Aides of U.S. President Donald Trump were baffled by the off script press conference the president gave in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, sources in and around the White House told NBC News on Wednesday.
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Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Trump doubled down on previous remarks and drew a moral equivalance between white nationalist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia and counterprotesters who were attacked.
Responding to a question about Senator John McCain's condemnation of the so-called "alt-right" for its role in the violent rally, Trump said: "What about alt-left? Do they have any semblance of guilt?"
According to insiders, Trump's aides and staff were "confused and frustrated" by the president's choice to defend his initial comments blaming "many sides" for the violence – remarks for which Trump has received widespread criticism.
The initial plan for the president's appearance at Trump Tower, insiders said, according to the report, had been entirely different: After mentioning an executive order he had just signed on infrastructure, Trump would leave and let aides handle any questions.
Instead, however, Trump "went rogue," a senior White House official was quoted as saying, leaving White House Chief of Staff John Kelly staring at the floor and several cabinet officials and an economic advisers standing "silently next to the president," the report said.
Trump has been widely lambasted for the statements he made on Tuesday as well as his initial response to Saturday's violence in Charlottesville, in which Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a man plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence – on many sides, on many sides," Trump had said.
A day later, on Monday, Trump released a new statement in which he said that "racism is evil," and that the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists and other hate groups were "repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."