power in Iraq.

“There are serious questions about how to help encourage Iraqi stability and minimize Iranian influence in the country,” said Lori Plotkin Boghardt, a former U.S. intelligence official who now is a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Building ties with someone like al-Sadr is part of the Saudis’ and Emiratis’ answer to this.”

One of the biggest question marks ahead for Iraq is what happens after the war against the Islamic State group.

Shiite militias advised by members of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard have proved to be among the most effective ground forces in the fight against IS. Disarming or incorporating the groups into existing security forces likely would be a major challenge for the national government.

Al-Sadr, already a respected Shiite cleric with a massive base of followers, demanded in March that Shiite militias disband, saying only Iraqi national forces should hold territory in the country. Though many among the militias disagree, saying they have proven their credentials in battle against IS, al-Sadr’s stand could provide Baghdad with the cover it needs to do so.

“This would be, of course, music to the Gulf countries’ ears,” said Fanar Haddad, a senior research fellow at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.

For al-Sadr, whose loyalists represent one of the biggest blocs in Iraq’s parliament, his foreign trips burnish his credentials as an Iraqi leader. However, it remains unclear what he wants — and whether any tilt toward the Sunni Gulf countries truly would represent a total break with Iran for the Iraqi nationalist.

“It shows he has options,” Haddad said.

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Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, and Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellap . His work can be found at http://apne.ws/2galNpz .

Utah mayor shrugs off attacks, wins GOP primary for US House

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah mayor overcame nearly $1 million in attacks from out-of-state groups to win a three-way Republican primary in a race to fill a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives vacated by Jason Chaffetz.

Tuesday’s win puts Provo Mayor John Curtis on an easy path toward victory in the November special election. Republicans outnumber Democrats 5-to-1 in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. Chaffetz represented the district until he abruptly resigned in June, citing a desire to spend more time with family.

Utah’s special election is one of seven this year to fill vacancies in the U.S. House and Senate, five of which opened up when elected officials took posts in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Chaffetz, a five-term Republican, carved out a reputation for using the House Oversight committee he chaired to run aggressive investigations of Hillary Clinton before the 2016 presidential elections. He’s since taken a role as a Fox News commentator.

His departure opened up a congressional seat in an area that stretches from the Salt Lake City suburbs and several ski towns southeast to Provo and coal country.

The three Republicans running to replace him carved out nuanced stances toward Trump that were emblematic of the divisions roiling the GOP under the president.

Voters in a Utah congressional district went to the polls Tuesday to select from a trio of Republicans looking to replace former Rep. Jason Chaffetz to run in the November election. Chaffetz stepped down in June after eight years in Congress. (Aug. 15)

Curtis, who drew support from the GOP’s more moderate flank, was the only candidate who didn’t vote for Trump, saying he had significant moral concerns about supporting the billionaire businessman.

Tanner Ainge, the Sarah Palin-endorsed son of Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge, said he voted for Trump because he always votes for the Republican candidate in presidential elections.

Chris Herrod, a former state lawmaker backed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, was the most vocal supporter of Trump, having spoken at a rally for the president.

However, all three candidates said they support the president’s agenda, including plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Unofficial results show Curtis as the victor after his opponents split support from more conservative Republicans.

The 57-year-old used his victory speech Tuesday to decry the heavy outside spending, which usually isn’t seen in primary races in overwhelmingly Republican Utah.

“I’ve got a message to those PACs in Washington, D.C. and those special interests: This is my town, this is my district. Go home. You wasted your money,” Curtis said.

As supporters erupted into cheers at his Provo election night party, Curtis said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that his victory showed that voters liked his positive campaign.

“It was Utah-based, Utah-principled, Utah-endorsed. That’s what they want,” Curtis said. “They didn’t like the negativity.”

Herrod, a 51-year-old known for strict immigration positions, wasn’t ready to concede Tuesday night, holding out hope for tens of thousands of ballots not yet counted in the county with the most voters.

Ainge, a 33-year-old first-time candidate, conceded earlier in the evening and said he was glad the district would be represented by someone with a business background like Curtis.

Curtis was known as mayor for helping to negotiate a deal for Google to take over the city’s troubled fiber-optic system. But he was dogged in the primary by questions about whether he was really a Republican, having led a county Democratic party and run in 2000 as a Democrat for the state Legislature.

Curtis has said he had a “fling on the dark side,” but noted that Ronald Reagan, Trump and Chaffetz were all Democrats at one point.

