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Trump Economic Adviser Rips President’s Response to Charlottesville

FILE - Chief White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, left, accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, speaks in the briefing room of the White House, in Washington, April 26, 2017.

A top economic adviser in the Trump administration has blasted the president’s response to the tragedy in Charlottesville, and said he faced immense pressure to quit President Donald Trump’s team.

Chief White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said in an interview with the Financial Times published Friday that the Trump administration “must do better” to condemn white supremacist groups after violence broke out at a rally in the Virginia city earlier this month.

“This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities,” Cohn said.

Trump received heavy criticism for what was seen as his reluctance to assign blame for the incidents in Charlottesville – especially for his assertion that "both sides" bore responsibility.

The president has contended there were people fomenting violence on both sides of the stand-off in Charlottesville, which saw members of the white supremacist groups violently engaging with counter-protesters.

Members of both the white supremacist groups and the counter-protest groups could be seen wielding weapons and defensive tools. Several large brawls broke out between the two sides throughout the duration of the rally. One woman was killed and at least 19 others were injured when a car rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters. The police chief in Charlottesville said there were “mutually combating individuals in the crowd” when fighting broke.

A counter protester yells at white supremacists during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017.
A counter protester yells at white supremacists during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017.

Cohn characterized the counter-protesters as “citizens standing up for equality and freedom,” and said they “can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK.”

The president has said on several occasions that he condemns white-supremacist groups and believes all racist sentiment is "evil," but his own recounting of his words has omitted controversial phrases that aroused the most opposition - that "both sides" were responsible, or, as he said a day after the fatal car attack, that "many sides" were involved.

Cohn said he chose not to leave his position within the White House because he felt a duty to “fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people.”

“I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position,” he said.