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Nearly two years later, Trump defends Charlottesville response

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President Trump hit on a range of issues Friday morning before leaving to address the National Rifle Association in Indianapolis, among them his 2017 remarks after the deadly Charlottesville protests in which Mr. Trump claimed there were "very fine people on both sides."

Former Vice President Joe Biden's launched his presidential bid Thursday with a video that centered on the violence and racism displayed in Charlottesville, alluding to Mr. Trump's response to it. Given the opportunity to again clarify those comments Friday, Mr. Trump responded, "I've answered that question and I was talking about people who went because they felt very strongly about the statue of Robert E. Lee."

"Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals," Mr. Trump added.

The president also addressed Biden's entrance into the race for the first time in person. Mr. Trump called himself a "young" and "vibrant" man, but said he's not sure the same is true of Biden, whom he has coined "sleepy Joe."

"I think we beat him easily," Mr. Trump said of Biden. 

The president also claimed he's a student of history and that's why he never would have ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn. That claim contradicts the Mueller report. But Mr. Trump is also known for frequently getting key pieces of history wrong. 

"I'm a student of history, I see what you get when you fire people, and it's not good," Mr. Trump said. "But there would have been nothing wrong with firing him." 

Mr. Trump also reiterated that no money was paid to North Korea for the late Otto Warmbier. The North Koreans, as the Washington Post first reported and CBS News later confirmed, gave the U.S. a $2 million bill for Warmbier. But on Friday morning, the president still touted his relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. 

"We don't pay money for hostages," Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are addressing the NRA-ILA Leadership Forum, a group the president has addressed in the past. 

The president tweeted about the trip Friday morning.

The president has closely aligned himself with gun rights issues and the NRA, one exception being his administration's successful push to ban bump stocks in light of the deadly 2017 Las Vegas shooting. The NRA spent millions of dollars aiding Mr. Trump and attacking Hillary Clinton leading up to the 2016 presidential election. 

Mr. Trump has vowed to protect Second Amendment rights, and warned that Democrats want to take away people's guns. 

"Your Second Amendment rights are under siege, but they will never, ever be under siege as long as I'm your president," Mr. Trump said in a speech to the NRA last year. 

The trip comes as the president fumes over Democrats' demands stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's report, saying he is against aides testifying before Congress