Jeff Sessions says Charlottesville car attack 'could be a hate crime'

Attorney General says federal charges don't have to be brought 'immediately' because the investigation is ongoing 

Jeff Sessions: The Charlottesville car attack could be a "hate crime"

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the attack on counter-protesters at a neo-Nazis rally in Charlottesville "could be considered a hate crime".

Mr Sessions said federal authorities were waiting for more details from the investigation before filing charges over the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer who was killed when a car ploughed into a group of anti-fascist protesters at the white supremacist event last week.

Yet there are no firm indications as to what the charges might be, he said.

Speaking to NBC News, Mr Sessions said: "It very well could be a civil rights violation or a hate crime, and there might be other charges that could be brought."

Charlottesville police have charged 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr of Maumee, Ohio, with second-degree murder after he allegedly drove his car into the group of counter-protesters killing Ms Heyer and injuring up to 20 people.

But the federal government has not yet brought charges against Mr Fields.

Asked whether the federal government was close to bring charges, Mr Sessions said "it didn't have to be done immediately" because the investigation was ongoing.

"We can bring charges whenever the investigation justifies them. I don't feel like we should feel like we have to do it in a matter of hours or even days," he said.

But Mr Sessions said he and his team were working "intensely on the assumption that we may well might want to prosecute him".

He said: "We're also working with the state and local authorities who clearly have jurisdiction too. And often they're the ones that have the best charges.

"Our people we'll work with the state and locals, in a collaborative wat, and decide together what the best charge will be. And you can be sure it will be fully investigated and thoroughly prosecuted."

On Monday, Mr Sessions vigorously defended Donald Trump's response to the deadly protests after the US President faced widespread criticism for not singling out neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the KKK in his condemnation of the violence during the rally.

Mr Sessions, a Republican, said President Trump "clearly denounced" the violence and that "he totally opposes" the values of white supremacist groups.

Mr Trump had initially sought to say there had been wrong on “all sides”, but under intense pressure from within his own party and without, he then issued a statement in which he said racism was evil and denounced white supremacy and neo-Nazism.

Questioned on Tuesday about his slow-paced response to the incident, Mr Trump defended his first response to last week's protests by insisting "there are two sides to every story" and accusing the counter-protesters of being "also very violent".

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