US President Donald Trump speaks at a "Make America Great Again" rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 22, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks at a "Make America Great Again" rally in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 22, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:48
Trump omits line while defending statement
People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)
AP
People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)
Now playing
02:30
Charlottesville driver gets life in prison for attack
Susan Bro at memorial
CNN
Susan Bro at memorial
Now playing
02:23
Heyer's mom: How could I not be strong?
Susan Bro 08102018
CNN
Susan Bro 08102018
Now playing
01:50
Victim's mom: Let's focus on why she was there
Now playing
00:57
University of Virginia holds vigil
Now playing
01:20
Trump: I wanted to know the facts
WNCN
Now playing
01:33
Monuments targeted in the wake of Charlottesville
christopher cantwell fearful jpm orig _00012126.jpg
christopher cantwell fearful jpm orig _00012126.jpg
Now playing
01:29
White supremacist chokes up in new video
NBC/ Broadway Video
Now playing
01:11
How Tina Fey copes with Charlottesville rally
President Donald Trump makes a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House on August 14, 2017.
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty
President Donald Trump makes a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House on August 14, 2017.
Now playing
01:49
Trump's day-by-day response to Charlottesville
BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 25: Former President of the United States of America Barack Obama after a discussion about democracy at Church Congress on May 25, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Up to 200,000 faithful are expected to attend the five-day congress in Berlin and Wittenberg that this year is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. (Photo by Steffi Loos/Getty Images)
Steffi Loos/Getty Images
BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 25: Former President of the United States of America Barack Obama after a discussion about democracy at Church Congress on May 25, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Up to 200,000 faithful are expected to attend the five-day congress in Berlin and Wittenberg that this year is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. (Photo by Steffi Loos/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:03
Obama's Charlottesville tweet smashes record
A counter demonstrator uses a lighted spray can against a white nationalist demonstrator at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday, August 12, 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors.
Steve Helber/AP
A counter demonstrator uses a lighted spray can against a white nationalist demonstrator at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday, August 12, 2017. Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and police dressed in riot gear ordered people to disperse after chaotic violent clashes between white nationalists and counter protestors.
Now playing
01:12
Protester: White supremacist pointed gun at me
Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, holds a photo of Bro's mother and her daughter, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va. Heyer was killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when police say a man plowed his car into a group of demonstrators protesting the white nationalist rally. Bro said that she is going to bare her soul to fight for the cause that her daughter died for.
Joshua Replogle/AP
Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, holds a photo of Bro's mother and her daughter, Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, in Charlottesville, Va. Heyer was killed Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, when police say a man plowed his car into a group of demonstrators protesting the white nationalist rally. Bro said that she is going to bare her soul to fight for the cause that her daughter died for.
Now playing
01:22
Heather Heyer's mom: I won't take Trump's call
Now playing
01:22
Charlottesville mayor says Trump hasn't called
Now playing
02:34
Heyer's mom: You just magnified my daughter
People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)
Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress/AP
People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There were several hundred protesters marching in a long line when the car drove into a group of them. (Ryan M. Kelly/The Daily Progress via AP)
Now playing
02:59
Video shows what happened in Charlottesville

Story highlights

President Donald Trump threatened to shut down government in his speech

Polls suggest his most loyal supporters still strongly support Trump

(CNN) —  

Donald Trump just showed why even some Republicans question whether he has the temperament and the capacity to serve as President.

In an incredible performance at a raucous Arizona rally Tuesday, Trump rewrote the history of his response to violence in Charlottesville and reignited the culture wars.

Trump in effect identified himself as the main victim of the furor over the violence in Virginia, berating media coverage for a political crisis that refuses to abate over his rhetoric on race.

“They’re trying to take away our culture. They’re trying to take away our history,” Trump said, blaming “weak, weak people” for allowing the removal of statues commemorating the Confederacy.

In defending his responses to the Charlottesville violence, Trump selectively omitted his reference to “many sides” or “both sides,” comments he made that drew bipartisan condemnation for equating neo-Nazis with their counterprotesters.

Trump insisted at the start of his speech that all Americans must realize that they are on the same team, must show loyalty to their country, and that he wanted everyone to love one another.

But his performance was a fresh indication that he still feels far more comfortable, and perhaps motivated, to act as a political flamethrower who pulls at national divides than a President who wants to unite the nation.

Throwing gasoline onto political controversies, Trump threatened to shut down the government unless Congress funds his border wall and all but promised a pardon for Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court in a case related to racial profiling.

Taking on the establishment

He criticized Sen. John McCain, who is battling cancer, and turned on GOP senators he blames for his paltry legislative record. And he predicted talks to renegotiate NAFTA would fail.

It was a remarkable real-time glimpse into the inner frustrations of a sitting President, who apparently believes he is being persecuted by accurate media coverage of his conduct and can never get a break from critics.

“The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news,” he said.

Yet Trump’s freewheeling speech, taking down establishment enemies one-by-one, was warmly received in his crowd, and will likely prove highly popular with the loyal core of voters who drove him to the GOP nomination and the White House. Those voters will lacerate media coverage of a speech that broke free of behavioral norms for the presidency, voter anger certain to be fueled by news outlets sympathetic to the President.

In effect, Trump’s rhetoric on Tuesday amounted to an implicit warning about the wrath of a substantial sector of the Republican voting base should any party leaders seek to isolate or reject the President.

And it