Donald Trump declared war on the Republican establishment Tuesday, lashing out at House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and other GOP elected officials as his supporters geared up to join the fight amid extraordinary turmoil within the party just four weeks before Election Day.
One day after Ryan announced he would no longer campaign on Trump’s behalf, the GOP nominee said as part of a barrage of tweets that the top-ranking Republican is “weak and ineffective” and is providing “zero support” for his candidacy. Trump also declared that “the shackles have been taken off” him, liberating him to “fight for America the way I want to.”
Trump called McCain “foul-mouthed” and accused him with no evidence of once begging for his support. The 2008 nominee pulled his endorsement following a Friday Washington Post report about a 2005 video in which Trump is heard making vulgar comments about forcing himself on women sexually.
“I wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole with a lot of these people, that I can tell you. … especially Ryan,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel. He said if he is elected president, Ryan might be “in a different position.”
In perhaps the most piercing insult, Trump said his party is harder to deal with than even Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, whom conservatives loathe. Yet he also released a new TV ad featuring footage of Clinton coughing and stumbling during a recent bout with pneumonia — signaling that few issues are out of bounds for his scorched-earth campaign.
“Disloyal R’s are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary,” he wrote for his more than 12 million followers on Twitter, his preferred platform for picking fights. “They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win — I will teach them!”
By backing away from Trump, Ryan and his allies were hoping to insulate themselves and their majorities on Capitol Hill from the baggage weighing down the nominee’s flagging campaign. For many, the breaking point was the 2005 video.
But they are suddenly dealing with another problem: an impulsive and bellicose businessman with an army of loyal supporters willing to exact retribution against elected officials they feel have abandoned them. The rift could have profound ramifications for the Republican Party as a whole, shattering any sense of unity and jeopardizing its chances of holding onto the Senate and even, potentially, the House.
Trump’s barbs left some backers unsettled, including Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who has been a Trump booster for months and an informal adviser.
“Dr. Carson has been unwavering in his support but the last 24 hours have made that support very difficult to maintain,” Carson adviser Armstrong Williams said in a statement.
Carson said in a brief interview that Trump “would be wise to praise Ryan rather than be at war with him. I keep trying to emphasize to him that the issues are where you win.”
But many others rallied around Trump, including the Republican National Committee. Its chairman, Reince Priebus, was in close touch all day with Trump advisers and RNC strategist Sean Spicer was at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
Mica Mosbacher, a Trump fundraiser and surrogate, said she was invited to a fundraiser next week for Ryan’s joint fundraising committee but is not going to attend or contribute because of the way Ryan has treated him.
“I don’t feel that Ryan is supporting our nominee and being a team player,” said Mosbacher, who is vowing not to give financial backing to Republicans who have crossed Trump.
Diana Orrock, a Republican National Committeewoman from Nevada, said she is not voting for Republicans who pulled their support Trump — including Rep. Joe Heck (Nev.), who is running for a seat that is critical in the battle for the Senate majority.
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Sean Sullivan, Robert Costa and Dan Balz