FOX19 - Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said the "evil attack" in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend meets the legal definition of domestic terrorism.
"It does meet the definition of domestic terrorism in our statute," Sessions said on ABC's "Good Morning America," referring to a deadly attack when a car mowed through a group protesting against white nationalists, killing one woman and injuring 19 more Saturday.
"You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation toward the most serious charges that can be brought because this is unequivocally an unacceptable evil attack."
The Ohio man who authorities say carried out the attack at a white nationalist rally in the Virginia college town recently moved from Florence, Kentucky.
James Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee is being held without bond on suspicion of second-degree murder, malicious wounding and failure to stop for an accident involving a death and hit-and-run, according to Charlottesville authorities.
Fields faced a judge via video conference Monday morning.
James Fields Jr. (center) was seen at Saturday's demonstration with Vanguard of America, a national white supremacist organization. The group has distanced itself from Fields, saying he is not an official member.
Online documents show Fields' mother, Samantha Bloom, 49, lived in Northern Kentucky. She confirmed with the Toledo Blade Saturday night Fields lived with her and moved to northwest Ohio about six months ago for a job.
According to The New York Times, Fields enlisted in the U.S. Army on Aug. 18, 2015, but his enlistment was terminated four months later, on December 11 for unclear reasons.
Bloom told The Blade she knew Fields was planning on going to an alt-right protest and that it "had something to do with Trump," but didn't know about its extremist nature.
Derek Weimer is a former teacher at Randall K. Cooper High School in Union, Kentucky, where he said Fields was his student.
"You could engage him in a quality conversation. Whether it's about politics or history social issues, military issues was a biggie but after you talked to him for a little while, within five minutes or so. You would start getting things that your radar would start going off," he said.
In those conversations Weimer said Fields would find ways to bring up his extreme views on Adolf Hitler and white supremacy. He's said it also showed in his school work, recalling a military themed research paper Fields worked on.
"And his was over the German military with a heavy emphasis on the Waffen-SS, which was the military arm of the Nazi party," he said.
Condemnation from Washington
The attack drew bipartisan scorn from politicians condemning the white supremacist movement. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown went as far as calling the attack domestic terrorism.
"The tragedy in Charlottesville this afternoon was domestic terrorism," Portman wrote in a tweet Saturday afternoon Brown retweeted in agreement. "We must all condemn hatred and white nationalism."
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a former solicitor general, demanded the assailant be prosecuted for domestic terrorism by the Department of Justice ahead of Sessions' declaration.
"The Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists are repulsive and evil and all of us have a moral obligation to speak out against lies, bigotry, anti-semitism and hatred they propagate," Cruz said in a written statement.
President's remarks criticized as insufficient
After days of combative interactions with North Korea, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and news outlets, President Donald Trump briefly addressed the attack during a bill signing at his New Jersey golf club, but did not condemn the white supremacists or alt-right groups, saying there is "hatred and bigotry on both sides."
The president is taking heat for being too vague and not denouncing extremists groups by name — potentially painting a false equivalency between the white nationalists and counter-protesters.
"Mr. President - we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists," Republican Sen. Corey Gardner of Colorado tweeted.
President Trump did not single out alt-right demonstrators, which included David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader that endorsed Trump's presidential campaign and white supremacist Richard Spencer for their ideology.
"These groups are corrupting our country's greatness," Ohio Gov. John Kasich said. "America can and must be better."
How did all this happen?
Violence erupted after white nationalists marched on the University of Virginia's Emancipation Park by torchlight Friday night.
The "Unite the Right" rally protested the planned removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from the park in addition to a list of other ideological grievances typically associated with the alt-right.
After white nationalists had violent clashes with counter-protesters in the run-up to a second Saturday rally. The University of Virginia instructed students to shelter in place and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency.
A car mowed through pedestrians on the streets of Charlottesville, killing one and injuring at least 19 others — echoing the tactics used by Islamic terrorists in Europe.
During an afternoon press conference, McAuliffe confirmed there had been three fatalities, one of which was 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was killed in the crash. Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer confirmed the victim's identity Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." Heyer was a legal assistant at Miller Law Group in Charlottesville. It is unclear if she was involved in the protests.
A police helicopter crash killed Pilot Lt. H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, 40. The two officers were monitoring the violence on the ground, according to Virginia State Police.
What is alt-right?
Terms like "alt-right" and "white nationalism" can be tricky due to their loaded nature and definitions can vary depending on who you are.
The Associated Press Style Guide defines the "alt-right" as an ideology that emphasizes preserving the white race while carrying typical conservative values such as limited government, lower taxes and strict law-and-order.