Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday that he wants U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to personally investigate the domestic terrorism and civil rights abuses that happened in Charlottesville on Saturday.
Graham, during an unrelated press conference, went further and called upon the U.S. Department of Justice and Homeland Security to see if white supremacy groups are on the rise in the country.
“This is an opportunity for the Trump administration to come down like a hammer on white supremacists and I hope they do,” Graham said at the press conference early Tuesday.
Graham was critical of Trump’s initial statement on Saturday that blamed both sides for the deadly violence between white supremacist groups and counterprotestors that left 19 injured and one person dead. He added Trump’s remarks condemning the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis on Monday were an improvement.
“As I said previously, some of these groups believe they have a friend in Donald Trump. Donald Trump’s job is to dissuade them,” Graham added.
Sessions denounced the Charlottesville incident as an “evil” act of domestic terrorism and announced a federal civil rights investigation on Monday.
“You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America,” Sessions said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Later on Tuesday, Trump pivoted back to his original remarks on Saturday and said there is “blame on both sides” over the Charlottesville violence that was spawned by a “Unite the Right” rally protesting the pending removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“You had a group on one side and the other, and they came at each other with clubs, and it was vicious and horrible. It was a horrible thing to watch,” Trump said. “There is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You have just called them the left, that came violently attacking the other group. You can say what you want. That’s the way it is.”
Former KKK leader David Duke, who endorsed Trump for president, praised Trump in a tweet referencing the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-fascists, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”
Earlier in the week, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster vehemently condemned the deadly violence that rocked Charlottesville and said there was no place for it.
“I think racism, that kind of hatred, that kind of violence is off the scale,” McMaster said. “We have no sympathy and no tolerance for that kind of nonsense and violence and hatred. It’s absurd in this country at this time. It’s absurd.”
UPDATED: Graham sent out a new statement Wednesday morning saying Trump's Tuesday comments are "dividing Americans, not healing them."
“Through his statements yesterday, President Trump took a step backward by again suggesting there is moral equivalency between the white supremacist neo-Nazis and KKK members who attended the Charlottesville rally and people like Ms. Heyer. I, along with many others, do not endorse this moral equivalency," Graham said.