US Treasury chief defends Trump after criticism by classmates

AFP , Sunday 20 Aug 2017

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday defended President Donald Trump's response to bloodshed following a rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, rejecting calls from former Yale classmates that he resign from the administration in protest.

A group of 359 people from Mnuchin's 1985 class at the Ivy League university had signed an open letter posted Friday, saying it was his "moral obligation to resign... because President Trump has declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans, as men and women of Yale, and as decent human beings."

Mnuchin responded Saturday that he "strongly" condemned those "filled with hate and with the intent to harm others."

"While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the President, I feel compelled to let you know that the President in no way, shape or form, believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways," Mnuchin, who is Jewish, said in a statement.

"I don't believe the accusations against the President are accurate and I believe that having highly talented men and women in our country surrounding the President in his administration should be reassuring to you and all the Americas people."

"As long as I am Treasury Secretary I will do the best job I can for the American people and provide the best advice I can to the President."

On August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, a 20-year-old suspected Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.

At a press conference Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, the president -- flanked by Mnuchin -- said "there was blame on both sides" following the rally by white supremacists and neo-Nazis that was met by counter-protesters.

Trump has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike, and his remarks spurred several CEOs to resign from White House business advisory panels. In the end Trump dissolved two of them altogether.

On Saturday, 40,000 anti-racism protesters flooded the streets of Boston, dwarfing several dozen supporters of far-right groups that had planned a "free speech" rally.

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