Ada Wilson, a 59-year-old Republican homemaker from Orem, said Curtis’ stint across the aisle was one of the reasons she voted for him. Wilson said it shows Curtis can work in a bipartisan way to get things done.

“I think he acknowledges that being Republican with an ‘R’ by your name does not automatically make you a keeper of all the answers,” she said.

David Muir, the city treasurer for the Salt Lake City suburb of Cottonwood Heights, said he voted for Curtis because of his experience running a city and that he wasn’t worried about Curtis’ Democratic past.

Curtis’s win marked another key test of Utah’s relatively new dual-track system for nominating political candidates, which allows candidates to bypass a conservative group of GOP delegates and instead compete for the votes of a larger, more moderate group of Republicans.

Several hundred GOP delegates backed Herrod, which allowed him to advance to the primary election. Curtis and Ainge earned their spots on the ballot by collecting voter signatures. The system was added after then-Sen. Bob Bennett, a longtime Republican, lost re-election in 2010 to tea-party backed Mike Lee.

Curtis moves on to face a well-funded Democratic opponent who initially announced her intent to challenge Chaffetz in 2018 but now is a candidate in November’s special election. Dr. Kathryn Allen socked away more than half a million dollars after she called out Chaffetz earlier this year for his comments suggesting people should spend money on health care instead of iPhones.

Allen released a statement late Tuesday congratulating Curtis and vowing to keep her campaign positive.

Several third-party candidates are also running in November, including Jim Bennett, the son of the late former Sen. Bob Bennett.

Jim Bennett, the first candidate of a new centrist United Utah Party, congratulated Curtis but said in a statement that as a good man, Curtis should feel uncomfortable in the “Party of Trump.”

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Associated Press writer Brady McCombs contributed to this report.

China urges US, North Korea to ‘hit the brakes’ on threats

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BEIJING (AP) — China has urged the United States and North Korea to “hit the brakes” on threatening words and work toward a peaceful resolution of their tense standoff created by Pyongyang’s recent missile tests and threats to fire them toward Guam.

The dispute has also raised fears in South Korea, where a conservative political party on Wednesday called for the United States to bring back tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula.

In a sign of growing concern on the part of Pyongyang’s only major ally, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that the two countries should work together to contain tensions and permit no one to “stir up an incident on their doorstep,” according to a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website.

“The most important task at hand is for the U.S. and North Korea to ‘hit the brakes’ on their mutual needling of each other with words and actions, to lower the temperature of the tense situation and prevent the emergence of an ‘August crisis,’” Wang was quoted as saying in the Tuesday conversation.

The ministry quoted Lavrov as saying tensions could rise again with the U.S. and South Korea set to launch large-scale military exercises on Aug. 21.

“A resolution of the North Korea nuclear issue by military force is completely unacceptable and the peninsula’s nuclear issue must be peacefully resolved by political and diplomatic methods,” Lavrov was quoted as saying.

China is North Korea’s main economic partner and political backer, although relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have deteriorated amid the North’s continuing defiance of China’s calls for restraint. In recent months, China has joined with Russia in calling for the U.S. to suspend annual military drills with South Korea in exchange for Pyongyang halting its missile and nuclear tests as a first step toward direct talks.

On Wednesday, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, continued a visit to China following talks the day before with his Chinese counterpart that touched on North Korea. No details of the talks have been released.

Dunford on Tuesday told Fang Fenghui, chief of the People’s Liberation Army’s joint staff department, that the sides had “many difficult issues” between them but were willing to deal with them through dialogue.

On Monday, Dunford was in Seoul to meet with senior South Korean military and political officials and the local media, seeking to ease anxiety while showing his willingness to back President Donald Trump’s warnings if need be.

The United States wants to peacefully resolve tensions with North Korea, but Washington is also ready to use the “full range” of its military capabilities, Dunford said. His visit to Asia, which also will include a stop in Japan, comes after Trump last week declared the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and said he was ready to unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States.

North Korea’s military on Tuesday presented leader Kim Jong Un with plans to launch missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam and “wring the windpipes of the Yankees,” even as both Koreas and the United States signaled their willingness to avert a deepening crisis, with each suggesting a path toward negotiations.

The tentative interest in diplomacy follows unusually combative threats between Trump and North Korea amid worries Pyongyang is nearing its long-sought goal of being able to send a nuclear missile to the U.S. mainland. Next week’s start of U.S.-South Korean military exercises that enrage the North each year could make diplomacy even more difficult.

