Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday morning that the neo-Nazi killing in Charlottesville, Virginia, was domestic terrorism, and that the Justice Department is looking to bring charges against the alleged killer of 32-year-old anti-racism protester Heather Heyer.
“You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought, because this is an unequivocally unacceptable and evil attack that cannot be accepted in America,” Sessions told Good Morning America anchor David Muir.
Sessions appeared on all three major networks Monday morning, emerging as the face of the Trump administration’s response to the Charlottesville killing on Saturday. His comments came in the wake of a botched response from the White House: President Donald Trump equivocated about the attack in Virginia, condemning violence “on all sides” and refusing to single out white supremacists as the source of the chaos. So Sessions singled out neo-Nazis on Trump’s behalf.
“He explicitly condemned the kind of ideology behind these movements of Nazism, white supremacy, the KKK,” Sessions told ABC News. “That is his unequivocal position. He totally opposes those kind of values.”
Sessions also told NBC News the president may make a stronger statement today about white supremacy.
“He will be speaking to the people today,” Sessions said. “I’m not sure what he’ll say, that’s my understanding. And he has been firm on this from the beginning—he is appalled by this.”
The attorney general also told CBS News he was sure Trump will specifically condemn neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the coming days.
“His spokesman said that yesterday, and I’m sure he’ll reiterate that in the days to come,” Sessions said.
The spokesman who criticized white supremacists on the president’s behalf spoke anonymously, which only fuels concerns that the White House is hesitant to condemn white supremacy on the record.
Sessions said Charlottesville was a priority for the Justice Department, and that its “top people” will be there for the investigation.
“There’s no bigger case right now that we’re working on,” he told anchor Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning. “Every resource that’s needed will be dedicated to it.”
Sessions and Trump both frequently draw scorching criticism from civil-rights advocates; during the presidential campaign, white supremacists were spotted at Trump rallies, and he hesitated to condemn the Ku Klux Klan by name. Sessions, meanwhile, faces unrelenting criticism for his support of voter-ID laws and skepticism about federal efforts to reform troubled local police departments.
Despite the fact that the two men are ideological twins, the president spent the last few weeks lambasting Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe. And Monday morning, Sessions staunchly refused to push back against that criticism.
“I believe in his leadership,” the attorney general said. “He has a right to scold his Cabinet members if he’s not happy with them, and he has a right to have people in his Cabinet that he believes will serve his agenda.”
Sessions added that he expects to meet with the president today about Charlottesville.
“He takes it exceedingly seriously,” Sessions said. “And there’s no doubt about it, he opposes the kind of radical, racist bigotry these organizations espouse.”