WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's national security adviser on Sunday minced no words and clearly labeled Saturday's deadly car attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, as terrorism.
"Certainly I think we can confidently call it a form of terrorism," the adviser, Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster, said on NBC's "Meet The Press."
"What terrorism is is the use of violence to incite terror and fear, and of course it was terrorism."
McMaster's words went further than Trump's did on Saturday, when Trump was widely criticized by members of both parties for placing blame on "many sides" for violence that was sparked by a white nationalist rally and for not specifically naming and condemning the racist groups involved.
McMaster said the president intended to denounce the racists.
"He condemned hatred and bigotry on all sides, and that includes white supremacists and neo-Nazis," McMaster said. "I think it's clear — I know it's clear in his mind and ought to be clear to all Americans: We cannot tolerate, obviously, that bigotry, that hatred that is rooted in ignorance, ignorance of what America stands for, what America is."
But McMaster also offered very vague answers when asked more than once whether he can work with Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon, since considerable friction between the two advisers has seeped into the public.
"I am ready to work with anybody who will help advance the president's agenda and advance the security, prosperity of the American people," McMaster answered.
Asked whether Bannon is someone who does that, McMaster didn't specifically answer. Instead, he replied, "I believe everyone who works in the White House, who has the privilege, the great privilege every day of serving their nation, should be motivated by that goal."
Later on "Meet The Press," Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, assessed McMaster's language.
"He used Washington-speak three times to basically answer your question: 'No, I cannot work with Steve Bannon,'" Lowry told host Chuck Todd.
McMaster also said Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant for the president who frequently appears on television to speak about national security issues, "is not in the National Security Council."
McMaster indicated that if Gorka represents himself as a spokesman on national security, he wasn't involved. "The scheduling people for the media and spokespeople is not my area of responsibility," he said.
McMaster also rebutted an assertion that Gorka made to BBC Radio on Thursday, when Gorka called it "nonsensical" for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to discuss military matters.
"We should always take Secretary of State Tillerson at his word," McMaster said. "He is a tremendously talented leader and diplomat."