North Korea’s threats against Guam and its advancing missile capabilities, highlighted by a pair of intercontinental ballistic missile flight tests in July, have raised concern in South Korea, where some believe a fully functional ICBM in Pyongyang would undermine the alliance between Washington and Seoul.

This has led to growing calls among South Korean conservatives for the United States to redeploy tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea after withdrawing them in the 1990s. The opposition Liberty Korea Party on Wednesday adopted the demand as its official party line, saying that the presence of such weapons would strengthen deterrence against the North.

During an inspection of the North Korean army’s Strategic Forces, which handles the missile program, Kim praised the military for drawing up a “close and careful plan” and said he would watch the “foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” a little more before deciding whether to order the missile test, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim appeared in photos sitting at a table with a large map marked by a straight line between what appeared to be northeastern North Korea and Guam, and passing over Japan — apparently showing the missiles’ flight route.

The missile plans were previously announced. Kim said North Korea would conduct the launches if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity,” warning the United States to “think reasonably and judge properly” to avoid shaming itself, the news agency said.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Washington on Tuesday, “We continue to be interested in trying to find a way to get to dialogue, but that’s up to (Kim).”

Lobbing missiles toward Guam, a major U.S. military hub in the Pacific, would be deeply provocative from the U.S. perspective. A miscalculation on either side could lead to military confrontation.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, meanwhile, a liberal who favors diplomacy, urged North Korea to stop provocations and to commit to talks over its nuclear weapons program.

Moon, in a televised speech Tuesday on the anniversary of World War II’s end and the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, said Seoul and Washington agree that the nuclear standoff should “absolutely be solved peacefully.” He said no U.S. military action on the Korean Peninsula could be taken without Seoul’s consent.

North Korea’s military said last week that it would finalize the plan to fire four ballistic missiles near Guam, which is about 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) from Pyongyang. It would be a test of the Hwasong-12, a new missile the country flight-tested for the first time in May. The liquid-fuel missile is designed to be fired from road mobile launchers and has been described by North Korea as built for attacking Alaska and Hawaii.

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Associated Press writers Foster Klug, Kim Tong-hyung and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Matthew Lee and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

Defiant Trump renews criticism of ‘both sides’ in protest

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NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump defiantly blamed “both sides” for the weekend violence between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators in Virginia, seeking to rebuff the widespread criticism of his handling of the emotionally-charged protests while showing sympathy for the fringe group’s efforts to preserve Confederate monuments.

In doing so, Trump used the bullhorn of the presidency to give voice to the grievances of white nationalists, and aired some of his own. His remarks Tuesday amounted to a rejection of the Republicans, business leaders and White House advisers who earlier this week had pushed the president to more forcefully and specifically condemn the KKK members, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who took to the streets of Charlottesville.

The angry exchange with reporters at his skyscraper hotel in New York City laid bare a reality of the Trump presidency: Trump cannot be managed by others or steered away from damaging political land mines. His top aides were stunned by his comments, with some — including new chief of staff John Kelly — standing by helplessly as the president escalated his rhetoric.

Standing in the lobby of Trump Tower, Trump acknowledged that there were “some very bad people” among those who gathered to protest Saturday. But he added: “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

Combative and insistent, President Donald Trump declared Tuesday “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence last weekend in Virginia, appearing to once again equate the actions of white supremacist groups and those protesting them. (Aug. 15)

The rally was organized by white supremacists and other groups under a “Unite the Right” banner. Organizers said they were initially activated by their objections to the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but the larger aim was to protest what they saw as an “anti-white” climate in America.

In his remarks, Trump condemned bigoted ideology and called James Alex Fields Jr., who drove his car into a crowd of counter-protester killing a 32-year-old woman, “a disgrace to himself, his family and his country.” But Trump also expressed support for those seeking to maintain the monument to Lee, equating him with some of the nation’s founders who also owned slaves.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee,” he said. “I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, ‘is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?’ You really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

He continued: “You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”

The president’s comments effectively wiped away the more conventional statement he delivered at the White House a day earlier when he branded the white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.” Trump’s advisers had hoped those remarks might quell criticism of his initial response, but the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort.

Once again, the blowback was swift, including from fellow Republicans. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Trump should not allow white supremacists “to share only part of the blame.” House Speaker Paul Ryan declared in a tweet that “white supremacy is repulsive” and there should be “no moral ambiguity,” though he did not specifically address the president.

