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Speaker Paul Ryan on Charlottesville: 'There are no sides'

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan kept a noticeably low profile in the aftermath of President Trump's equivocating response to the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. On Monday he spoke up with more force.

In amplifying his views — and implicitly upbraiding the president — Ryan anticipated what is likely to be a top question during his nationally televised appearance Monday night, in a CNN town-hall-style broadcast immediately after Trump's address to the nation on the Afghanistan policy.

"We all need to make clear there is no moral relativism when it comes to neo-Nazis. We cannot allow the slightest ambiguity on such a fundamental question," Ryan wrote on Facebook.

"The immediate condemnations from left, right and center affirmed that there is no confusion about right and wrong here. There are no sides. There is no other argument. We will not tolerate this hateful ideology in our society."

Republicans are coming under continued scrutiny for their own responses after Trump blamed "both sides" for the violence in Charlottesville — the neo-Nazis who rallied there and the counterprotesters opposing them — after one of the counterprotesters was killed in a car attack by an alleged white supremacist.

Ryan, like many Republicans, still did not directly criticize Trump by name. But his latest remarks more clearly implied criticism of the president's rhetoric than last week's reaction, before the onslaught of opprobrium of Trump.

"White supremacy is repulsive," Ryan said last week. "This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity."

Republicans in Congress continue to calculate the best way to interact with Trump and respond to him, especially as lawmakers begin their 2018 reelection campaigns without having achieved many of their biggest legislative promises, including repealing the Affordable Care Act or enacting tax reform.

Ryan, who has been trying to push ahead to tax reform this fall, after the failure of the Obamacare repeal, wrote that he was camping with his family last weekend when the white supremacist groups descended on Charlottesville, a quiet college town that is home to the University of Virginia. 

"I felt the range of emotions that so many of us did. Anger, bewilderment, sadness," the speaker wrote.

Republicans had hoped in the final weeks of the congressional recess to begin laying the groundwork for their legislative efforts this fall, with Ryan's CNN appearance part of the campaign for public support. But Ryan was upstaged by Trump's plans, announced Sunday, for the Afghanistan address. 

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