Rep. Al Green (D-TX) grilled witnesses at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing Wednesday on domestic terrorism, seeking to get them to condemn President Donald Trump for saying “very fine people” took part in the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 over a Robert E. Lee monument even if the president’s full remarks make clear he was not referring to white supremacists or neo-Nazis, groups he has roundly and repeatedly condemned.
Green was the last person to question the three Trump officials —Michael McGarrity, assistant director for counterterrorism for the FBI, Brian Murphy, principal deputy undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, and Brad Wiegmann, deputy assistant attorney general, national security division at the Department of Justice.
But instead of asking them about the topic of the hearing, Green tried to manipulate the men into commenting on remarks the president allegedly made about Charlottesville.
Green asked a series of questions and asked them to raise their hand to respond to his inquiries.
“If you are familiar with and I believe you are — I just want to build the record — familiar with the KKK — would you kindly extend a hand into the air. I believe you are,” Green said.
“Let the record reflect that all are,” Green said.
“Are you familiar with their cross burning — they call it cross lighting — if you’re familiar with them I’m sure that you know that they do – would you kindly raise a hand,” Green said. “All hands are in the air for the record.”
The camera panned back and forth between Green and the three witnesses to show them raising their hands.
Green said members of the Ku Klux Klan claim to be Christians and after he asked them about whether they knew that to be true and asked for a show of hands he asked the witnesses about whether the term “Christian terrorism” had been used in the same way as “Islamic terrorism” is used.
“No hands ups,” Green said. “So it has not been widely used. We do know that if a person of the Islamic faith commit an act of terrorism, there’s a commonly used term: Islamic terrorism.”
“Have you heard this term, Islamic terrorism? If so, would you raise your hand please,” Green said. “All have raised their hands.”
After condemning the practice of using “Islamic terrorism” and not “Christian terrorism,” Green moved on to the topic his line of questioning was meant to set up.
“Next point quickly and I’ll tie it all together,” Green said. “If I said there were some very fine people among the bigots, the racists, the Klansman in Charlottesville. There [were] some very fine people among them. Would that be an appropriate thing for a member of Congress to say? If you think so, raise your hand,” Green said. “Let the record reflect that no one has raised a hand.”
“So if the president says some very fine people among those who were preaching ‘Jews will not replace us,’ ‘blood and soil,’” Green said. “The president says it. Is it appropriate for the president to say such a thing? If you think that it is not appropriate, raise your hand.”
“You think it’s not appropriate for the president to say what you just said would be inappropriate for a member of Congress to say?” Green asked. “If you think it’s not appropriate for the president to say, ‘There [were] some fine people among those folk in Charlottesville where a person lost her life raise your hand.”
“You think it’s inappropriate for the president to say it raise your hand,” Green asked again.
When Murphy attempted to answer, Green cut him off.
“So you had no problem saying that members of Congress should not use such language but you refuse to acknowledge that the president should not use such language?” Green repeated.
“I would say for me personally, I don’t think it’s …. my place as a career government official to comment on either members of Congress or the president,” Wiegmann said.
“Well, you already did,” Green said. “It’s too late now. You already said it was inappropriate for Congress but when it gets to the president ….”
“I don’t think I commented one way or the other,” Wiegmann said.
“No, no, you did. You’re on the record. You raised your hand. You’re on the record,” Green said.
Green, who has been calling from the impeachment of the president almost since the day he took office, used his privilege of serving on the committee to repeat the discredited claim that Trump expressed support for white supremacists and neo-Nazis following the Charlottesville riot.
Breitbart News reported that Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Joel Pollak dismantled the lie that President Donald Trump described white supremacists and neo-Nazis as “very fine people” in an introductory monologue on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with co-host Rebecca Mansour in March.
Pollack said the media’s false reporting on what Trump said is just one of many fake news stories it has put forth to criticize the president.
“At the top of that list — which to our media supposedly proves that Donald Trump is a racist — is the claim that he referred to neo-Nazis and white supremacists at the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests in August of 2017 as ‘very fine people, Those of you listening to this broadcast might actually believe he said that, and you can be forgiven for believing that because it has been drummed into our heads, collectively, by the mainstream media, and particularly CNN.”
“Donald Trump was not talking about those people [when he said very fine people]. In fact, Donald Trump specifically excluded those people from the people he was talking about as ‘very fine people.’ This lie has been repeated over and over again on CNN and it is a lie that intends to demonstrate to us that the president thinks white supremacists and neo-Nazis are good people., and that proves he’s a racist, proves he’s responsible for the violence in New Zealand and everywhere else. That is the purpose for which this lie is used as CNN keeps returning to it over and over again, and it’s spreading to other places.”
“I want to play to you what Trump actually said, because what you’re going to hear is he was talking about protesters around the issue of the removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, and you’re also going to hear him say that the neo-Nazis and white supremacists are not the people he’s talking about when he says ‘very fine people.’ You’re going to want to hear this. You may not have heard it before. You may not remember it, because you’ve heard the fake version. The deceptively edited version so many times. But this is the actual clip of Donald Trump on that day, August 15, 2017, talking about ‘very fine people’:
You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. … You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, — to them — a very, very important statute and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name. George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statutes to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think about Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him? Are we going to take down his statute? Because he was a major slave-owner. Now are we going to take down his statute? You’re changing history. You’re changing culture, 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.
But Green must not have been listening to Trump’s press conference following the tragedy in Charlottesville. And at the hearing, he ended his bizarre line of questioning by claiming that Trump should be held to the same standards as everyone else, including Congress.
“If you can’t uphold the same standard, you’re doing your country a disservice my friends,” Green concluded.
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