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After massacre, Trump downplays white nationalism threat
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After massacre, Trump downplays white nationalism threat

After massacre, Trump downplays white nationalism threat
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, March 15, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

After massacre, Trump downplays white nationalism threat

President Donald Trump played down any threat posed by racist white nationalism on Friday after the gunman accused of the New Zealand mosque massacre called the president "a symbol of renewed white identity."

Trump, whose own previous responses to the movement have drawn scrutiny, expressed sympathy for the victims who died at "places of worship turned into scenes of evil killing." But he declined to join expressions of mounting concern about white nationalism, saying "I don't, really" when asked whether he thought it was a rising threat around the world.

"I think it's a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess," Trump said. "If you look at what happened in New Zealand, perhaps that's the case. I don't know enough about it yet. But it's certainly a terrible thing."

Trump was asked about white nationalism and the shooting deaths of 49 people at mosques in Christchurch after he formally vetoed Congress' resolution to block his declaration of a national emergency at the Mexico border. His veto, aimed at freeing money to build more miles of a border wall against illegal immigration, is expected to survive any congressional effort to overturn it.

Questioned about the accused gunman's reference to him, Trump professed ignorance.

"I didn't see it. I didn't see it," he said. "But I think it's a horrible event ... a horrible, disgraceful thing and a horrible act."

The man accused of the shootings, whose name was not immediately released, left behind a lengthy document that outlined his motivations. He proudly stated that he was a 28-year-old Australian white nationalist who hates immigrants and was set off by attacks in Europe that were perpetrated by Muslims. In a single reference, he mentioned the U.S. president.

"Were/are you a supporter of Donald Trump?" was one of the questions he posed to himself. His answer: "As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no."

The White House immediately denounced the connection. But the mention from the suspect, who embraced Nazi imagery and voiced support for fascism, nonetheless cast an uncomfortable light on the way that the president has been embraced by some on the far right.

Trump, who as a candidate proposed a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, has drawn criticism as being slow to condemn white supremacy and related violence. After a 2017 clash between white nationalists and anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one demonstrator dead, Trump said there were "very fine people on both sides" of the confrontation. He also did not immediately reject the support of David Duke, a former KKK Grand Wizard, during his presidential campaign.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., tied Trump's inflammatory language to the violence half a world away.

"Words have consequences like saying we have an invasion on our border and talking about people as though they were different in some fatal way," Blumenthal said on CNN. "I think that the public discourse from the president on down is a factor in some of these actions."

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, who declared his Democratic candidacy for president this week, said, "We must call out this hatred, this Islamophobia, this intolerance, and the violence that predictably follows from the rhetoric that we use."

The White House, in comments before those remarks, rejected any link to Trump.

"It's outrageous to even make that connection between this deranged individual that committed this evil crime to the president who has repeatedly condemned bigotry, racism and made it very clear that this is a terrorist attack," Mercedes Schlapp, the White House's director of strategic communication, told reporters. "We are there to support and stand with the people of New Zealand."

Trump himself telephoned New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, offering condolences, prayers and any help the U.S. might be able to provide. She told reporters she answered, "My message was: to offer sympathy and love to all Muslim communities."

Trump's hardline immigration rhetoric and calls to return America to its traditional past have been embraced by many on the conservative fringes, including some who troll online with racist imagery, as well as white supremacists who have looked to engage in violence.

In Florida, Cesar Sayoc, who had decorated his van with Trump propaganda, was accused of mailing explosives last fall to Democratic Party officials and media members, many of whom had been criticized by the president. The president said Sayoc had been "insane" long before he became a Trump fan.

Last month, a former Coast Guard official was accused of stockpiling weapons in a plot to kill media members and liberal politicians as part of a plan to transform the U.S. into a white ethno-state. It took more than a week for Trump to respond to the plot, which he deemed "a shame."

Many experts who track violent extremists have identified white nationalism as a growing threat in the U.S. and abroad. In January, for example, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League said that domestic extremists killed at least 50 people in the U.S. in 2018, up from 37 in 2017, and said, "White supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings, which is typically the case."

Some critics have accused U.S. authorities of not dedicating adequate resources to stem a threat of domestic terrorism. However, The Washington Post reported last week that internal FBI data showed more domestic terror suspects were arrested last year than those allegedly inspired by international terror groups.

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Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Michael Kunzelman in Washington and Alexandra Jaffe in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, contributed reporting.

