(CNSNews.com) - President Donald Trump said Tuesday that there was "blame on both sides" of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., and that not all the people who were there over the weekend to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee were white nationalists or neo-Nazis.
"I will tell you something. I watched those very closely -- much more closely than you people watched it, and you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I'll say it right now," he said.
"You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in, without a permit, and they were very, very violent," Trump said, referring to Black Lives Matter and Antifa counter-protesters.
The president's comments come a day after he specifically condemned the white nationalists and neo-Nazis who took part in demonstrations in Charlottesville. After making an announcement about plans to reform the infrastructure permitting process in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, Trump took questions.
A reporter asked him why some CEOs have chosen to leave his manufacturing council.
"Because they're not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people you're talking about, they're outside of the country. They're having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck as an example … Take a look at where their product is made. It's made outside of our country," he said.
"Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they're leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside, and I've been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you're referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country," the president said.
"You can't do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That's what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit," Trump said.
The president was referring to Merck CEO Ken Frazier, who resigned over the president's response to the violence in Charlottesville, specifically his failure at first to condemn white supremacists. Frazier's resignation was followed by the resignations of the CEOs of Intel Corporation and Under Armour.
When asked whether he thinks what he called the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis, Trump said, "Those people -- all of those people --excuse me, I've condemned neo-Nazis. I've condemned many different groups, but not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue of Robert E. Lee."
Asked to clarify whether he's calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane, the president said, "I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this: You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs -- and it was vicious and it was horrible, and it was a horrible thing to watch, but there is another side.
"There was a group on this side. You can call them the left -- you just called them the left -- that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is," he added.
"Yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. If you look at both sides -- I think there’s blame on both sides, and I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either," Trump said.
The president later compared George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to Robert E. Lee, saying, "George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status?
"Excuse me, are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?" he asked. "Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue?"
Trump said there were people mixed in with both the protesters and counter-protesters who were "fine people," but there were also "troublemakers."
"And you had people -- and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists -- because they should be condemned totally, but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly," he said.
"Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers, and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets, and with the baseball bats. You had a lot of bad people in the other group," Trump added.
When asked whether the driver of the car charged with killing Heather Heyer, committed domestic terrorism, the president said, "Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family, and this country, and that is -- you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want.
"I would just call it as 'the fastest one to come up with a good verdict.' That's what I'd call it, because there is a question: Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer, and what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing," Trump said.