GOP Sen. Cory Gardner urges Trump to call Charlottesville crash terrorism

Last Updated Aug 13, 2017 1:18 AM EDT

A top Republican senator called out President Trump on Twitter Saturday, after Mr. Trump declined to condemn white nationalists when violence at a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia left one person dead and 34 others injured.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado), leader of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2018, called on Mr. Trump to "call evil by its name." Mr. Trump, in brief remarks Saturday from his working vacation at his golf club in New Jersey, said he condemned violence "on many sides." Given a chance to clarify what Mr. Trump meant by "all sides," a White House official told the press pool the president was "condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counter protesters today."

But that wasn't good enough for Gardner, who had perhaps the strongest statements of any Republican Saturday afternoon. 

At least five other Republican senators agreed with Gardner's language. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted he wanted the Department of Justice to investigate the incident.

Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, referred to the white nationalists as "traitors."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), also had strong words for the president. 

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) didn't call on the president specifically, but as someone who lived through World War II and lost a brother to that fight for freedom, said, "we should call evil by its name."

The one death reported so far in Charlottesville resulted when a car plowed through a sea of counter-protesters, leaving one person dead and 19 injured. The protests began as a response to the removal of a statute of confederate General Robert E. Lee from a public park. 

Mr. Trump, in his remarks, said bigotry and hatred has gone on for a long time. He declined to answer a reporter's question as to what he would say to white nationalists who say they support him. 

"We're closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia," Mr. Trump said. "We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides."

Political observers on Twitter compared Mr. Trump's reluctance to name any groups in Charlottesville to his criticism of former President Barack Obama for failing to use terms like, "radical Islamic terrorism."