The Latest: Trump defends Confederate statues

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The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EDT):

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9:50 a.m.

President Donald Trump says it's "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart" with the removal of Confederate statues and monuments around the country.

Local and state officials have renewed pushes to remove Confederate imagery from public property since the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a white nationalist rally over the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue.

Baltimore and other cities have already removed or covered up Confederate statues.

Trump in a Thursday tweet called them "our beautiful statues and monuments" and said "you can't change history, but you can learn from it."

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"Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!" Trump continued. "The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"

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9:30 a.m.

GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham says President Donald Trump's stance on the Charlottesville, Virginia violence and death is garnering praise from "some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups" and called on him to "please fix this."

Trump and Graham have been going after each other since the president's statements on the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia, during a white nationalist rally.

Trump on Thursday called Graham a "publicity seeking" lawmaker and tweeted that Graham's contention that the president had said there was "moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer" was a "disgusting lie."

Graham replied on Twitter soon thereafter that the president's statements on Charlottesville have garnered him "praise from some of the most racist and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country."

"For the sake of our Nation -- as our President -- please fix this. History is watching us all," Graham tweeted.

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8:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is touting a primary opponent looking to unseat GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has criticized the president's response to the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump on Thursday tweeted that Flake "is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He's toxic!" The president has already pledged to spend money to defeat the first-term senator.

Flake is facing a GOP primary challenge, including from former state Sen. Kelli Ward. "Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake," Trump tweeted.

Flake had tweeted on Wednesday, "We can't claim to be the party of Lincoln if we equivocate in condemning white supremacy."

The first-term senator has also recently released a book criticizing Trump and fellow Republicans for straying from what he called conservative values.

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7:45 a.m.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford has strongly endorsed the statements by the leaders of the four major U.S. military services, who spoke out against racism and extremism after last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

During a visit Thursday to Beijing, Dunford said: "I have seen the chiefs' tweets and I can absolutely and unambiguously tell you that there is no place for racism and bigotry in the U.S. military or in the United States as a whole."

He said the "chiefs' statements were important. They were speaking directly to the force and the American people."

Dunford said the intent was "to the force, to make it clear that that kind of racism and bigotry is not going to stand inside the force. And to the American people, to remind them of the values for which we stand in the U.S. military, which are reflective of what I believe to be the values of the United States."

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7:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump has abruptly disbanded two of his White House business councils in the latest fallout from his combative comments on racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Wednesday's decision came as the White House tried to manage the repercussions from Trump's defiant remarks a day earlier, in which he blamed the violence at a white supremacist rally on "both sides."

Trump himself stayed out of sight Wednesday, but he returned to Twitter early Thursday to chastise Sen. Lindsey Graham for remarks the South Carolinian made about Trump's take on Charlottesville. He also had harsh words for Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican.

He posted one tweet saying that "publicity-seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency" between the white supremacists and the counter-demonstrators at Saturday's violent protest.

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6:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump has taken a swipe at a fellow Republican, calling Sen. Lindsey Graham a "publicity seeking" lawmaker.

In a daybreak post on his Twitter account Thursday, Trump faulted the GOP senator for statements Graham has made about the president's stance on the violence and death of a woman in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Trump said in his tweet: "Publicity seeking Lindsey Graham falsely stated that I said there is moral equivalency between the KKK, neo-Nazis & white supremacists and people like Ms. Heyer." He was referring to Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed when she was struck by a car driven into the crowd.

"Such a disgusting lie," Trump said of Graham's remarks. "He just can't forget his election trouncing. The people of South Carolina will remember."

In a separate tweet, Trump accused "the Fake News" of distorting "what I say about hate, bigotry, etc. Shame!"