US President Donald Trump defends Charlottesville response, threatens shutdown for Mexico wall

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Donald Trump defends Charlottesville response, threatens shutdown for Mexico wall
Donald Trump defends Charlottesville response, threatens shutdown for Mexico wall

Washington : US President Donald Trump has defended his white supremacist response to the Charlottesville violence -- omitting that he blamed "many sides" for the clashes -- and also threatened to shut down the government, if necessary, to built a wall along the Mexico border.

Trump, stung by days of criticism that he sowed racial division in the country after the Charlottesville violence, told supporters at a "Make America Great Again" rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday that he strongly condemned "neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK", CNN reported. 

Vice President Mike Pence and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson also attended the rally.

During the 80-minute speech, Trump also took aim at the media and blamed them for giving far right groups "a platform". He said the media misrepresented what he insisted was his prompt, unequivocal condemnation of bigotry and hatred.

Trump held media responsible for deepening divisions in the country, the New York Times reported. 

In retelling his remarks on the August 12 violence that left one woman dead, Trump omitted his reference to "many sides" in his first response to the clashes, and also his reference to "both sides" -- both seen as equating neo-Nazis with counter-protesters.

"What happened in Charlottesville strikes at the core of America. And tonight, this entire arena stands united against the thugs who perpetrate hatred and violence," Trump said.

"I hit 'em with neo-Nazi, I hit 'em with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got 'em all," Trump said sardonically of his rebuke to Charlottesville racists, after being faulted for failing to condemn those groups in his initial response on the day of the clashes.

Talking about the Mexico wall, the President threatened to shut down the federal government if his proposal to build the wall is not approved and funded by the lawmakers.

"Build that wall. Now the obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," Trump said. 

He also predicted an end for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada following a round of renegotiations last week. 

"(...) I must be honest (...) Personally, I don't think we can make a deal because we have been so badly taken advantage of," Trump said.

The President also hinted that he could pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who became a national symbol of the crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Thousands from across Arizona flocked to Phoenix Convention Centre to protest the rally. Democrats including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton lambasted Trump for even visiting the state. Police officers used tear gas to manage the protestors.

Anti-Trump protestors put up an inflatable Trump -- in a white robe with a Nazi symbol -- and a giant sign that read "white supremacy will not be pardoned". Two people were arrested for aggravated assault and one person was arrested for criminal damage, reports said.