2020 hopeful Joe Biden, who criticized President Trump for saying a few positive words about Robert E. Lee, voted to give Lee his U.S. citizenship back in the 1970’s.
CNBC reported that President Donald Trump on Friday called Robert E. Lee a “great general” as he defended his comments about a deadly 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, one day after former Vice President Joe Biden launched his presidential campaign by citing Trump’s response to the events.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House on Friday, Trump was asked if he still believed that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the Aug. 11-12 rallies and counterprotests, during which civil rights activist Heather Heyer was killed by a Nazi sympathizer who drove his car into a crowd. The perpetrator, James Alex Fields Jr., was found guilty of first degree murder and several other crimes in December.
“I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general,” Trump told reporters Friday.
“Whether you like it or not, he was one of the great generals. I have spoken to many generals here, right at the White House, and many people thought — of the generals, they think that he was maybe their favorite general,” Trump said of the Confederate military leader.
The Daily Caller reported that former Vice President Joe Biden was a part of the 94th Congress that voted to restore Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s citizenship over 100 years after his death, and yet Biden attacked President Donald Trump’s support of the general in his campaign announcement video earlier this week.
On Thursday, Biden entered the presidential race, and he used Trump’s words about a statue of Lee and the people who attended the Unite the Right rally in August 2017 as the focal point for his announcement video.
Watch the video:
The core values of this nation… our standing in the world… our very democracy…everything that has made America — America –is at stake. That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States. #Joe2020 https://t.co/jzaQbyTEz3
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) April 25, 2019
However, a 1975 New York Times article explained that the Senate passed the resolution unanimously in April. House approval came today on a vote of 407 to 10, over the objections of several Northerners Who argued that it should include amnesty for Vietnam war draft evaders.
The House should consider the living, said Representative. Elizabeth Holtzman, Democrat of Brooklyn. And Representative John Conyers Jr., a black Democrat from Michigan, scoffed that the resolution was nothing more than a bit of “Bicentennial fluff.”
Joe Biden, who last week blasted President Trump over a protest to bring down a statue of Robert E. Lee, voted to restore the Confederate general’s citizenship early in his Senate career.
In 1975, Biden joined a unanimous Senate vote in the citizenship restoration for Lee, 110 years after the Virginian surrendered his Army of the Potomac to the Union general and future President Ulysses S. Grant.
Controversy over Lee was stoked last week when the former vice-president, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, slammed Trump over his remarks after the violent August 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va. Trump responded that he was referring to supporters of Lee when he said there were “fine people” on both sides.
The 1975 vote came after a discovery in the National Archives that Lee’s post-Civil War oath of allegiance – a necessary condition for his citizenship – had never reached President Andrew Johnson. Lee’s 1865 request for citizenship was approved by Grant noted that Lee did not include the oath of allegiance to the U.S., which was necessary for a pardon and his citizenship.
Lee swore the oath, which read: “I, Robert E. Lee, of Lexington, Virginia, do solemnly swear, in the presence of Almighty God, that I will henceforth faithfully support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the union of the states thereunder, and that I will, in like manner, abide by and falthfully support all laws and proclamations which have been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves, so help me. God.”
But the absence of the oath of allegiance – which was not discovered until 1970 – meant that when he died in 1870 he was not an American citizen.
In July 1975, Biden was two-and-a-half years into his Senate career, which would last for 36 years, before an additional eight as vice president under President Barack Obama. While all senators backed the Robert E. Lee citizen resolution, ten House members opposed it, compared to 407 in favor.
Debate about Lee’s legacy has festered since the summer 2017 Charlottesville episode. Trump told reporters on Friday Lee was a “great general” as he defended his response to the “Unite the Right” rally, which left activist Heather Heyer dead after one rally attendee drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters.
“If you look at what I said, you will see that question was answered perfectly. And I was talking about people that went because they felt very strongly about the monument to Robert E. Lee, a great general,” said Trump. “Whether you like it or not he was one of the great generals. I’ve spoken to many generals right here at the White House, and many people thought of the generals they think he was maybe their favorite general. People were there protesting the taking down of the monument of Robert E. Lee. Everybody knows that.”