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Cabinet Leaders Distance Themselves From Trump’s Charlottesville Remarks

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VA Secretary David Shulkin says it is a disservice to veterans to not condemn neo Nazi groups. VA Secretary David Shulkin says it is a disservice to veterans to not condemn neo Nazi groups. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

President Trump may believe there are “two sides to a story,” as he put it during a contentious press conference on Tuesday in reference to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, but key members of Trump’s cabinet appear to be far less conflicted over where to place the blame.

Soon after a man who appeared in photographs to be protesting with white supremacists allegedly drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one and injuring 19 others, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce that the Justice Department would pursue a civil rights investigation into the events.

"When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated," Sessions said, adding that “justice will prevail.”

At a press conference Wednesday, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said allowing neo-Nazis “to go unchallenged” was a disservice to all veterans. “I am strongly against them, and I believe that we have to all speak up as Americans,” he said.

Likewise, the military service chiefs all have issued unequivocal statements condemning racism and bigotry. As Ben Watson pointed out at Defense One: “The U.S. Army’s top general on Wednesday became the latest high-ranking American military official to speak out against a resurgence of Nazi support following violence and unrest over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va.”

Watson noted that “Milley’s remarks stand out for not just the unusual nature of the message in 21st-century American discourse, but also because he spoke just hours after the president curbed his criticism of white supremacists in an unusual press conference of his own Tuesday afternoon.”

Katherine is deputy editor of Government Executive Media Group, a division of Atlantic Media, where she oversees editorial coverage for GovExec.com and Government Executive magazine. She previously was executive editor of Nextgov.

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