Trump’s remarks were welcomed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who tweeted: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

Some of the president’s comments Tuesday mirrored rhetoric from the far-right fringe. A post Monday by the publisher of The Daily Stormer, a notorious neo-Nazi website, predicted that protesters are going to demand that the Washington Monument be torn down.

Trump’s handling of the weekend violence has raised new and troubling questions, even among some supporters. Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and business leaders have begun abandoning a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.

White House officials were caught off guard by his remarks Tuesday. He had signed off on a plan to ignore questions from journalists during an event touting infrastructure policies, according to a White House official not authorized to speak publicly about a private discussion. Once behind the lectern and facing the cameras, he overruled the decision.

As Trump talked, his aides on the sidelines in the lobby stood in silence. Chief of staff John Kelly crossed his arms and stared down at his shoes, barely glancing at the president. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders looked around the room trying to make eye contact with other senior aides. One young staffer stood with her mouth agape.

Kelly was brought into the White House less than a month ago to try to bring order and stability to a chaotic West Wing. Some Trump allies hoped the retired Marine general might be able to succeed where others have failed: controlling some of Trump’s impulses. But the remarks Tuesday once again underscored Trump’s insistence on airing his complaints and opinions.

Democrats were aghast at Trump’s comments. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said on Twitter that the Charlottesville violence “was fueled by one side: white supremacists spreading racism, intolerance & intimidation. Those are the facts.” Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said on Twitter that he no longer views Trump as his president.

“As a Jew, as an American, as a human, words cannot express my disgust and disappointment,” Schatz said. “This is not my president.”

When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.

Trump, who has quickly deemed other deadly incidents in the U.S. and around the world as acts of terrorism, waffled when asked whether the car death was a terrorist attack.

“There is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism?” Trump said. “And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.”

Trump said he had yet to call the mother of crash victim Heather Heyer, but would soon “reach out.” He praised her for what he said was a nice statement about him on social media.

As he finally walked away from his lectern, he stopped to answer one more shouted question: Would he visit Charlottesville? The president noted he owned property there and said — inaccurately — that it was one of the largest wineries in the United States.

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AP writers Darlene Superville and Richard Lardner contributed to this report. Pace reported from Washington.

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Follow Lemire at http://twitter.com/jonlemire and Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

Business: Global stocks higher after US indexes take small losses

BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets were mostly higher Wednesday after U.S. indexes took small losses as Washington and North Korea indicated willingness to reduce nuclear tensions.

KEEPING SCORE: In early trading, France’s CAC 40 rose 1.1 percent to 5,194.39 points and Germany’s DAX advanced 0.9 percent to 12,282.36. The FTSE 100 in London gained 0.7 percent to 7,438.16. On Tuesday, the CAC 40 and the FTSE 100 each gained 0.4 percent while the DAX added 0.1 percent. On Wall Street, the future for the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 percent and that for the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 0.2 percent.

ASIA’S DAY: The Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.2 percent to 3,246.45 and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 retreated 0.1 percent to 19,729.28. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.9 percent to 27,409.07 and Seoul’s Kospi advanced 0.6 percent to 2,348.26. India’s Sensex picked up 0.6 percent to 31,651.82 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 added 0.5 percent to 5,785.10. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Manila and Jakarta gained while Taiwan, Singapore and Bangkok retreated.

NORTH KOREA: North Korea’s military presented leader Kim Jong Un with plans to launch missiles into waters near Guam even as both Koreas and the United States suggested a path toward negotiations to ease nuclear tensions. Kim said he would watch U.S. conduct a little more before deciding whether to order the missile test. Kim’s tone hinted the friction could ease if the U.S. offered a gesture Pyongyang sees as a step back from “reckless actions.” South Korean President Moon Jae-in urged North Korea to commit to talks. The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, said Washington wants to resolve tensions peacefully but is ready to use its military capabilities.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “The impact of geopolitical tensions on the stock markets has proven once again to be impulsive and short lived. Global equities switched back to ‘risk-on’ mode, with investors taking their cues from Washington claiming to pursue a political resolution of the North Korea threat,” said Margaret Yang Yan of CMC in a report. She noted stronger month-on-month retail sales growth and rising expectations of a December interest rate hike. “Investors are taking advantage of the technical pullback as re-entry opportunities are resulting in a relief rebound in risky assets, and a retracing in safe-haven assets.”

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude rose 25 cents to $47.80 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 4 cents on Tuesday to close at $47.55. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 37 cents to $51.17 in London. It added 7 cents on Tuesday to close at $50.80.

