Sunday 18 March 2018

Trump lashes out at Republican 'hypocrites'

Billionaire attacks key supporters who withdrew their backing after video row

Trump greets supporters in Manhattan at the weekend. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Trump greets supporters in Manhattan at the weekend. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Nick Allen

Shamed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attacked the leaders of his own party as "self-righteous hypocrites" yesterday after it was plunged into crisis by the video in which he made lewd statements about groping women.

At least 33 senior Republicans, including John McCain, the Arizona senator and 2008 nominee, withdrew support for Mr Trump ahead of last night's presidential debate, with some demanding he quit the race.

Reporter Nancy O’Dell, who was the subject of Trump’s lewd comments on the 2005 tape. Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File
Reporter Nancy O’Dell, who was the subject of Trump’s lewd comments on the 2005 tape. Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File

Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, said: "Enough. Donald Trump should not be president. I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run."

New Hampshire senator Kelly Ayotte said: "I thought about years from now when my daughter Kate is old enough to know what is in those tapes and to understand what he is talking about. I want her to know where I stood."

The video showed Mr Trump joking about sexual assault and boasting of attempts to seduce a married woman.

Read more: Sex boasts dash hopes of winning female vote in US

Read more: 'I WILL NEVER DROP OUT' - Donald Trump vows to stay in race after lewd remarks surface

Mr Trump continued to defy calls to step aside, tweeting: "So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers - and elections - go down!"

In an email to supporters, he vowed to defeat Hillary Clinton without party support.

"They are more concerned with their political future than they are about the future of the country," it read. "Mr Trump won the primary without the help of the insiders and he'll win the general [election] without them too."

The Republican Party is seeking to defend majorities in both houses of Congress and officials fear Mr Trump could be a lead weight.

Katie Packer, a Republican strategist, said: "There were people who were just starting to feel like this ship was going down, and now this gives people a good excuse to jump off."

Mr Trump lashed out as he battled the biggest crisis of his 16-month campaign, following the release of a video from 2005 in which he was heard graphically describing groping women. His running mate, Mike Pence, was said yesterday to be "absolutely apoplectic and inconsolable".

Mr Trump hunkered down in his Trump Tower house over the weekend, with close advisers including former New York mayor Rudi Giuliani and New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Mr Giuliani was the nominee's sole defender on yesterday's television talk shows.

"When he was confronted with it, he was pretty darn shocked that he had said such terrible things, and he feels terrible about it," he said. "He is very, very embarrassed and contrite about it."

Asked whether Mr Trump had been talking about acts of sexual assault on the tape, Mr Giuliani said: "That's what he was talking about. Whether it happened or not, I don't know. There is a tendency on the part of some men to exaggerate things like this."

Mr Giuliani said Mr Trump would spend the final month of the campaign talking about "the women that Bill Clinton raped, sexually abused and attacked", and would accuse Ms Clinton of trying to discredit those women.

He said: "Both sides have sinned."

Republicans have attacked Ms Clinton (68) over what they say is her role in trying to discredit women who accused her husband of sexual misconduct decades ago.

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, interviewed on 'Fox News Sunday', called the Trump remarks captured on video "disgusting", adding: "This is who this guy is."

Trump is facing the biggest crisis of his 16-month-old campaign. Before the video surfaced, a Reuters/Ipsos poll had Clinton leading by five points last Friday. Now, the question is whether Trump's quest for the presidency has been dealt a lethal blow.

Trump has survived a string of setbacks during this gruelling campaign and is hoping that he can again recover. A new public opinion poll by Politico/Morning Consult, taken just after news of the video broke, found that 39pc of voters thought Trump should withdraw from the race; 45pc said he should stay.

But his support among Republicans was largely holding, according to the poll, which found that of those who said Trump should leave, only 12pc identified themselves as Republicans. The 2016 elections are about more than the race for the presidency. The video renewed Republican worries that Trump's problems could hurt party efforts to retain majority control of the US Senate and House of Representatives.

"There is full-on panic" about the Senate elections, said a senior Senate Republican aide, who asked not to be identified.

The Democratic Coalition Against Trump, the nation's largest grassroots anti-Trump organisation, released a new attack ad that centred on the 2005 video.

Scott Dworkin, the group's senior adviser, said: "We aim to target this ad in competitive House and Senate districts of elected Trump supporters."

The possibility of Trump abandoning his quest for the White House, however remote, raised questions about ballots already cast, such as those from soldiers overseas, the elderly and college students living away from home.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

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