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What Trump Should Have Said About Charlottesville

What Trump Should Have Said About Charlottesville
President Donald Trump waves from his motorcade vehicle after departing Trump Tower on August 16, 2017, in New York City. Trump is traveling to Bedminster, New Jersey as fallout continues from his comments on the violence in Charlottesville. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Thursday, 17 August 2017 11:06 AM Current | Bio | Archive

The now iconic photograph of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, head bowed, arms folded, in front of a blue curtain in the lobby of Trump Tower will be an enduring and indelible image difficult to shake.

I served as a Special Assistant to an FBI Assistant Director; the position was a de facto Chief of Staff. I know the burdens and the responsibilities that come with having the ear of the man in charge. I was blessed that he sought my counsel and considered all angles I presented him with in his decision-making. That man was not Donald J. Trump.

I have to believe that the professional relationship I shared with a senior FBI executive is not comparable to the one General Kelly shares with the current Commander-in-Chief. Reports have leaked out that Kelly and other top aides were caught unawares that on day four of the crisis, begun with his ill-advised remarks in the immediate aftermath of the Charlottesville violence, the president would insolently choose to slowly peel the bandage off the country’s still festering wounds.

Our country has been riven by the president’s response to the white nationalists' and neo-Nazis' hate rally and the brazen murder of a counter-protestor. With such impulsivity and impetuosity at the helm of our nation, who can accurately predict what tomorrow, or the next unexpected microphone or Twitter moment portends?

But it shouldn’t have transpired like this. Trump was scheduled to make a statement about infrastructure initiatives and take some questions from reporters. The spectacle of his meltdown and course reversal from the prepared statement on Monday was stark and a sad sight to behold.

So, let’s imagine this:

The president strides to the microphone in front of the elevator bank at Trump Tower and gives a short off-the-cuff statement on the health and recovery of the hospitalized victims in Charlottesville, briefly describes a telephone conversation he had with Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, who was murdered by the fascist motorist, and expresses his hopes that our country can continue to heal and unify.

Question from CNN reporter: “Sir, what say you about those who are equating the actions of the counter-protestors to the hate groups who descended on Charlottesville?”

President Trump: “There is no moral equivalency between groups predicated on hatred, racial supremacy, anti-Semitism, and fascism and those who stood up to confront them. With that in mind, we condemn violence from any group. So if counter-protestors or members of Antifa are found guilty of violence, we will allow justice to run its course. I have no tolerance for violence or threats from any group. That’s not how we comport ourselves in a democracy. But let’s make sure to draw a clear distinction between those who are associated with repugnant ideas, spewing vile and inflammatory rhetoric, and those committed to confront the same. That’s why we’re indebted to the Greatest Generation. That’s exactly what they did when they stormed the beaches at Normandy to confront the withering bullets and the immoral values of a fascist like Hitler. The hatred on full display in Virginia is not who we are as a nation. Period. Full stop. Next question.”

Follow-up question from same reporter: “And, Mr. President, what is your position on the removal of Confederate statues and symbols taking place in parts of the country in the wake of Charlottesville?”

President Trump: “We will not allow the destruction of monuments or the desecration of structures on public property. The police in those jurisdictions will not be encouraged to stand by and allow folks to ‘act out.’ There is a process we follow to make changes in America. These are issues that should be left to local legislatures to sort out, debate, and determine action on. Good people of dissenting opinions can vigorously debate these issues. But violence and anarchy should never be what we resort to when there are other, better means to effect change. Thank you.”

Imagine if events had happened the way that they were just described.


James A. Gagliano is a 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Following his service as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, he entered the FBI, serving in a myriad of positions in the investigative, tactical resolution (SWAT), undercover, diplomatic and executive management realms. He was a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and has posted to assignments in Afghanistan, Mexico City, and parts of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He retired in December of 2015 from the FBI’s New York City Office. He currently serves as a Law Enforcement Analyst for CNN, provides Leadership consultation for corporate clients of the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at his alma mater, and instructs undergraduates at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, where he earned an M.P.S. in Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Leadership in 2016. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The now iconic photograph of White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, head bowed, arms folded, in front of a blue curtain in the lobby of Trump Tower will be an enduring and indelible image difficult to shake.
trump, john kelly, charlottesville
Thursday, 17 August 2017 11:06 AM
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