Trump’s Blame-Shifting After Charlottesville Drives Cry for Censure

WASHINGTON (CN) – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced her support Friday of a resolution that would officially denounce President Donald Trump for comments he made after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend turned fatal.

The resolution, which is officially known as a censure resolution, is the second-harshest action Congress can take against a sitting president. Only impeachment is harsher. While censure would not remove Trump from office or carry a specific penalty, it would show that a majority of lawmakers object to his insistence that liberal activists share blame with white supremacists for violence at the Charlottesville rally.

“Every day, the president gives us further evidence of why such a censure is necessary,” Pelosi said in a statement supporting the resolution. “Indeed, with each passing day, it becomes clearer that the Republican Congress must declare whether it stands for our sacred American values or with the president who embraces white nationalism.”

Reps. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., and Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., officially introduced the censure resolution on Friday.  So far, none of the 79 lawmakers who have co-sponsored the censure resolution are Republicans, giving the measure dim prospects in the GOP-controlled Congress.

The resolution denounces what it calls Trump’s “inadequate” remarks on Charlottesville and asks Trump to fire “people with ties to white supremacists movements,” such as chief strategist Steve Bannon and deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka.

An outspoken champion of the so-called alt-right, Bannon did lose his White House position Friday, but Pelosi’s resolution is not considered the catalyst for that move.    

Trump did not explicitly condemn white supremacists in his initial remarks after the rally on Saturday, instead lamenting the violence as coming from “many sides.” Though he did make a harsher condemnation of white-supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in a statement Monday, his delay in doing so proved difficult for many to stomach.

Whatever good will Trump did garner with that statement meanwhile unraveled within 24 hours when the president held a combative press conference at Trump Tower, in which he said there were good people among the neo-Nazis protesting the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and that leftist protesters deserves some of the blame for the attack that killed Heather Heyer.

White supremacists have praised Trump’s Tuesday remarks, with movement leaders like Richard Spencer calling them “fair and down to earth” on Twitter.

In contrast to these remarks, the Democrats who introduced the censure resolution say Trump’s comments reflect poorly on the country.

“The president’s remarks following the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend are a moral outrage,” said Nadler, Watson Coleman and Jayapal in a joint statement Friday. “Refusing to completely and unambiguously denounce white supremacist groups and individuals provides encouragement for their bigoted, nationalist ideology and policies. This is not the position of the United States government and we must send a clear message to President Trump that his comments are not only wrong, but an affront to the moral convictions and ideals of this country.”

President Andrew Jackson, whom Trump has praised in the past, is the only president the full Senate has censured, though the House of Representatives censured President James Polk in 1848 for starting the Mexican-American War “unconstitutionally.”

President Bill Clinton also faced censure resolutions in 1998, though none garnered enough support to pass.

There is not a formal process for censure to pass through either chamber of Congress.

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