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“Of course it was terrorism”: National Security Adviser McMaster on Charlottesville fury

On NBC’s Meet the Press, H.R. McMaster called the violence “heartbreaking.”

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders Holds Daily Press Briefing At The White House Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster just called the racist, deadly violence in Charlottesville heartbreaking — and an act of terrorism.

Speaking on NBC’s Sunday morning show Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, Gen. McMaster used language far stronger than that of President Donald Trump, who on Saturday lamented violence from "both sides" of the protests.

“I think what terrorism is, is the use of violence to incite terror and fear. And, of course, it was terrorism,” McMaster said. He appears to be the highest-ranking official yet in the administration to label recent events in Charlottesville as terrorism.

Todd first asked the general why the president hadn’t singled out neo-Nazis and white supremacists in his condemnation of the weekend’s deadly violence.

McMaster first returned to the president’s comments. Trump, he said, “condemned bigotry and hatred on all sides, that includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis and I think it’s clear — I know it’s clear in his mind — and it ought to be clear to all Americans, we cannot tolerate obviously that bigotry, that hatred that is rooted in ignorance, ignorance of what American stands for, what America is.”

The conversation continued from there:

CHUCK TODD: Should we expect to hear instead of from you, from him, some of those words?

LT. GEN. H.R. McMASTER: I’m sure you will hear from the president more about this. I mean, this is important to the president to bring all Americans together. He said what we all have to be is all of us have to be Americans first. And that’s our common identity as Americans, grounded in our commitment to liberty, to human rights, to equal rights, and to tolerance — tolerance over this kind of hatred and bigotry.

TODD: When you watched all of this yesterday, what was your reaction?

McMASTER: It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking. You know, as a soldier, what you see in our military is you see men and women from all walks of life, all different backgrounds, come together, come together in their common commitment to their country and to each other. And then you see them in combat fighting courageously for our nation and our values. Everybody bleeds the same color. And we’re bound together as soldiers, when we ought to be as a nation, bound together by mutual respect and common commitment to our values.

TODD: Was that domestic terrorism yesterday?

McMASTER: I think what terrorism is, is the use of violence to incite terror and fear. And, of course, it was terrorism.

TODD: So you do classify that as terrorism?

McMASTER: Well, and from a legal sense—

TODD: —I understand that.

McMASTER: —there will be a full investigation, as you know, but certainly I think we can confidently call it a form of terrorism.

Todd went on to push McMaster on his relationship to Steve Bannon, and asked whether it’s possible to work with Bannon. McMaster dodged the question.