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Trump says US culture, history being 'ripped apart'

Thursday, August 17, 2017

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WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – President Donald Trump on Thursday condemned the "foolish" removal of Confederate statues whose preservation has become a rallying cry for white supremacists, saying US culture and history were being "ripped apart."

A top Republican senator joined other members of his party meanwhile in criticizing the president, saying Trump had not displayed the stability or competence needed to lead the country and risks putting it in "great peril."

Shrugging off a barrage of bipartisan criticism, Trump waded back into the charged racial debate over monuments to the pro-slavery Civil War South with a volley of early morning tweets.

"Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," Trump said.

Trump has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike for insisting that anti-racism protestors were equally to blame for violence last weekend at a rally staged by neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E Lee.

A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 other people injured when an Ohio man suspected of being a white nationalist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.

Trump -- who rose to political prominence by casting doubt on whether Barack Obama, America's first black president, was born in the United States -- has been deluged with demands to unambiguously disavow white hate groups, whose members have been emboldened by his election.

Trump did condemn neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan on several occasions this week -- but many say he did not go far enough. He has earned rebukes from across the political spectrum, even from former presidents George H W Bush and George W Bush.

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Thursday became the latest member of Trump's Republican Party to criticise the president.

"I don't think that the president has appropriately spoken to the nation on this issue," the senator from Tennessee said.

"Helping inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base is not a formula for causing our nation to advance."

"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," Corker said.

"And without the things that I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril."

The president was forced to scrap two White House economic advisory councils on Wednesday as top businessmen began abandoning him in protest.

A White House official said Thursday plans to form a presidential advisory council on infrastructure had also been dropped.

Along with repealing Obamacare, Trump had promised tax reform and a US$1 trillion plan to improve the country's infrastructure.

Efforts to repeal Obama's signature health plan failed, however, and the tax and infrastructure programmes have made little headway.

With moves to dismantle Confederate monuments gaining momentum, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, called for Confederate statues to be removed from the US Capitol.

"The Confederate statues in the halls of Congress have always been reprehensible," Pelosi said.

"There is no room for celebrating the violent bigotry of the men of the Confederacy in the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol."

Trump made it clear though on Thursday that he opposed removing Confederate monuments.

"You can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson -- who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!" Trump said.

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