Columbia, SC (WLTX) - U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says he's hoping the Trump Administration takes a hard stand against white supremacists in the coming months, calling the groups that traffic in that ideology "domestic terrorists"
News19 asked the South Carolina Republican Tuesday about his thoughts on this weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, when white nationalists came to the city to protest the removal of a Confederate monument. That led to violent clashes with counter-protesters that ended when police say a man affiliated with the white nationalists drove a car into a group of people, killing one woman.
Related coverage: Man charged with killing woman at protest identified
That day, President Donald Trump issued a statement that did not mention any of the hate groups that had gone to the rally specifically, and said the violence was a problem on "both sides." Some criticized the remark for not calling out the hate groups.
"It was an opportunity missed by President Trump," Graham said. "It was an opportunity for every American to jump on the hate with both feet. It was an opportunity to call the KKK and neo-Nazis what they are, domestic terrorists and losers in every since of the word."
Trump made a statement from the White House Monday, however, where he condemned the groups by name, and called them "thugs." He also announced that the Justice Department would conduct a civil rights probe into the incident.
"I think his word choices early on were inappropriate," Graham said. "I like what he said [Monday], and as I said previously, some of these groups believe they have a friend in Donald Trump. Donald Trump's job is to dissuade them that he is not their friend."
"What he said [Monday] was very strong and very good, but it needs to be followed up with action. I hope that Attorney General [Jeff] Sessions will go to Virginia and personally handle domestic terrorism investigations, civil rights abuses by the KKK and neo-Nazis who took this young woman's life. I hope that the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice will form a task force and report back to the Congress, [asking] 'are these groups growing? What kind of threat do they present to our citizens, and what can we in Congress do?"
"This is an opportunity for the Trump Administration to come down like a hammer on white supremacists and I hope they do. I live in a state, 31 percent of our state is African-American, we have a fair share of problems, we're still challenged here at home but we've come a very long way. My colleague Tim Scott is the only serving African-American Republican in the United States Senate. I am so proud of Tim. At the end of the day, America is changing and South Carolina is changing for the better. Don't let these people drag us back into the darkness."
© 2017 WLTX-TV