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Prominent Republicans distance themselves from Trump's tepid response to Charlottesville violence

 (Ryan M. Kelly / Associated Press)
(Ryan M. Kelly / Associated Press)

Republican elected officials, who increasingly have been putting distance between themselves and President Trump, jumped quickly away from him Saturday after his equivocating response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Some, including Sen. Cory Gardner, who heads the Republican effort to elect senators in next year's midterm election, repudiated Trump directly, criticizing him for not condemning the white supremacist groups that marched in the Virginia college town Friday and Saturday. 

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also critiqued Trump for not directly labeling as a terrorist attack Saturday's assault by a car, in which at least one person was killed and roughly 20 injured. 

Others did not mention Trump directly but did condemn the marchers, many of whom carried Nazi flags and similar regalia.

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the senior Republican in the Senate, remembered his brother, who died fighting in World War II.


Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada issued a statement in which "condemn[ed] the outrageous racism, hatred and violence. It's unacceptable & shameful. No room for it in this country."

Several Republican senators referred to the violence as a case of "domestic terrorism."

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who has been a favorite of Republican conservatives, issued a statement in which he called on the Justice Department to "immediately investigate and prosecute today's grotesque act of domestic terrorism."

Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Rob Portman of Ohio made similar references.


"White supremacy is a scourge," wrote House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). "This hate and its terrorism must be confronted and defeated."

But the reaction was different among Republicans from the South, where a sizable percentage of GOP voters support keeping the sort of Confederate monuments that the white supremacist groups rallied in Charlottesville to protect.

For example, Sen. Luther Strange of Alabama, who faces a close primary election on Tuesday and has been fending off attacks from his right, stuck close to Trump.

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