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Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

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Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — His first spring he went toe-to-toe with an incumbent starter. His second year he competed with a 5-star signee ranked as the top quarterback in the country. Now a rising junior with 29 games under his belt as Georgia’s quarterback, Jake Fromm said he is entering his third spring with the Bulldogs with the exact same mentality he went into those other two. “It doesn’t change my preparation at all,” said Fromm, speaking with reporters a couple of hours before the Bulldogs took the field for spring practice. “I’m still technically competing for a job. I’m always going to strive to get better. Whether I’m competing against somebody specifically or competing with my self, I’m always going to strive to be the best I can be.” Fromm has faced the highest degree of competition from the moment he walked onto Georgia’s campus as an early enrollee in January of 2017. He played second fiddle to Jacob Eason that first year and then had to beat out Justin Fields in Year 2 even though he’d led the Bulldogs into the national championship game just three months earlier. Now Eason (Washington) and Fields (Ohio State) play for different teams. And the only others in the quarterback meeting room with him are walkon-turned-JUCO-transfer Stetson Bennett, 4-star signee and early enrollee Dwan Mathis and third-year walkon John Seter. The dynamic is decidedly different, but Fromm said his attitude remains the same. “I’m kind of in the role of a slight mentor,” Fromm said of his role. “I’m going to teach those guys things that I’ve learned from experience. Hopefully I can help those guys out, teach them how to communicate how to learn to learn, as far as the playbook. There’s a lot of things going on, a lot of things being thrown at them. I’m there. I’m a shoulder to lean on sometimes. I can’t wait to see those guys go out there and throw the football around.” There have been several other significant changes on offense. The main one is the absence of offensive coordinator and veteran play-caller Jim Chaney. With Chaney’s departure for a significant pay raise at Tennessee, James Coley has been promoted into the role of sole offensive coordinator. Coley, who had been a coordinator at Miami and Florida State previously, was Fromm’s position coach last year while also serving as c0-coordinator. So while much will stay the same, Fromm expects there will be a lot of different as well. And for Fromm, different is good. “For me, I want to learn new things,” Fromm said. “If we changed up the terminology every single year, I wouldn’t be opposed to that, because I like learning. I want to be the best I can at everything. It offers a different twist. It makes me come in every day hungry and on the edge.” So solid is Fromm’s position on the team that coach Kirby Smart spent all of 10 seconds talking about him during his 25-minute spring practice news conference on Tuesday. “Excited about Jake and the growth he’s been able to give us. He’s been a tremendous help with the other two quarterbacks that are here. Obviously, we have a lot of confidence in Jake in our offensive system and his understanding of running the thing.” Yes, at this point Fromm has accumulated quite a body of work. He enters his third spring having completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 5,364 yards with 54 TDs and 13 interceptions. His career efficiency rating finishing fifth in the nation last season at 171..21 is a hardy 166.90. As ever, though, Fromm’s plan is to be even better. To do that, he hopes to improve in the area of mobility and quarterback run while creating even more explosive plays as a passer. No reason at this point to think Fromm won’t make that happen. “I want to make my teammates the best I can, the team the best I can, I want to be successful,” he said. “I want to win a lot of football games, I want to win the SEC Championship, I want to win the national championship, I want to be great. So I’m going to come in and compete and strive to be the best I can be every day.” The post Georgia QB Jake Fromm’s plan: ‘To be great’ and ‘win a national championship’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Alabama football Nick Saban gave no indication he had any issues with Kirby Smart when interviewed by AJC-DawgNation at the CFP press conference in San Jose, Calif., last January. “We certainly have a lot of respect for Kirby and what he’s done at Georgia, and the very difficult games we’ve had playing them the last couple of years,” Saban said in the days leading up to the College Football Playoff Championship Game. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum recently suggested Saban has a strained relationship with Smart, who since leaving his side as Alabama’s defensive coordinator has grown into the biggest threat to dethrone the Tide. Smart was asked if his relationship with Saban was damaged during Georgia’s Tuesday press conference and essentially laughed it off. RELATED: Kirby Smart discusses relationship dynamics with Saban Saban said a lot of people confuse the competitive element with relationships. “It’s really not personal, you still have a certain amount of respect and admiration for them as people, the kind of person they are, the kind of values they have,” Saban said. “You appreciate what they’ve done to help you be successful, and you understand what they are trying to do to be successful, and you have a respect for that, and I don’t think that’s unhealthy in any way shape or form.” Saban used his relationship with Bill Belichick as an example, having worked as an assistant coach under Belichick with the Cleveland Browns en route to facing him from the opposite sideline in the NFL. “We were in the same division and we