CURRENCY: The dollar rose to 110.89 yen from Tuesday’s 110.66 yen. The euro declined to $1.1732 from $1.1735.

Analysis: To launch or not? Either way, North Korea may gain

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — If, after all the fanfare, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn’t actually launch missiles toward Guam, many may write the whole episode off as another of the North’s seemingly endless bluffs. But from Pyongyang’s perspective and in the eyes of some U.S. military experts, Kim and his generals have already won this round.

Launch or not, Pyongyang has caused great drama and angst, riled U.S. President Donald Trump and alarmed America’s allies in Tokyo and Seoul. It could also set a precedent for more aggressive brinkmanship ahead.

It comes as no surprise then that on Tuesday, as North Korea’s state media released photos of Kim and his military officers examining the launch plan, replete with photos of the missiles’ flight path and a big satellite image of the U.S. territory’s Andersen Air Force Base, it also offered a seeming out.

Kim, it said, wants to “watch a little more” before making a decision.

The North’s plan is to launch four missiles into the waters around the U.S. Pacific territory: one to the north, one to the south, and one each east and west. Pyongyang is calling it an “enveloping fire” demonstration, but in military jargon it’s more commonly called “bracketing.” It was calculated to touch off a storm of anxiety region-wide.

But firing missiles into Guam’s exclusive economic zone, as the North threatened, would be an extremely risky move. “If they fire at the United States, it could escalate into war very quickly,” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday. “Yes, that’s called war, if they shoot at us.”

So, from the start, Pyongyang gave itself big exit ramps.

The North has never said it would attack Guam itself. To make its intentions crystal clear, it provided an extremely detailed account of the planned trajectory of the launch, which Japanese prefectures it would go over, the duration of the flight — right down to the second — and the distance of the “splash areas” from Guam’s coast.

More importantly, it never committed to a launch date. Or, for that matter, to launching the missiles at all.

“The regime composed the threat in such a way as to allow Kim to back down without losing face,” said Adam Mount, a nuclear strategy specialist with the Center for American Progress. “North Korea’s Guam threat was more sophisticated, credible, and coercive than any of the vague warnings Trump made last week.”

Of course, Pyongyang could blow past its own fail-safes.

It may still want to try its missiles out at an angle closer to the “battle trajectory” they would fly in a real attack, rather than the “lofted” trajectories they’ve been using to avoid flying over neighboring countries. If pushed further, or possibly as a high-profile protest to U.S.-South Korean military exercises that will begin next week, it could also want to use the launch to show the world what it can do and see what it can get away with.

But many experts who follow North Korea think Kim isn’t in any big hurry.

“It seems to me they plan to draw this out, perhaps expecting Trump to lose interest,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California. “It’s not an empty threat, but it’s also fairly high stakes. I imagine that the North Koreans would skip it if the rhetoric was toned down.”

Pyongyang has suggested Kim’s decision is contingent on B-1B bomber flights from Guam to Korean airspace. The B-1B, though no longer capable of carrying nuclear weapons, is one of the most advanced bombers in the Air Force and Washington has frequently ordered such missions — over South Korea but near the DMZ — as a show of force against Pyongyang.

If Washington were to halt the flights, Kim could claim a victory. If it were to order the B-1Bs into the air, Pyongyang would have an excuse to launch. Or it could claim it magnanimously refrained from doing so, while reserving the right to do so at a later date.

For Kim, in the convoluted world of military deterrence, that’s a win-win.

“I think at some point they’re going to say, ‘Look, this is not anything different than your flying B-1 bombers over Korea,’” said Robert Carlin, a contributor to the respected 38 North website and former State Department and CIA analyst.

“We’re going to put our missiles 25 or 30 kilometers offshore. Your bombers come within tens of kilometers of the Demilitarized Zone. If you can ‘reach out and touch’ us, we can ‘reach out and touch’ you.”

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Talmadge has been the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief since 2013. Follow him on Twitter at EricTalmadge or on Instagram @erictalmadge.

Both Korean leaders, US signal turn to diplomacy amid crisis

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s military on Tuesday presented leader Kim Jong Un with plans to launch missiles into waters near Guam and “wring the windpipes of the Yankees,” even as both Koreas and the United States signaled their willingness to avert a deepening crisis, with each suggesting a path toward negotiations.

