Republicans are not happy with Trump’s debate performance

Republican lawmakers found President Donald Trump’s performance in the first presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden lacking, especially when it came to his refusal to unequivocally condemn white supremacists and militia groups.

Debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox Newsasked Trump on Tuesday night if he was willing to condemn white supremacists and tell them to “stand down” in cities such as Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, where heavily armed far-right extremists have shown up to anti-racism demonstrations as counterprotesters.

“I’m willing to do that,” Trump said.

But after prodding from both Wallace and Biden, who suggested he condemn a violent neo-fascist street gang known as the Proud Boys, the president appeared to be unwilling after all. Instead, he said the group should “stand back and stand by,” a comment that stirred widespread criticism from both sides of the aisle and caused celebration among the group’s members. 

30 PHOTOS2020 presidential debateSee Gallery2020 presidential debatePresident Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News speaks as President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP)President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News, center, gesturing during the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, right, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)US President Donald Trump and Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden take part in the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 29:U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 29:Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participates in the first presidential debate against U.S. President Donald Trump at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 29:Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participates in the first presidential debate against U.S. President Donald Trump at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3.(Photo by Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images)CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 29:U.S. President Donald Trump participates in the first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)Debate moderator and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace directs the first presidential debate at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, on September 29, 2020. (Photo by Olivier Douliery / POOL / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP)President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump on stage at the end of the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)CLEVELAND, OHIO – SEPTEMBER 29:First lady Melania Trump stands with President Donald Trump as he looks at Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden as he is hugged by his wife Jill Biden during the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3.(Photo by Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images)President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, lean in to talk to moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News at the conclusion of the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)President Donald Trump walks away form the podium at the conclusion of the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)From l-r, first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, walk off stage at the conclusion of the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Ivanka Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, enter, walks in from l-r., Kimberly Guilfoyle, Lara Trump and Tiffany Trump, the daughter of President Donald Trump, fo the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows waits in his seat for the start of the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Guests wear face covering as the wait for the start of the first presidential debate, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)President Donald Trump speaks during the first presidential debate with Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP)President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland. (Olivier Douliery/Pool vi AP)A face mask and debate program are left on the floor following the conclusion of the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Up Next

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GOP senators on Wednesday gingerly urged Trump to rectify his statement.

“I think he misspoke. I think he should correct it,” Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican senator, told reporters on Capitol Hill. 

“If he doesn’t correct it, I guess he didn’t misspeak,” he added.

Trump has yet to address his statement. The White House communications director told Fox News on Wednesday that she didn’t think there was anything to clarify and that the president “told them to stand back.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said he was “hoping for more clarity” from Trump about his views regarding extremists and militia groups.

“He should have made it very clear that there’s no room for people on the far-left or the far-right when it comes to either antifa or these white supremacist groups,” Rounds said.

“Of course, of course,” Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said when asked if the president should have condemned white supremacists during the debate.

Asked for his opinion on what was perhaps the ugliest debate in modern history, featuring near-constant interruptions and lying by Trump, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee observed that it “was not a Lincoln-Douglas debate, that’s for sure,” referring to the series of lengthy debates Abraham Lincoln took part in before becoming president.

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