White House staffers caught off guard by Trump's contentious news conference

The president assigned blame for last weekend's violence to "both sides."

ByABC News
August 15, 2017, 9:25 PM

— -- Responding to a contentious news conference at Trump Tower Tuesday, some members of White House staff registered surprise over President Donald Trump's decision to field questions and engage in a public debate over his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, sources told ABC News.

Trump defended his initial reaction to the clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters that identified hatred, bigotry and violence "on many sides," saying Tuesday that he thought there was "blame on both sides."

The president additionally questioned the "changing [of] culture" that resulted from the removal of statues of American leaders. The displacement of a monument featuring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee spawned last weekend's protests.

One woman was killed and others were left injured in the clashes after a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters. Police arrested James Alex Fields, 20, and charged him with second-degree murder in the incident.

As Trump faced a second round of criticism over his remarks today, inside the White House, staffers expressed worry about what the president's words would mean for the administration's agenda.

The concern about the consequences was not universal, however. One West Wing staffer dismissed the firestorm over the episode, saying, "Let Trump be Trump."

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