The tentative interest in diplomacy follows unusually combative threats between President Donald Trump and North Korea amid worries that Pyongyang is nearing its long-sought goal of accurately being able to send a nuclear missile to the U.S. mainland. Next week’s start of U.S.-South Korean military exercises that enrage the North each year makes it unclear, however, if diplomacy will prevail.

During an inspection of the North Korean army’s Strategic Forces, which handles the missile program, Kim praised the military for drawing up a “close and careful plan” and said he would watch the “foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” a little more before deciding whether to order the missile test, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said. Kim appeared in photos sitting at a table with a large map marked by a straight line between what appeared to be northeastern North Korea and Guam, and passing over Japan — apparently showing the missiles’ flight route.

The missile plans were previously announced. Kim said North Korea would conduct the launches if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and its vicinity,” and that the United States should “think reasonably and judge properly” to avoid shaming itself, the news agency said.

Lobbing missiles toward Guam, a major U.S. military hub in the Pacific, would be a deeply provocative act from the U.S. perspective, and a miscalculation on either side could lead to a military clash. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said the United States would take out any such missile seen to be heading for American soil and declared any such North Korean attack could mean war.

Kim’s comments, however, with their conditional tone, seemed to hold out the possibility that friction could ease if the United States made some sort of gesture that Pyongyang considered a move to back away from previous “extremely dangerous reckless actions.”

That could refer to the U.S.-South Korean military drills set to begin Monday, which the North claims are rehearsals for invasion. It also could refer to the B-1B bombers that the U.S. has occasionally flown over the Korean Peninsula as a show of force.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, meanwhile, a liberal who favors engagement with the North, urged North Korea to stop provocations and to commit to talks over its nuclear weapons program.

Moon, in a televised speech Tuesday on the anniversary of the end of World War II and the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, said that Seoul and Washington agree that the crisis over the North’s nuclear program should “absolutely be solved peacefully,” and that no U.S. military action on the Korean Peninsula could be taken without Seoul’s consent.

Moon said the North could create conditions for talks by stopping nuclear and missile tests.

“Our government will put everything on the line to prevent another war on the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said. “Regardless of whatever twist and turns we could experience, the North Korean nuclear program should absolutely be solved peacefully, and the (South Korean) government and the U.S. government don’t have a different position on this.”

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, on Monday met with senior South Korean military and political officials and the local media, and made comments that appeared to be an attempt to ease anxiety while also showing a willingness to back Trump’s warnings if need be.

Dunford said the United States wants to peacefully resolve tensions with North Korea, but Washington is also ready to use the “full range” of its military capabilities in case of provocation.

Dunford is visiting South Korea, Japan and China after a week in which Trump declared the U.S. military “locked and loaded” and said he was ready to unleash “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States.

North Korea’s military had said last week it would finalize and send to Kim for approval the plan to fire four ballistic missiles near Guam, which is about 3,200 kilometers (2,000 miles) from Pyongyang.

The plans are based on the Hwasong-12, a new missile the country successfully flight-tested for the first time in May. The liquid-fuel missile is designed to be fired from road mobile launchers and has been previously described by North Korea as built for attacking Alaska and Hawaii.

The North followed the May launch with two flight tests of its Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile last month. Analysts said that a wide swath of the continental United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago, could be within reach of those missiles, once they’re perfected.

The North’s latest report said Kim ordered his military to be prepared to launch the missiles toward Guam at any time. Kim said that if the “planned fire of power demonstration” is carried out because of U.S. recklessness, it will be “the most delightful historic moment when the Hwasong artillerymen will wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks,” the North reported.

Even with North Korea and the Trump administration exchanging tough talk, back-channel diplomatic contacts between the countries have continued, The Associated Press reported Saturday. People familiar with the contacts who spoke on condition of anonymity say those discussions have addressed deteriorating relations and issues including three Americans still detained in the North.

A foreign ministry spokesman for the North on Tuesday denied that the country is currently discussing the detainees with Washington. “The issue on detained Americans is not an object to discuss in view of the present atmosphere of DPRK-U.S. relations,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency quoted the spokesman as saying.

North Korea is angry about new United Nations sanctions over its expanding nuclear weapons and missile program and the upcoming military drills between Washington and Seoul.

Kim said the United States must “make a proper option first and show it through action, as it committed provocations after introducing huge nuclear strategic equipment into the vicinity of the peninsula” and that it “should stop at once arrogant provocations” against North Korea, state media said.

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AP writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

Deadly rally accelerates removal of Confederate statues

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(PhatzNewsRoom / AP)    —-   In Gainesville, Florida, workers hired by the Daughters of the Confederacy chipped away at a Confederate soldier’s statue, loaded it quietly on a truck and drove away with little fanfare.

