Tuesday 20 March 2018

Secret Service warns tycoon after furore over gun remarks

Hillary Clinton. Photo: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
Hillary Clinton. Photo: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Nick Allen

The US Secret Service has spoken to Donald Trump's campaign to tell him to tone down his rhetoric in the wake of comments that were interpreted as a suggestion Hillary Clinton could be assassinated.

There was understood to have been more than one conversation between agents from the elite agency responsible for presidential security and Mr Trump's campaign officials. Mr Trump has denied that his remarks were an incitement to violence.

The unprecedented development came as the billionaire's attempts to revitalise his campaign floundered.

Days after he set out his economic vision for America, Mr Trump was attacked from all sides as "disgusting" and accused of "inciting bloodshed".

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr, said: "As the daughter of a leader who was assassinated, I find Trump's comments distasteful, disturbing and dangerous."

Gabby Giffords, the former Democratic congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt in 2011, said: "Responsible, stable individuals won't take Trump's rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy.

"They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed."

And Erica Smegielski, daughter of Dawn Hochsprung, the school head who died in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, said Mr Trump was "distasteful and disgusting".

She said: "My mother, like many other Americans and people around the world, would be mortified we have a Republican nominee of such bad taste and character as Donald Trump".

Read more: One-fifth of Republicans won't vote for Trump

At a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday Mr Trump had said that if Ms Clinton were elected and appointed left-wing judges to the US Supreme Court there was nothing people could do. He then added: "The Second Amendment people, maybe there is ... I don't know."

A former US Secret Service agent said that in speaking to Mr Trump's campaign, agents would have told them that "words do matter".

Jonathan Wackrow said: "We're not hauling Donald Trump into the back of a police car to question him, but the Secret Service is encouraging the Trump campaign to clarify and lower the rhetoric around this."

As he tried to end the fallout from the gaffe, Mr Trump said he had been referring to the political voting power of gun owners, not inciting violence.

He said: "Give me a break. This is a political movement. This is a strong, powerful movement, the Second Amendment. There can be no other interpretation."

Earlier, Mr Trump had blamed the media for the furore following his comments.

He told Fox News "dishonest" reporters had twisted his remarks.

Meanwhile, Ms Clinton has launched an effort to win over disillusioned Republicans called Together for America.

It includes a website where she lists dozens of high-profile Republicans and Independents who have endorsed her, including Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman and former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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