Trump ‘entirely correct’ to blame both sides for Charlottesville violence, White House says

The White House is circulating talking points to sway conservatives to defend President Trump after his controversial remarks on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The White House told allies Tuesday that President Trump was “entirely correct” to blame “both sides” for the protest violence in Charlottesville, fighting back at critics of his response, Fox News has learned.

A memo of talking points obtained by Fox News stated that during his remarks in the lobby of Trump Tower on Tuesday, the president was “entirely correct – both sides of the violence in Charlottesville acted inappropriately, and bear some responsibility.”

The memo also stated that Trump “with no ambiguity” condemned the hate groups that descended upon Charlottesville for the “Unite the Right” rally, and added the president has been “a voice for unity and calm,” and that he’s “taking swift action to hold violent hate groups accountable.”

It ended by saying both leaders and the media “should join the president in trying to unite and heal our country rather than incite more division.” The memo was distributed to allies of the White House in an effort to try to get conservatives on board to defend Trump.

While speaking to the media Tuesday during what were supposed to be brief remarks without questions from the press, Trump declared that “there is blame on both sides” for the deadly violence that took place on Saturday. He also said “there are two sides to a story.”

Placing blame “on many sides” was Trump’s initial response to Saturday’s events, but two days later, the president specifically condemned the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

After Trump’s reiteration Tuesday that both protesters on the far left and far right were to blame, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke tweeted, “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth.”

White House officials apparently were caught off guard by his remarks Tuesday. Trump had signed off on a plan to not answer questions from journalists during an event touting infrastructure policies, according to a White House official speaking to The Associated Press. Once behind the lectern and facing the cameras, Trump overruled the decision.

Trump’s advisers had hoped Tuesday’s remarks might quell a crush of criticism from Republicans, Democrats and business leaders. But the president’s retorts Tuesday suggested he had been a reluctant participant in that cleanup effort and renewed questions about why he seemed to struggle to unequivocally condemn white nationalists.

Members of his own Republican Party have pressured him to be more vigorous in criticizing bigoted groups, and business leaders have begun abandoning a White House jobs panel in response to his comments.

When asked to explain his Saturday comments about Charlottesville, Trump looked down at his notes and again read a section of his initial statement that denounced bigotry but did not single out white supremacists. He then tucked the paper back into his jacket pocket.

Fox News’ Ed Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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What to know about Mueller’s use of a grand jury in the Russia probe

News broke yesterday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has begun using a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., as part of his investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with associates of President Donald Trump.

But what exactly does a federal grand jury do, and what does it mean that Mueller has started utilizing one in the nation’s capital?

Here’s what you need to know.

How is a grand jury different from a common jury?

Common juries –- the ones often depicted in dramatic movie scenes and TV shows –- are responsible for deciding whether a defendant is guilty of a crime. Grand juries, however, have a different role. They’re generally responsible for deciding whether a defendant should be charged with a crime in the first place.

Grand juries operate in secret, and prosecutors present their case by laying out evidence to support it, including by using in-person witness testimony.

Comprised of between 16 and 23 members of the public, grand juries usually last for 18 months, although that period can be extended under certain circumstances.

In order to indict a defendant on any charges, prosecutors must convince the grand jury that there is “probable cause” to believe a crime was committed.

What kind of authority does a grand jury have?

To help determine whether such “probable cause” exists, grand juries have special authority to take their own investigative steps, which are often guided by prosecutors.

Federal authorities can use grand juries as a tool in their investigations and use their authority to issue subpoenas to demand that uncooperative suspects, witnesses, and companies hand over private documents or testify behind closed doors.

It’s standard-operating procedure for a single grand jury to handle multiple matters over its lifespan. They may indict an alleged drug trafficker on a Monday, and then approve a subpoena for evidence in another case on Wednesday.

In some cases, prosecutors will use a grand jury for the sole purpose of collecting evidence in an investigation even when it’s not yet clear that a crime was likely committed.

Where does the Russia probe fit in?

Earlier this year, federal prosecutors were using a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, to collect evidence in the federal probe of Trump associates and any potential ties they could have to Russian operatives.

But in mid-May, after Mueller became special counsel and started putting together his team, the entire federal probe became based out of an office building in downtown Washington, D.C.

Then, weeks ago, Mueller’s prosecutors began using a federal grand jury that sits in the federal courthouse in Washington, just a few blocks away from their offices.

In certain circumstances, federal authorities might seek to impanel a special grand jury to focus on one specific matter.

There is no indication, however, that Mueller has been using a special grand jury for the Russia probe.

There is also no indication that the grand jury his team is now using in Washington was specifically impaneled for the Russia investigation.

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