The protesters, the president said, were being treated unfairly. The majority of them, he insisted, were there for a good reason—they did not want to see the statue of Lee removed.
Turning to Sessions, the president asked whether he thought the statue should come down. Sessions said the decision should be up to the local community, in this case, the Charlottesville city council, which had voted to remove it.
But the president was just getting started.
According to the notes from the meeting, the president, sitting there at the table Grant used, declared Lee “the greatest strategic military mind perhaps ever.” He also praised the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. He made clear that the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis were “bad,” but also seemed to dismiss it as too obvious a point. Instead, he was focused on the protesters’ right to be there, and…