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Trump yields to pressure, calls neo-Nazis and KKK criminals

(Adds Intel CEO quits Trump manufacturing council; vandalism of Holocaust memorial in Boston)

By Scott Malone and Jeff Mason

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va./WASHINGTON, Aug 14 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump denounced neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan as criminals and thugs on Monday, bowing to mounting political pressure to condemn such groups explicitly after a white-nationalist rally turned deadly in Virginia.

Trump had been assailed from across the political spectrum for failing to respond more forcefully to Saturday's violence in Charlottesville. The head Merck & Co Inc, one of the world's biggest pharmaceutical companies, quit a presidential business panel as a result, saying he was taking a stand against intolerance and extremism.

The chief executives of two other prominent companies - sportswear manufacturer Under Armour and semiconductor chip maker Intel Corp - followed suit hours later.

Critics denounced Trump for waiting too long to address the bloodshed, and for initially faulting hatred and violence "on many sides," rather than singling out the white supremacists widely seen as instigating the melee.

Democrats said Trump's reaction belied a reluctance to alienate white nationalists and "alt-right" political activists who occupy a loyal segment of Trump's political base. Several senators from his own Republican Party had harsh words for him.

Some 48 hours into the biggest domestic challenge of his young presidency, Trump tried to correct course.

"Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans," the president said in a statement to reporters at the White House on Monday.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence," he said.

A 20-year-old man said to have harbored Nazi sympathies was arrested on charges of plowing his car into protesters opposing the white nationalists, killing 32-year-old paralegal Heather Heyer and injuring 19 people. The accused, James Fields, was denied bail at a court hearing on Monday.

Several others were arrested in connection with street brawls during the day that left another 15 people injured. And two airborne state troopers involved in crowd control...


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