Trump ‘continues his instinct’ to stoke racism, frustrating some White House aides

WASHINGTON – Some White House officials privately express their frustration at President Trump’s recent acceptance of a message that fuels racial and cultural divisions.

Trump’s allies are telling him that he has a better argument to make and focus on his achievements in office and offer strong criticism to his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, said two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity frankly discussed matters. private. conversations

But Trump, four months after confronting voters in his bid for reelection and following Biden in the polls, “goes with his instincts” and “depends on instinct,” the two officials said. Rather than touting victories, Trump chose to focus on the national debate on race and support supporters who see themselves as unfairly exposed victims as racists in the renewed national discussion of discrimination targeting minorities.

“Cultural issues are always going to be with us, and the president is encouraged by them,” said a White House official. “While we don’t want to get into divisive problems, we do want to support American history.”

Trump has heard from some political allies encouraging him to adopt a divisive tone that is likely to further inflame the civic unrest that has been seen across the country in the past month and lead to political victories by rallying his supporters.

But other aides have pushed him to moderate his rhetoric.

A second White House official said Trump is making a mistake by fanning racial divisions and continuing to revive the kind of complaints he also aired in 2016, when he fueled racial animosity against immigrants. This official says that the president’s attack lines no longer have the same resonance that they had four years ago.

After a bad month of June, some attendees expected Trump to reestablish himself politically in July.

“After July 4th he must be a pivot. We have a short period in which we have to stay on the message, “said one of the White House officials.” Can we stay away from the third lane of politics, including racial and divisive issues? “

But both officials acknowledged that the president believes divisive rhetoric helped him win the White House and that he could do it again. And two officials said they are largely avoiding political advice from changing their message because they blame the coronavirus pandemic and their campaign strategy, and not their own approach, for their fall in the polls.

As a result, he is harnessing more deeply the perceived anger and resentment of his white followers.

The president, for example, went from obliquely describing an effort to tear down Confederate statues as an assault on “our heritage” during his campaign rally in Oklahoma last month to defend the Confederate flag and attack NASCAR’s only black driver on Monday. full time on Monday. Twitter.

Some of the president’s allies fear he is out of tune with public sentiment during this time of national trial on racial justice, even if they agree he has a case to make demonizing historical figures like George Washington go too far. .

The president “feels the victimization that many Americans feel” in scenarios where they are considered racist if they don’t denounce the Confederate flag, one of the officials said.