Steve Mnuchin
Steve Mnuchin Reuters

JTA - Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin defended President Donald Trump in a statement in response to a letter from hundreds of his former Yale classmates who called on him to resign over Trump’s response to the Charlottesville rally.

More than 350 members of the Yale class of 1985 in a letter dated Aug.18 said it is Mnuchin’s “moral obligation to resign” from Trump’s Cabinet immediately.

“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the president, I feel compelled to let you know that the president in no way, shape, or form, believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” Mnuchin said in a statement released on Saturday.

Mnuchin, who is Jewish, continued: “As someone who is Jewish, “I believe I understand the long history of violence and hatred against the Jews (and other minorities) and circumstances that give rise to these sentiments and actions.”

“I don’t believe the allegations against the president are accurate, and I believe that having highly talented men and women in the country surrounding the president in his administration should be reassuring to you and the American people. As long as I am Treasury Secretary, I will do the best I can for the American people and provide the best advice I can to the president,” he also wrote.

Mnuchin was standing next to Trump on Tuesday during a news conference in which the president condemned “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, calling the counter protesters facing down the white supremacist demonstrators the “alt-Left.”

The letter from his Yale classmates also stated that Mnuchin should resign because the president “declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans, as men and women of Yale, and as decent human beings.”

“President Trump made those declarations loudly, clearly, and unequivocally, and he said them as you stood next to him,” the letter said. It concluded: “We call upon you, as our friend, our classmate, and as a fellow American, to resign in protest of President Trump’s support of Nazism and white supremacy. “We know you are better than this, and we are counting on you to do the right thing.”

Trump made it clear he was strongly against white supremacists the day after the first news conference.