Trump condemns KKK, neo-Nazis as ‘thugs’

President Donald Trump says "racism is evil"

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and the weekend’s violence and death in Charlottesville, Virginia (all times local):

12:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is saying that “racism is evil” as he condemns the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists as “criminals and thugs.”

He is speaking in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House after meeting with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI director Christopher Wray about the race-fueled violence Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump has come under fire for his comments Saturday that “many sides” are to blame for the violence. In those remarks, he did not single out white supremacists or any other hate group, even as Republican lawmakers and others in his White House did condemn them by name.

___

11 a.m.

President Donald Trump is back at the White House and ignoring shouted questions about the race-fueled clashes in in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump briefly waved as he walked alone into the building, which is under renovation. He did not respond to loud queries from reporters about whether he condemns white supremacists and whether he condemns the actions of neo-Nazis.

One woman was killed Saturday when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters who’d gathered to oppose a rally by white nationalists and others who oppose a plan to remove from a Charlottesville park of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Trump has said “many sides” are to blame for violence.

The president is in Washington for one day during a working vacation mostly in Bedminster, New Jersey.

___

9:20 a.m.

The CEO of the nation’s third largest pharmaceutical company is resigning from the President’s American Manufacturing Council citing “a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism.”

President Donald Trump lashed out almost immediately Monday at Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier on Twitter, saying Frazier “will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Frazier’s resignation comes shortly after a violent confrontation between white supremacists and protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one person dead and 19 injured. He said in a tweet on Monday that the country’s leaders must “honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy.”

Trump responded to Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville by blaming bigotry on “many sides.” He has not explicitly condemned the white supremacists.

___

9:15 a.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is telling ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, “does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute.”

Sessions said the Justice Department is pursuing the case “in every way.”

He added: “You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America.”

Sessions also says he is meeting with President Donald Trump and officials from the FBI on Monday to discuss the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

___

7:00 a.m.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says “too much has been read into” President Donald Trump’s statement Saturday amid violence at a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, related to the removal of a Confederate monument.

In several television interviews on Monday, Sessions said Trump had “explicitly condemned” violence and that “he totally opposes” the values espoused by white supremacy organizations. Trump referenced violence “on many sides.”

He tells NBC News that Trump ” will be speaking to the people today” although he isn’t sure what Trump will say. Sessions added: “He’s been firm on this from the beginning. He is appalled by this.”

___

3:44 a.m.

As President Donald Trump remained out of sight and silent, pressure mounted from both sides of the aisle for him to explicitly condemn white supremacists and hate groups involved in deadly, race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump, who has been at his New Jersey golf club on a working vacation, was set to make a one-day return to Washington on Monday to sign an executive action on China’s trade practices. But he will likely be unable to escape questions and criticism for his initial response to the Saturday’s violence, for which he blamed bigotry on “many sides.”

The White House tried to stem the damage on Sunday. Senior aides were dispatched to the morning news shows, yet they struggled at times to explain the president’s position. A new White House statement on Sunday explicitly denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups, but it was attributed to an unnamed spokesperson and not the president himself.