played two times a year,” said Saban, who coached the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East after Belichick had become the New England Patriots coach. “It’s not personal  …. when you compete against somebody, you want to do the best you can to try to help your team be successful and you respect them because they’re gonna do the same thing for their team.” Saban admits it’s tough to face former assistants who know the ins and outs of his program, but he said that’s part of the coaching business. “No doubt, they get to pick and choose which parts of what we do to utilize,” Saban said. “I did the same thing when I was coming up, whether it was George Perles at Michigan State or Bill Belichick with the Cleveland Browns. “That’s knowledge and experience, and that’s how you gain it.” Alabama football coach Nick Saban The post WATCH: Nick Saban asked about Kirby Smart competition, ‘It’s not personal’ appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart laughed when asked if he and Alabama coach Nick Saban had a strained relationship. “Absolutely not,” Smart said at the Bulldogs’ opening spring football press conference on Tuesday. “I don’t have any issue or any problem with any relationship with Nick. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s done anything but grown with more respect since we played them twice.” Alabama beat Georgia in the College Football Playoff Championship Game two years ago, and again in the SEC Championship Game last December. SEC Network host Paul Finebaum had indicated there were issues between Saban and Smart this offseason. “We have a great relationship,” Smart said of his friendship with Saban. “We’re not texting and calling buddy buddy, but I don’t do that with anybody. “I have a lot of respect for him, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, and there’s no problem with our relationship.” More Georgia football spring 2019 Way-too-early UGA spring football position group rankings  Georgia linebackers: most improved unit? UGA running backs 4 spring football questions 5 questions for UGA spring football, it’s Jake Fromm’s team Does Georgia have championship level Defensive line? Questions 4 questions for Georgia football O-Line 3 pre-spring football questions on Georgia QB situation Kirby Smart provides preview on young receivers  Georgia secondary still best in the SEC? The post Georgia football coach Kirby Smart strongly denies relationship issue with Nick Saban appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Kirby Smart said Georgia redshirt freshman tailback Zamir White will be out for spring drills. “Zamir is coming back, but he won’t be doing spring (drills) other than running on the side,” Smart said on Tuesday, “so he won’t be cleared.” White was injured in August drills playing on special teams while covering a punt. “Any time you have a non-contact ACL, and then you have a second one, you have to be careful,” Smart said. “When that happens, it makes you wonder if the kid can progress as fast as he did last time. “He’s running really well, he’s just not going to be involved in he scrimmage. I probably won’ know until early fall camp. He’s being re-habbing really well.” Smart also said the following players will be out: DL Michail Carter (shoulder surgery) LB Rian Davis, (knee surgery) TE Ryland Goede (knee surgery) RB Prather Hudson (shoulder surgery) DL David Marshall (foot surgery) LB Trezman Marshall (shoulder surgery) DL Julian Rochester (knee surgery) “We’ve also had a few hamstring injuries,” Smart said. Smart added that tailback James Cook has been cleared after suffering a severe ankle injury that required surgery.   The post Georgia football coach Kirby Smart updates injury list, Zamir White appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart elaborated on Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann being promoted to defensive coordinator and co-defensive coordinator at Tuesday’s opening spring football press conference. “I’ve had a lot of confidence in Dan and Glenn, not everyone knows what goes on behind the scenes,” Smart said on Tuesday. “But as head coach you are in all those meetings, and you know how involved Dan and Glenn are, and I have a lot of confidence in those two guys.” Lanning was promoted to defensive coordinator on Feb. 15, some six weeks after Mel Tucker was hired to become Colorado’s new head coach. Smart was conspicuously silent on Lanning’s promotion at the time, later saying it was “probably overrated.” RELATED: Leadership questions arise from Kirby Smart offseason interview Smart explained that he’s in control of all of the units, and that what matters is how the staff works together. “When you sit in the seat that I sit in, we’re responsible for both sides of the ball and special teams,” Smart said on a radio interview with 690 The Fan. “So if you sit in those meetings, obviously it’s important to have good leadership but it’s done by a group of men who do it together.” Lanning received a raise from $325,000 to $750,000 in adding the defensive coordinator title to his inside linebacker coaching duties. RELATED: Dan Lanning a thrifty, promising hire for Kirby Smart Schumann, who will continue to work with the outside linebackers, received a raise from $325,000 to $550,000 to add the co-defensive coordinator title. More Georgia football spring 2019 Way-too-early UGA spring football position group rankings  Georgia linebackers: most improved unit? UGA running backs 4 spring football questions 5 questions for UGA spring football, it’s Jake Fromm’s team Does Georgia have championship level Defensive line? Questions 4 questions for Georgia football O-Line 3 pre-spring football questions on Georgia QB situation Kirby Smart provides preview on young receivers  Georgia secondary still best in the SEC? The post New Georgia DC Dan Lanning getting it done ‘behind the scenes’ appeared first on DawgNation.