In Baltimore, Mayor Catherine Pugh said she’s ready to tear down all of her city’s Confederate statues, and the city council voted to have them destroyed. San Antonio lawmakers are looking ahead to removing a statue that many people wrongly assumed represented a famed Texas leader who died at the Alamo.

Some people refused to wait. Protesters in Durham, North Carolina, toppled a nearly century-old statue of a Confederate soldier Monday at a rally against racism. Activists took a ladder up to the statue and used a rope to pull down the Confederate Soldiers Monument that was dedicated in 1924. A diverse crowd of dozens cheered as the statue of a soldier holding a rifle fell to the ground in front of an old courthouse building that now houses local government offices.

The deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, is fueling another re-evaluation of Confederate statues in cities across the nation, accelerating their removal in much the same way that a 2015 mass shooting by a white supremacist renewed pressure to take down the Confederate flag from public property.

Lexington, Kentucky Mayor Jim Gray announced on Twitter that he would work to remove the confederate monument at his county’s courthouse. (Aug. 14)

“We should not glorify a part of our history in front of our buildings that really is a testament to America’s original sin,” Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe said Monday after the statue known as “Old Joe” was returned to the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which erected it in 1904.

A county spokesman said he did not know if the statue was removed because of the events that killed one person and injured dozens more Saturday in Charlottesville. But many officials who were horrified by the confrontation soon began publicizing plans to take down statues.

The Southern Poverty Law Center last year counted more than 1,500 things around the country named after Confederate figures or dedicated to the Confederacy, including holidays, statues, flags and the names of cities, counties, schools and parks. Nearly half are monuments, which are in 24 states. Most of the dedications are in the South, but 24 are in the North and 21 in states that did not exist at the time of the Civil War.

In Jacksonville, Florida, City Council President Anna Brosche ordered an immediate inventory of all of the Confederate statues in her city in preparation for their removal.

“These monuments, memorials and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many,” she said Monday.

Lexington, Kentucky, Mayor Jim Gray moved up his announcement by a day in reaction to the weekend bloodshed. Memorials to John C. Breckinridge and John Hunt Morgan are perched outside a former courthouse that was the site of slave auctions before the Civil War.

San Antonio Councilman Robert Travino is promoting a measure that would remove the Confederate statue at the center of Travis Park, where for years people have mistakenly identified the figure as being that of Col. William Travis, a Texas hero who died at the Alamo.

“This is not an important art piece, but a monument to power. It was put in to remind people of that power. It is an unfortunate message of hate, and we think it’s important to relocate it.” Travino said Monday. “We do think that history is important so we’re looking for an appropriate location for it.”

St. Louis dismantled its Confederate Monument in Forest Park in June, giving it to the Missouri Civil War Museum after years of debate.

In Baltimore, Pugh announced Monday that she would move forward with the removal of Baltimore’s statues of Roger B. Taney, a Marylander who wrote the 1856 Dred Scott supreme court ruling that denied citizenship to African-Americans, and a statue of two Virginians, Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson.

Pugh said she was making plans to send the statues to cemeteries with Confederate dead outside the city. But hours later, the city council voted unanimously to have the statues destroyed instead of moved. It was unclear whether anything would happen to the statues immediately.

Seconds after the monument fell in Durham on Monday, protesters began kicking the crumpled bronze monument.

In response, Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted: “The racism and deadly violence in Charlottesville is unacceptable but there is a better way to remove these monuments.”

Back in May, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu moved his city’s four main Confederate statues, including a statue of Lee, at night after threats of violence from Confederate sympathizers and white supremacists. Pugh said she is consulting with Landrieu, now head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, about the removal of Baltimore’s statues and the cost.

The violence in Charlottesville will probably speed up efforts to do away with the monuments, experts said.

The convergence of white nationalists and neo-Nazis with Confederate imagery in Charlottesville will make it difficult for government agencies to defend having Confederate statues on their property, Boston University history professor Heather Cox Richardson said.

“The idea that this somehow is about Southern heritage, I think that ship sailed,” said Richardson, who teaches and writes about the Civil War, Reconstruction and Southern politics.

Violence and death changes things, agreed University of Georgia political science professor M.V. “Trey” Hood III.

Photos of gunman Dylan Roof, who fatally shot nine black churchgoers in South Carolina, showed him with a Confederate flag and triggered a swift “sea change” in perception of the banner, Hood said.

