BREAKING NEWS: Republican senators DEFY Donald Trump by voting to strip Confederate generals' names from Army bases - despite White House threatening a veto
President Trump announced Wednesday that he 'will not even consider' renaming American military bases that were named after Confederate leaders
He said the 10 Army bases in question were 'part of a Great American Heritage' and referred to them as 'Hallowed Grounds'
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated his point calling it disrespectful to service members to assume they were 'inherently racist'
But later in the evening the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to tell the Pentagon to remove the names within three years
George Floyd's death and the 'Black Lives Matter' protests that followed renewed the discussion of whether Confederate monuments are appropriate.
Republican senators rebelled against Donald Trump late Wednesday by voting to tell the Army to rename bases named after Confederate generals within the next three years.
The Armed Services Committee, whose members include Trump ultra-loyalist Tom Cotton, voted behind closed doors for the move, CNN reported.
The voice vote was on an amendment to the annual Pentagon policy bill - the Defense Authorization Act - which was put forward by Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democratic senator.
It came hours after Donald Trump tweeted furiously that he will 'not even consider' renaming Forts Bragg, Hood, Lee and others.
The move puts the Republican senators on a collision course with Trump, who White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany suggested would veto any legislation which renamed the bases.
She claimed it was an insult to people who had served abroad to rename bases which they left from.
The 10 bases are named for a group which includes slave owners, officers who left the U.S. Army to join the rebels, and at least one general who ordered the execution of unarmed prisoners.
'These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,' Trump tweeted. 'The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars,' the president continued.
'Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations,' Trump said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended President Trump's refusal to strike Confederate leaders' names from military bases by asking where the country should draw the line.
'Should George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison be erased from history? What about FDR and his internment camps? Should he be erased from history? Or Lyndon Johnson? Who has a history of documented racist statements,' McEnany asked reporters.
She also pointed at comments presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden made about working with segregationist senators - and suggested he could be impacted by the fallout too.
'And finally what about people that are alleged by the media to be segregationists?' McEnany said referencing Biden and the news coverage that came after he made the controversial comments last June.
McEnany also brought up the decision to pull the Civil War-era drama 'Gone with the Wind' from the HBO Max library.
'I'm told that no longer can you find on HBO "Gone with the Wind," because that is somehow now offensive,' McEnany said.
She went on: 'Should George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison be erased from history? What about FDR and his internment camps? Should he be erased from history? Or Lyndon Johnson? Who has a history of documented racist statements.
'And finally what about people that are alleged by the media to be segregationists?'
She then used the opportunity to focus the press' attention back on Joe Biden, the presumptive nominee, for his work in the Senate with segregationists.
Biden got himself in political hot water last June when he boasted about being able to work with people who didn't share his values, including some of the segregationists that remained in the U.S. Senate.
Rival Cory Booker, a black U.S. senator from New Jersey, along with a number of other Democrats, criticized the former vice president for his remarks.
At the June Democratic debate in Miami, Sen. Kamala Harris, who is black, also took Biden to task for his position on busing.
McEnany left the podium asking reporters if the Biden center should also be renamed.
But later on Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is Republican-controlled, voted the opposite way.
Its Republican members include Tom Cotton, the Arkansas senator and former Army officer who caused outrage by demanding 'sending in the troops' with illegal 'no quarter' orders to quell protests.
But they also include a series of senators facing strong Democratic challenges, including Iowa's Joni Ernst, Arizona's Martha McSally, North Carolina's Thom Tillis and Georgia David Perdue.
The 'Black Lives Matter' protests that have taken place all across the nation in the aftermath of George Floyd's death have renewed discussions on the appropriateness of memorializing Confederate figures.
Currently 10 Army bases are named after Confederate leaders.
Southern states that joined the Confederacy during the Civil War-era did so in order to keep their status as slave states.
On Monday, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Politico that he was 'open' to renaming these 10 facilities.
Politico reported that Defense Secretary Mark Esper - who has been at odds with Trump over how to deal with the 'Black Lives Matter' demonstrations - also supported the discussion.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany opened up her Wednesday briefing reading a statement from Trump that mirrored his tweets, which he had pushed out minutes before she took to the podium.
McEnany was asked if the president supported the Navy's move to ban Confederate flags from flying at its bases and on ships.
She said she wasn't sure of his position on that.
'He does, as I noted at the top of the briefing, fervently stand against the renaming of our forts,' McEnany answered.
McEnany said that the 'great American fortresses' were important because they respresented the last places war dead spent time in the U.S. before fighting in battles in 'Europe and Afghanistan and Iraq.'
'And to suggest that these forts are somehow inherently racist and their names need to be changed is a complete disrespect to the men and women,' she argued. 'For the last bit of American land that they saw before they went overseas and lost their lives were these forts.'
McEnany was also asked if the president would veto a bill from Congress that changed the name of a base frmo a Confederate general to a Union general, the side that won the Civil War, and represents the modern-day United States.
'The president will not be signing legislation that will be renaming American forts,' she said.
A reporter then pointed to an op-ed writtten by Gen. David Petraeus, who had argued that bases shouldn't be named after people who fought against the United States.
Petraeus also pointed out that many of the Confederates honored, like Gen. Braxton Bragg, were notoriously bad at their jobs.
'Fort Bragg is known for the heroes within it,' McEnany responded.
The president has long sided with the 'heritage' argument to keep Confederate monuments and memorials erected.
This is how he got in hot water in August 2017, standing up for demonstrators - made up of neo-Nazis, KKK members and other white supremacists - in Charlottesville, Virginia, who wanted the city's Robert E. Lee statue to remain.
'You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides,' Trump told reporters referencing, first, the Unite To Right protesters, and then the counter-protesters who came out.
One of the counter-protesters, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, had been moved down on the streets of Charlottesville by a neo-Nazi, who is now serving a life-long prison term.
'You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue,' Trump said of the Lee monument.
The president then compared Lee to George Washington, the country's first president who led the Revolutionary War troops - but who was also a slave-owner.
Racist past of Confederate generals with bases named after them including Leonidas Polk who owned 400 slaves, KKK leader John Brown Gordon and Henry Benning who feared a 'land in possession of the blacks'