Trump's August 2017 remarks concluding there was "blame on both sides" for the violence was a stunning moment early in his presidency that ignited a backlash over his views on race and consumed the White House for days. The new revelations may reopen that debate.
In the book, Woodward describes how then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter worked with Trump to write a second speech to try to repair his initial comments about violence at the marches.
Porter tried to convince the President he needed to clarify his remarks. But Trump appeared to resist, according to the book, repeatedly saying: "I don't know about this. ... This doesn't feel right to me."
Eventually, Trump agreed, and two days later in a televised speech he denounced racism, the "KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups." Woodward describes how White House aides were relieved, and chief of staff John Kelly encouraged staff to tell the President what a good job he did.
But then Trump turned on the TV.
One Fox News commentator gave Trump praise but also added, "That's almost an admission of 'Okay, I was wrong.'" Then Fox News correspondent Kevin Corke said: "Some 48 hours into the biggest domestic challenge of his young presidency, Mr. Trump has made a course correction."
Trump exploded at the coverage, Woodward reports. "That was the biggest fucking mistake I've made," the President told Porter. "You never make those concessions. You never apologize. I didn't do anything wrong in the first place. Why look weak?"Trump continued venting to Porter, Woodward writes. "I can't believe I got forced to do that," he said. "That's the worst speech I've ever given. I'm never going to do anything like that again."
One day later, Trump spoke at an unrelated Trump Tower event, where he surprised his staff and doubled down on his original sentiment that "both sides" were to blame for the violence, equating white supremacists with what he termed the "alt-left."
"You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent," Trump said. "Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now."
Porter was shocked, Woodward writes, and told Trump he thought the second speech was the only good one.
"I don't want to talk to you," Trump responded. "Get away from me."