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White House memo urges GOP to say Trump was "entirely correct"

Trump draws fire on Charlottesville
Trump draws fire on Charlottesville 05:57

The White House sent a memo of talking points to Republicans on Capitol Hill and other allies telling them to say President Trump was "entirely correct" in his controversial assessment of the violence in Charlottesville, CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett reports.

CBS News obtained a copy of the memo, which has the subject line "President's Presser."

"Despite the criticism, the President reaffirmed some of our most important Founding principles: We are equal in the eyes of our Creator, equal under the law, and equal under our Constitution," reads one bullet point. 

Although the press conference was scheduled to discuss American infrastructure, the president mainly spoke about the violence in Charlottesville, insisting "both sides" were responsible for the violence, and citing the "alt-left," who he said came "charging with clubs in their hands."

Other bullet points the White House wants discussed: 

  • He has been a voice for unity and calm, encouraging the country to "rediscover the bonds of love and loyalty that brings us together as Americans."
  • He called for the end of violence on all sides so that no more innocent lives would be lost.
  • The President condemned the hate groups fueled by bigotry and racism over the weekend, and did so by name yesterday, but for the media that will never be enough.
  • The media reacted with hysteria to the notion that counter-protesters showed up with clubs spoiling for a fight, a fact that reporters on the ground have repeatedly stated.
  • Even a New York Times reporter tweeted that she "saw club-wielding "antifa" beating white nationalists being led out of the park."
  • The local ACLU chapter also tweeted: "Not sure who provoked first. Both sides were hitting each other at Justice Park before police arrived."
  • We should not overlook the facts just because the media finds them inconvenient.
  • From cop killing and violence at political rallies, to shooting at Congressmen at a practice baseball game, extremists on the left have engaged in terrible acts of violence.
  • The President is taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.
  • The DOJ has opened a civil rights investigation into this weekend's deadly car attack.
  • Last Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced it had completed the largest prosecution of white supremacists in the nation's history.
  • Leaders and the media in our country should join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.

At least prominent Republican, U.S. Sen. John McCain, didn't repeat the talking points outlined in the memo. McCain tweeted late Tuesday "there's no moral equivalency between racists & Americans standing up to defy hate & bigotry. The President of the United States should say so."

Mr. Trump was asked at his Tuesday news conference about McCain's earlier comments that Mr. Trump should defend his National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, against attacks by the alt-right. Mr. Trump said "you mean Sen. McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare?"

The reporter pressed on, saying McCain says the "alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville."

Trump doubles down 05:24

"Well, I don't know," Mr. Trump responded. "I can't tell you. I'm sure Sen. McCain must know what he's talking about. But when you say the alt-right, define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead."

Mr. Trump then spun off, describing the "alt-left."

Mr. Trump had been criticized Saturday by Democrats and Republicans alike for his response to the violence in Charlottesville, which left one person dead when a white nationalist allegedly rammed his car into a group of counter-protesters. The president said at the time many sides were at fault. Many prominent Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, had called on Mr. Trump to condemn the rally as domestic terrorism.

On Monday, the president  did specifically decry white supremacists, but then re-lit the firestorm with his Tuesday remarks.

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