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The Latest: Trump won't back down on Confederate monuments

Donald Trump Donald Trump | Photo: AP.

August 18, 2017 04:10 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EDT):

10:45 p.m.

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President Donald Trump isn't backing away from the racially charged debate over Confederate memorials, even lashing out at members of his own party.

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

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, whom Trump considered for a Cabinet post, declared "the president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs."

Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina said Trump's "moral authority is compromised."

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5:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump is abandoning his plans to form an infrastructure advisory council.

It's the third such industry council to be eliminated by the White House this week after the backlash to the president's comments blaming "both sides" for the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The White House says in a statement Thursday that the infrastructure council, which was still being formed, "will not move forward."

The administration said Wednesday it was ending two other advisory councils made up primarily of business leaders, the Manufacturing Council and the Strategy & Policy Forum. The decision followed a series of announcements by CEOs that they were quitting the councils following Trump's remarks.

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4:40 p.m.

Republican Sen. Tim Scott is telling a newspaper in his home state of South Carolina that President Donald Trump's response to violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, "complicates this administration's moral authority."

Scott is the Senate's only black Republican. His comments to The Post and Courier of Charleston come after Trump said "both sides" were to blame for deadly violence between white supremacists and counterdemonstrators in Charlottesville.

He tells the newspaper that by drawing a "moral equivalency" between the two sides, "I think you are either missing four centuries of history in this nation or you are trying to make something what it's not."

Scott says Trump's controversies have compromised the GOP's ability to get things done on health care, taxes and financial regulations and have put Republicans in a "precarious position."

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1:10 p.m.

The White House says it is working to find a "convenient" time for President Donald Trump to speak with the family of the 32-year-old woman who was killed nearly a week ago while protesting a white nationalist rally in her Charlottesville, Virginia, hometown.

Spokeswoman Lindsay Walters says the White House appreciates the "unifying words" that Heather Heyer's mother spoke at her daughter's memorial service Wednesday.

Walters says "our thoughts and prayers are with the family." Walters did not address the question of whether Trump planned to visit Charlottesville.

Heyer's mother, Susan Bro, asked mourners attending the service to ask themselves what can they do as individuals to make a difference.

Heyer was killed Saturday when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters.

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12:45 p.m.

The White House says reports that President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser is stepping down are "100 percent false."

A White House official says "nothing has changed" in terms of Gary Cohn's focus on his job leading the National Economic Council.

The official declined to say whether Trump and Cohn have spoken about Cohn's reaction to Trump's comments about the recent deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and counter-demonstrators.

The protest included chants against Jews. Cohn, who is Jewish, stood alongside Trump when the president he said "very fine people" were on both sides of the protest.

Trump's comments sparked speculation that top administration officials, including Jewish members, would resign in protest.

Trump has previously floated the possibility of nominating Cohn to chair the Federal Reserve.

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11:48 a.m.

Ivanka Trump's rabbi is condemning President Donald Trump's response to a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein told his New York synagogue that he is "deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation" of Trump's reaction.

Trump has blamed "both sides" in last week's march that also drew neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members. A car plowed into a group of counterprotesters, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.

Lookstein is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun. He oversaw Ivanka Trump's conversion to Judaism. She and her husband, Jared Kushner, were longtime members of the synagogue. Lookstein only rarely comments on the Trumps.

Lookstein's message was posted Wednesday night on the Facebook page of the modern Orthodox synagogue and was signed by the congregation's other rabbis.

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10:58 a.m.

A group of Arizona Democrats is urging President Donald Trump not to pardon Joe Arpaio (ahr-PY'-oh).

Congressmen Ruben Gallego, Raul Grijalva (gree-HAHL'-vuh) and Tom O'Halleran say in a letter to Trump that the former Phoenix-area sheriff shouldn't get any "relief from the penalties he deservedly faces for his illegal conduct and brazen abuse of the public trust."

Trump told Fox News in an interview earlier this week that he may pardon Arpaio, who was one of his early supporters.

A federal judge ruled in 2013 that Arpaio's officers had racially profiled Latinos. But Arpaio refused to stop his immigration patrols, which led to his criminal contempt of court case.

The lawmakers tell Trump a pardon would send a "clear message that your allies are immune from prosecution."

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9:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump says it's "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart" with the removal of Confederate statues and monuments around the country.

Local and state officials have renewed pushes to remove Confederate imagery from public property since the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a white nationalist rally over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

Baltimore and other cities have already removed or covered up Confederate statues.

Trump in a Thursday tweet called them "our beautiful statues and monuments" and said "you can't change history, but you can learn from it."

"Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!" Trump continued. "The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"

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9:30 a.m.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham says President Donald Trump's stance on the Charlottesville, Virginia violence and death is garnering praise from "some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups" and called on him to "please fix this."

Trump and Graham have been going after each other since the president's statements on the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a white nationalist rally.

Trump on Thursday called Graham a "publicity seeking" lawmaker and tweeted that Graham's contention that the president had said there was "moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer" was a "disgusting lie."

Graham replied on Twitter soon thereafter that the president's statements on Charlottesville have garnered him "praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country."

"For the sake of our Nation -- as our President -- please fix this. History is watching us all," Graham tweeted.

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8:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is touting a primary opponent looking to unseat GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has criticized the president's response to the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump on Thursday tweeted that Flake "is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!" The president has already pledged to spend money to defeat the first-term senator.

Flake is facing a GOP primary challenge, including from former state Sen. Kelli Ward. "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake," Trump tweeted.

Flake had tweeted on Wednesday, "We can't claim to be the party of Lincoln if we equivocate in condemning white supremacy."

The first-term senator has also recently released a book criticizing Trump and fellow Republicans for straying from what he called conservative values.

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7:45 a.m.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford has strongly endorsed the statements by the leaders of the four major U.S. military services, who spoke out against racism and extremism after last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

During a visit Thursday to Beijing, Dunford said: "I have seen the chiefs' tweets and I can absolutely and unambiguously tell you that there is no place for racism and bigotry in the U.S. military or in the United States as a whole."

He said the "chiefs' statements were important. They were speaking directly to the force and the American people."

Dunford said the intent was "to the force, to make it clear that that kind of racism and bigotry is not going to stand inside the force. And to the American people, to remind them of the values for which we stand in the U.S. military, which are reflective of what I believe to be the values of the United States."

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7:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump has abruptly disbanded two of his White House business councils in the latest fallout from his combative comments on racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Wednesday's decision came as the White House tried to manage the repercussions from Trump's defiant remarks a day earlier, in which he blamed the violence at a white supremacist rally on "both sides."

Trump himself stayed out of sight Wednesday, but he returned to Twitter early Thursday to chastise Sen. Lindsey Graham for remarks the South Carolinian made about Trump's take on Charlottesville. He also had harsh words for Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican.

He posted one tweet saying that "publicity-seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency" between the white supremacists and the counter-demonstrators at Saturday's violent protest.

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6:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump has taken a swipe at a fellow Republican, calling Sen. Lindsey Graham a "publicity seeking" lawmaker.

In a daybreak post on his Twitter account Thursday, Trump faulted the GOP senator for statements Graham has made about the president's stance on the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump said in his tweet: "Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer." He was referring to Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed when she was struck by a car driven into the crowd.

"Such a disgusting lie," Trump said of Graham's remarks. "He just can't forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember."

In a separate tweet, Trump accused "the Fake News" of distorting "what I say about hate, bigotry, etc. Shame!"

Credits

(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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