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Trump: KKK, neo-Nazis, white nationalists 'criminals and thugs'

By Andrew V. Pestano
Trump: KKK, neo-Nazis, white nationalists 'criminals and thugs'
President Donald Trump speaks to the press about the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Monday. Photo by Chris Kleponis/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 14 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump interrupted his vacation and returned to the White House Monday, where he said "evil" racists who use violence -- such as the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists -- are "criminals and thugs."

The president traveled to Washington, D.C., from his golf resort in New Jersey in the middle of a 17-day vacation.

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Trump addressed the Charlottesville, Va., attack that resulted in a woman's death amid mass demonstrations. Trump had been criticized for not quickly and specifically condemning the violent members of hate groups.

Trump said that while he returned to continue working on major tax cuts and economic reforms, such as the renegotiation of trade deals, he first wanted to comment on the violence in Charlottesville.

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"To anyone who acted criminally in this weekend's racist violence, you will be held fully accountable. Justice will be delivered. As I said on Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America," he said. "And as I have said many times before, no matter the color of our skin, we all live under the same laws. We all salute the same great flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God."

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James Alex Fields, Jr., is accused of killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer after he plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people who were demonstrating against white nationalist rallies on Saturday. After the initial strike, the car then reversed and hit additional pedestrians.

The automobile attack came shortly after authorities called off the planned white nationalist "Unite the Right" rally, which was set up to protest against the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials from public spaces.

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Hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan gathered in downtown Charlottesville as tensions escalated and counter-protesters rallied in attempts to shut down the "Unite the Right" rally.

Trump on Monday specifically condemned the hate groups.

"Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs -- including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans," Trump. "We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal."

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Trump also paid tribute to Heyer and to Virginia State Patrol troopers Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Berke M.M. Bates, 40. who died in a helicopter crash near Charlottesville after monitoring the incidents on Saturday.

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"These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency for our nation. In times such as these, America has always show its true character," Trump added. "Responding to hate with love, division with unity, and violence with an unwavering resolve for justice."

The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation into the "deadly car attack that killed one innocent American, and wounded 20 others," Trump said.

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