Then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley successfully led calls to bring down a Confederate flag that had flown on Statehouse grounds for 54 years. Other cities and organizations began accelerating their removal of Confederate imagery following Roof’s arrest.

Now local officials will find it harder to ignore or shelve questions about Confederate statues, Richardson said.

“It was always possible for people to look the other way,” she said. “After Charlottesville, I do not see how Americans can look the other way. You have to make a choice at this moment.”

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Jesse J. Holland covers race and ethnicity for The Associated Press in Washington. Contact him at jholland@ap.org, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jessejholland .

Furor over Charlottesville follows Trump home to Manhattan

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NEW YORK (AP) — President Donald Trump is back in the New York skyscraper that bears his name as the furor over his reaction to race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend shows few signs of dying down.

Protesters on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue tried to spoil Trump’s homecoming Monday night with signs bearing messages like “stop the hate, stop the lies” and chanting “shame, shame, shame” and “not my president!”

After two days of public equivocation and internal White House debate, the president condemned white supremacist groups by name on Monday, declaring “racism is evil”.

In a hastily arranged statement at the White House, Trump branded members of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who take part in violence as “criminals and thugs.”

The groups are “repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans,” he said.

The move didn’t quiet the uproar, however. The leaders of four minority House caucus groups wrote a letter to Trump calling for the removal of White House staff aides Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.

The heads of the black, Hispanic, Asian and progressive caucuses are calling in the letter for the firings of the Trump administration officials in the wake of a violent, racist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The letter asserts their continuing presence in the White House is emboldening a resurgent white supremacist movement in America.

President Donald Trump expressed condolences for the death of Heather Heyer, who was killed by a moving car in Charlottesville Saturday. He also mourned the deaths of two state troopers. (Aug. 14)

This came a day after Anthony Scaramucci, who was fired as White House communications director after a less than two-week stay, called for Bannon’s ouster.

In his initial remarks on the violence Saturday, Trump did not single out the groups and instead bemoaned violence on “many sides.” Those remarks prompted stern criticism from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, who urged him to seize the moral authority of his office to condemn hate groups.

Trump’s softer statement Saturday had come as graphic images of a car plowing into a crowd in Charlottesville were playing continually on television. White nationalists had assembled in the city to protest plans to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and counter-protesters gathered in opposition. Fights broke out, and then a man drove into the opponents of the white supremacists. One woman was killed and many more badly hurt. Twenty-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio is charged with second-degree murder and other counts.

Loath to appear to be admitting a mistake, Trump was reluctant to adjust his remarks.

The president had indicated to advisers before his initial statement Saturday that he wanted to stress a need for law and order, which he did. He later expressed anger to those close to him about what he perceived as the media’s unfair assessment of his remarks, believing he had effectively denounced all forms of bigotry, according to outside advisers and White House officials.

Several of Trump’s senior advisers, including new chief of staff John Kelly, had urged him to make a more specific condemnation, warning that the negative story would not go away and that the rising tide of criticism from fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill could endanger his legislative agenda, according to two White House officials.

The outside advisers and officials demanded anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Aides were dispatched to Sunday talk shows but struggled to explain the president’s position. A stronger statement was released — but attributed only to an unnamed spokesperson.

Tougher condemnations began Sunday night with Vice President Mike Pence, traveling in South America, declaring that “these dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life.”

On Monday, Trump had planned to interrupt his 17-day working vacation at his New Jersey golf club to travel to Washington for an announcement he hoped would showcase some tough talk on China’s trade practices.

But by the time he arrived at midmorning, it was clear all other messages would be drowned out until he said more about Charlottesville.

Trump returned to a White House undergoing a major renovation. With the Oval Office unavailable, he worked from the Treaty Room as aides drafted his remarks.

Reading from a teleprompter, he made a point of beginning with an unrelated plug for the strength of the economy under his leadership. Then, taking pains to insist “as I said on Saturday,” Trump denounced the hate groups and called for unity.

“We must love each other, show affection for each other and unite together in condemnation of hatred, bigotry and violence,” he said.

Trump for the first time mentioned Heather Heyer by name as he paid tribute to the woman killed by the car.

At the trade event later in the day, he was asked why it took two days for him to offer an explicit denunciation of the hate groups.

“They have been condemned,” Trump responded before offering a fresh criticism of some media as “fake news.”

He followed with a tweet declaring “the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied.”

___

Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz and Jay Reeves contributed reporting.

___

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

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