President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he’s willing to condemn white supremacists and encourage militias to refrain from engaging in violence.
The topic was brought up during the presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio, by moderator Chris Wallace, who started by saying Trump had called on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to condemn Antifa—which Biden did—before calling on Trump to condemn “white supremacists and militias.”
“Sure, I’m willing to do that. But I would say that almost everything I would see is from the leftwing, not from the rightwing,” Trump said, adding, “I’m willing to do anything—I want to see peace.”
“Well, then do it sir,” Wallace said.
“Do you want to call them, what do you want to call them? Go ahead, give me a name,” Trump said.
“White supremacists and rightwing militias,” Wallace said, as Democratic presidential nominee Biden said, “the Proud Boys,” referring to an all-male, rightwing group that has clashed with the far-left Antifa in the past.
“The Proud Boys: stand back and stand by, but I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left. Because this is not a rightwing problem, this is a leftwing problem.”
Trump said last month that he doesn’t want his supporters to engage or confront Black Lives Matter protesters, calling on them to leave it to law enforcement. In 2017, he condemned neo-Nazis and white nationalists.
Biden during the debate then interrupted to say, “His own FBI director said that the threat comes from white supremacists, that Antifa is an idea, not an organization.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress on Sept. 17 that Antifa “is a real thing” but claimed that it is “not a group or an organization” but “a movement, or an ideology may be one way of thinking of it.”
“We have any number of properly predicated investigations into what we would describe as violent anarchist extremists and some of those individuals self-identify with Antifa,” he added.
At the same hearing, he said that “within the domestic terrorism bucket, the category as a whole, racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group,” before saying, “And within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that.”
Both Wray and Attorney General William Barr say federal agents are probing Antifa.
Barr has said his agency has evidence that the far-left extremist organization Antifa and other similar groups have been behind the recent riots in order to fuel their own violent agenda.
“I’ve talked to every police chief in every city where there has been major violence and they all have identified Antifa as the ramrod for the violence,” Barr said during a television appearance this month. “They are flying around the country. We know people who are flying around the country. We know where they’re going.”
Trump is planning to designate both Antifa and the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group, as terrorist organizations.
Antifa members have been part of ongoing unrest in Portland, Seattle, and New York City, among other cities and towns.
Wallace asked Biden whether he’d spoken to the leaders of those cities or states, who are Democrats that have refused federal assistance, and said, “Hey, you got to stop this, bring in the National Guard, do whatever it takes.”
“I don’t hold public office now. I am a former vice president. I’ve made it clear, I’ve made it clear in my public statements that the violence should be prosecuted. It should be prosecuted,” he said.
Wallace clarified that Biden has never called on the leaders in Portland or Oregon, for instance, to accept National Guard help.
“They can, in fact, take care of it, if he’d just stay out of the way,” Biden claimed, referring to Trump.