Aug. 19, 2017, 6:53 p.m.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin issued a statement Saturday in response to comments from his Yale classmates and others that he "speak out" about President Trump's response to Charlottesville.
Mnuchin and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao flanked Trump on Tuesday during what was supposed to be a news conference about infrastructure. Instead, the questions quickly turned to the president's delay in directly condemning white supremacist groups who had marched in Charlottesville with tiki torches and carrying KKK and Nazi symbols.
Mnuchin, who is Jewish, said in his statement that he believed he understood the "long history of violence and hatred against the Jews (and other minorities.)"
Saying he found it "hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the president, I feel compelled to let you know that the president in no way, shape or form believes that neo-Nazis and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups who protest in peaceful and lawful ways."
Mnuchin referenced his years at Yale as making him "familiar with the culture wars being fought in our country."
He called those issues "more complicated than we have been led to believe by the mass media."
He also said Trump "deserves the opportunity to propose his agenda" without efforts by others to "distract the administration and the American people from these most important policy issues -- jobs, economic growth and national security."
Adding that he did not "believe the allegations against the president are accurate," Mnuchin said "having highly talented men and women" serve the Trump administration should be "reassuring to you and all the American people."