Monday 20 January 2020

Defiant Trump on attack against Clinton ahead of key debate

Donald Trump has refused to step down as the Republican presidential candidate (AP)
Donald Trump has refused to step down as the Republican presidential candidate (AP)

A damaged but defiant Donald Trump has gone on the offensive against Hillary Clinton and her husband in a dramatic escalation of personal attacks as he sought to deflect fallout from obscene remarks he made about women.

The Republican presidential nominee tweeted a link on Sunday to an interview with Juanita Broaddrick, whose lawsuit against Bill Clinton accusing him of rape was dismissed in 2001.

Criminal charges were never filed. Mr Clinton has denied the allegations.

Mr Trump's risky move, hours before a critical presidential debate, comes as he tries to save a flailing campaign facing unprecedented opposition from within his own party.

More than two dozen Republican office holders have declared since Friday that they will not vote for Mr Trump.

Many have called on him to step aside after his vulgar descriptions of sexual advances on women were revealed in a recording.

Mr Trump's attack on Mr Clinton's past was backed by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, who equated Mr Trump's latest controversy to the actions of Mrs Clinton in the 1990s when her husband struggled through the fallout of his own sexual transgressions.

Over the objections of CNN anchor Jake Tapper, Mr Giuliani insisted that Mrs Clinton "was the leader of the attack" against women who made accusations against Mr Clinton.

Mr Giuliani, as Mr Trump had the day before, declared that the Republican nominee would never quit the presidential race.

With just a month remaining before the election, Mr Trump's task in Sunday night's debate is enormous, and perhaps insurmountable.

Even before the recording of his remarks were made public, the businessman lagged behind Mrs Clinton after an undisciplined first debate.

He is struggling to overcome deep scepticism among women about his temperament and qualifications to be commander in chief.

Mr Trump has long hinted he would raise Mr Clinton's sexual history at debates.

In what was billed as a videotaped apology, Mr Trump over the weekend said: "Bill Clinton has actually abused women" and Mrs Clinton "bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated" her husband's "victims".

Democratic National Committee chairwoman Donna Brazille said Mrs Clinton had suffered because of her husband's infidelities and noted that Mr Clinton, who was impeached, has been held accountable.

"There is no accountability for Donald Trump in the - in the ridiculous and sexist things that he has said and racist things that he has said over the past few years," she said on ABC's This Week.

Outside Mr Trump's small cadre of advisers, support for the businessman was scarce among prominent Republicans following Friday's release of the 2005 videotape.

Mr Trump's own running mate, Indiana governor Mike Pence, declared he could neither condone nor defend the remarks.

Several other Republicans took the extraordinary step of revoking support for their party's nominee, including Ohio Senator Rob Portman, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte - both are running for re-election - and the party's 2008 nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain.

Many went further and called on Mr Trump to quit the race altogether.

Mr Trump called his detractors "self-righteous hypocrites" on Sunday on Twitter, saying: "Watch their poll numbers - and elections - go down!"

Republican leaders have scheduled a rare Monday conference call for House Republican politicians, who are out on recess. Sources say rank-and-file politicians believe it is about Mr Trump.

The firestorm was sparked by the video obtained on Friday by The Washington Post and NBC News.

In the video, Mr Trump, who was married to his current wife at the time, is heard describing attempts to have sex with a married woman.

He also says that when you are a star "you can do anything".

Mr Trump adds seconds later: "Grab them by the p****. You can do anything."

He said of his impulse to kiss beautiful women: "I don't even wait."

The Republican National Committee is considering how to move forward.

One possibility is redirecting its expansive political operation away from Mr Trump and towards helping vulnerable congressional candidates.

Such a move would leave Mr Trump with virtually no political infrastructure in swing states to ensure his supporters vote.

Election law experts suggest it would be logistically impossible to replace Mr Trump on the ballot altogether, with early voting under way in some states and overseas ballots already distributed.

The recording almost completely overshadowed the release of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign that revealed the contents of previously secret paid speeches to Wall Street.

Mrs Clinton told bankers behind closed doors that she favoured "open trade". Such comments were at odds with her tough public comments about trade and Wall Street.

Clinton running mate Virginia Senator Tim Kaine deflected questions about the emails and focused instead on Mr Trump.

"I think there's kind of a piece of the jigsaw puzzle missing in Donald Trump where he does not look at women and consider them as equal to himself," Mr Kaine said on CNN.


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