Trump furious over military ban on Confederate flags, report says

Trump said in tweet that Senate Armed Services chairman said bases would not be renamed

Graig Graziosi
Friday 24 July 2020 22:18 BST
Trump says Confederate flag is 'not talking about racism'

Donald Trump was allegedly furious of Secretary of Defence Mark Esper's decision to ban the Confederate flag from being flown on US military bases, according to anonymous sources who claim knowledge of his reaction.

The sources spoke to CNN and said the president — who has not publicly denounced the use of Confederate flags — said Mr Trump was angered by Mr Esper's move.

A White House official told CNN was told their story was incorrect.

"Your story is inaccurate. When the matter was raised to the president, he was not angry," the source said.

Asked about whether he thought the flag was an offensive symbol during a Fox News interview last Sunday, Mr Trump defended its use as a symbol for southern pride.

"It depends on who you're talking about, when you're talking about," Mr Trump said. "When people proudly had their Confederate flags they're not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the South. They like the South ... I say it's freedom of many things, but it's freedom of speech."

The flag often referred to as "the Confederate flag" — though not the official flag of the Confederacy — was the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, the main military force of the Confederacy. It is inextricably tied to the US Civil War.

Former Republican Secretary of Defence Colin Powell said the flag does not represent America or Americans and should be left to history.

"It was the Confederate States of America. They were not part of us and this is not the time to keep demonstrating who they were and what they were back then," Mr Powell said. "This is time to move on. Let's get going. We have one flag and only one flag only."

Mr Trump threatened to veto a $740bn national defence authorization bill that included a requirement that all references to the Confederacy or its generals be removed from military bases. Mr Trump's threat to veto was a direct response to the requirement.

The Trump administration called the requirement "part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the Nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct."

Nevertheless, the House passed the legislation with a veto-proof majority and the Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation on Thursday by a count of 86 to 14, which would override Mr Trump's presidential veto.

Under the new legislation, bases named for Confederate generals would be renamed by a commission over the next three years.

Mr Trump claimed Thursday on Twitter that he talked to Senate Armed Services Chairman Senator Jim Inhofe, and claimed the senator said "he will NOT be changing the names of our great Military Bases."

In 2015 — two days after Mr Trump announced his presidency in the wake of the Dylan Roof's racist mass shooting at a historically black church — Mr Trump said the Confederate flag should be resigned to history.

"I think they should put it in the museum and let it go," Mr Trump said in a response to a question about South Carolina flying the flag at its state capitol.

Since then, Mr Trump has grown increasingly defensive of Confederate iconography and its defenders.

He said there were "very fine people" on both sides of the "Unite the Right" march in Charlottesville, where protesters clashed with white nationalists who were defending a Confederate statue. Heather Heyer, a protester, was killed at the event when one of the attendees of the march hit her with a car.

In the wake of the George Floyd protests, demonstrators have torn down several statues honouring the Confederacy, prompting Mr Trump to issue an executive order that punishes those who destroy statues, monuments and memorials owned by the federal government with up to 10 years in prison.

Since the order was passed, guidance within the Department of Homeland Security has made protecting monuments a priority and treats protesters who threaten them as national security threats.

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