Defiant, Trump Laments Assault on Culture and Revives a Bogus Pershing Story

Mr. Corker, a sober voice on foreign policy and a frequent ally of the Trump administration, bluntly questioned the president’s ability to perform the duties of his office.


“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful,” Mr. Corker told reporters. He said Mr. Trump had not “appropriately spoken to the nation” about Charlottesville, Va.

Mr. Scott, South Carolina, insisted that he would not “defend the indefensible” when it came to the president’s comments about “both sides” in Charlottesville being responsible for the violence last Saturday.

“What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority,” Mr. Scott said in an interview with Vice. “And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happens — there’s no question about that,” he said, noting the president’s angry remarks to reporters this week in Manhattan, where Mr. Trump criticized the “alt-left” while abandoning earlier condemnations of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trump made clear that he has no intention of stepping back from his assertions about the Charlottesville rally that have drawn widespread condemnation. In three tweets, Mr. Trump defended Civil War-era statues, using language very similar to that of white supremacists to argue the statues should remain in place.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump called it “foolish” to remove statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and mused that monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson would be next. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” the president wrote.

And as he faced a new round of bipartisan denunciations, Mr. Trump also lashed out at two senior Republican senators who have been unsparing in their criticism during the past week.

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The president accused Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, of “publicity seeking” and said that Mr. Graham had uttered a “disgusting lie” when he said — accurately — that the president had equated the white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville with the counterprotesters who were there to oppose them.

“He just can’t forget his election trouncing,” the president said of Mr. Graham, who waged a losing bid against Mr. Trump for the Republican presidential nomination. “The people of South Carolina will remember!”

Mr. Trump also called Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, “toxic” and “WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor” in the Senate. He praised Mr. Flake’s Republican primary race opponent.

Confederate Monuments and Statues


There was new evidence on Thursday that the political crisis created by the president’s Charlottesville remarks was having an effect on Mr. Trump’s business. The Cleveland Clinic announced it was pulling out of a 2018 fund-raiser at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla., and the head of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce urged businesses not to host events there.

The American Cancer Society, which had planned to hold its 2018 gala at Mar-a-Lago, announced it, too, would change the venue, citing its “values and commitment to diversity.”

“It has become increasingly clear that the challenge to those values is outweighing other business considerations,” the group said in a statement.

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The White House announced that Mr. Trump had decided to cancel plans to assemble a President’s Advisory Council on Infrastructure. The decision to abandon the business group came a day after a revolt among industry leaders on two other advisory panels forced the president to disband them.

And Carmen de Lavallade, a dancer and choreographer who will be honored by the Kennedy Center in December, announced on Thursday that she will forgo the related reception at the White House.

“In light of the socially divisive and morally caustic narrative that our current leadership is choosing to engage in, and in keeping with the principles that I and so many others have fought for, I will be declining the invitation to attend the reception at the White House,” Ms. de Lavallade, 86, said in a statement.

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Even so, White House officials said Mr. Trump was in good spirits on Thursday as he continued a working vacation at his estate in Bedminster, N.J. He dined with Richard LeFrak, a longtime friend, at the president’s golf course, according to a person briefed on the dinner.

Mr. Trump also held meetings with Gov. Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, and Linda McMahon, the head of the Small Business Administration. But both events were closed to the news media, depriving the president of any further ability to engage in another back-and-forth with reporters.

Within his administration, his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, was said to be deeply frustrated and unsure how to contain his boss. And pressure mounted on Gary D. Cohn, the director of the White House National Economic Council, who is Jewish and had privately expressed dismay about the president’s remarks.

Unconfirmed reports that Mr. Cohn was about to resign prompted a statement from a White House official: “Nothing has changed. Gary is focused on his responsibilities as N.E.C. director and any reports to the contrary are 100 percent false.”

For the president, Thursday was a return to themes that were last on display in the weeks and months after he won the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9, 2016.

During that period, he praised dictators like Saddam Hussein as effective counterforces on terrorism and declared his support for enhanced interrogation techniques that have been outlawed as a form of torture. “Torture works,” Mr. Trump said in South Carolina that month.

That was the same month that Mr. Trump first alluded to a legend — thoroughly debunked by numerous historians — about Pershing, then governor of the Moro Province in the Philippines, and his use of pig’s blood.

Mr. Trump’s remarks about the Civil War statues were also an echo of his campaign, and are not unlike sentiments in the South that the monuments and Confederate history reflect “heritage not hate” — a phrase commonly used by groups like the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

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“To those 70 million of us whose ancestors fought for the South, it is a symbol of family members who fought for what they thought was right in their time, and whose valor became legendary in military history,” Ben Jones, a former Democratic congressman from Georgia, wrote in an opinion piece in The New York Times in 2015.

Critics say the president’s remarks reflect a dangerously sanitized view of a war to uphold slavery and destroy the union. And they say the comparison with the Founding Fathers is entirely off base: Unlike the Southerners who helped found the country, the issue with Civil War monuments is that they honor people who took up arms against the United States, at least in part, to maintain slavery, critics say.

Mr. Trump saw it otherwise. “The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” he tweeted.

Michael D. Shear reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from Bridgewater, N.J. Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting from Washington.


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