The monuments have been coming down in light of violence that occurred at a white nationalist rally held last weekend, ostensibly to protest the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Trump wrote in a series of Twitter posts, "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You … can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also … the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"
During Saturday’s "Unite the Right" rally at the University of Virginia, groups of far-right extremists clashed with leftist counter-protesters from Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist, anti-fascist groups. The violence resulted in one fatality, when 32-year-old Heather Heyer died after white nationalist James Fields rammed his car into a group of unsuspecting counter-protesters.
The violence prompted a number of state officials to remove Confederate statues or call for their removal. Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh had statues of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and other pro-slavery figures removed under cover of night Tuesday, citing safety and security concerns.
At least seven people were arrested in Durham County, North Carolina, for tearing down a statue of a Confederate solider on their own on Monday.
After facing criticism for what many considered a tepid rebuke of the violence in Charlottesville, Trump condemned the "KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups" as "criminals" Tuesday, saying they "are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans."
In a heated, unscripted exchange with reporters following his comments, Trump said that both "alt-right" and "alt-left" elements at the demonstrations shared blame for the violence and warned that taking down Confederate monuments would be a slippery slope, asking rhetorically if Thomas Jefferson or George Washington monuments would also come down eventually, as they both owned slaves.
Facing further criticism for equating white nationalists and leftist counter-protesters, Trump wrote following the exchange, "Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied … truly bad people!"