US pres­i­den­tial con­test takes an uglier turn

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICAS -

Rocked by al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault, Don­ald Trump on Thurs­day lashed out at his fe­male ac­cusers as “hor­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble liars” as the deeply di­vi­sive pres­i­den­tial cam­paign sank fur­ther into charges and coun­ter­charges of preda­tory treat­ment of women.

The Repub­li­can busi­ness­man de­voted much of a Florida speech to de­fend­ing him­self against mul­ti­ple re­ports of in­ap­pro­pri­ate sex­ual be­hav­ior — ac­cu­sa­tions that he blamed on Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign and the news me­dia.

“These vi­cious claims about me, of in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­duct with women, are to­tally and ab­so­lutely false. And the Clin­tons know it,” Trump de­clared. His ac­cusers, he said, “are hor­ri­ble peo­ple. They’re hor­ri­ble, hor­ri­ble liars.”

The com­ments came min­utes after he called a re­porter “a sleaze­bag” for ask­ing whether Trump had ever touched or groped a woman with­out her con­sent.

First lady Michelle Obama, mean­while, of­fered an emo­tional coun­ter­ar­gu­ment in the bat­tle­ground state of New Hamp­shire, warn­ing that Trump’s be­hav­ior sends a dan­ger­ous mes­sage to the na­tion’s chil­dren.

“The be­lief that you can do any­thing you want to a woman, it is cruel, it is fright­en­ing, and the truth is it hurts,” Obama said. She added, “We can’t ex­pose our chil­dren to this any longer, not for another minute, let alone for four years.”

The New York Times and the Palm Beach Post on Wed­nes­day re­ported sto­ries about three women who al­leged Trump had in­ap­pro­pri­ately touched them. Sep­a­rately, a Peo­ple Mag­a­zine re­porter wrote a de­tailed first-per­son ac­count of be­ing at­tacked by Trump while in­ter­view­ing the busi­ness­man and his wife, Me­la­nia Trump.

Trump said the claims “are all fab­ri­cated.”

“They’re pure fic­tion, and they’re out­right lies. These events never hap­pened,” he said at the West Palm Beach rally.

He added, “I will not al­low the Clin­ton ma­chine to turn our cam­paign into a dis­cus­sion of their slan­ders and lies.”

Rather than try­ing to make up ground by shift­ing at­ten­tion back to is­sues like trade that have en­er­gized Trump back­ers and could ap­peal to new vot­ers, the Repub­li­can cam­paign ap­pears to be mov­ing swiftly to make Bill Clin­ton’s past a cen­ter­piece of its cam­paign.

Build­ing on Trump’s de­ci­sion to bring three Bill Clin­ton ac­cusers to last week’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee is ex­pected to have the women ap­pear with him on stage at ral­lies and do tele­vi­sion in­ter­views, ac­cord­ing to a per­son briefed on the plan but not au­tho­rized to dis­cuss it pub­licly. They were not on stage in West Palm Beach.

The Trump cam­paign’s hope is to show­case the decades-old ac­cu­sa­tions to young vot­ers, par­tic­u­larly women, who may not have been old enough to re­mem­ber the con­tro­ver­sies that dogged the Clin­tons in the 1990s. If the cam­paign can’t get them to vote for Trump, the hope is that they will stay home and de­press turnout, which would likely hurt Democrats.

Hil­lary Clin­ton, who is on pace to be­come Amer­ica’s first fe­male pres­i­dent if her lead holds, has tried to stay above the fray. She has yet to re­spond di­rectly to Trump’s de­ci­sion to res­ur­rect ac­cu­sa­tions about her hus­band.

Mean­while, emails made public on Thurs­day show that Hil­lary Clin­ton’s cam­paign tried to move the Illi­nois pres­i­den­tial pri­mary to a later date, say­ing a con­test held after the Su­per Tues­day pri­maries might stop mo­men­tum for a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can can­di­date and em­pha­siz­ing that Clin­ton and her hus­band “won’t for­get” a po­lit­i­cal fa­vor.

A Novem­ber 2014 email hacked from the ac­counts of Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta was among nearly 2,000 new emails pub­lished by Wik­iLeaks.

“The Clin­tons won’t for­get what their friends have done for them,” he added. Clin­ton and her hus­band, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, fa­mously gave spe­cial at­ten­tion to al­lies con­sid­ered “friends of Bill.”

Clin­ton’s cam­paign has said the FBI was in­ves­ti­gat­ing who hacked Podesta’s email.

They’re pure fic­tion, and they’re out­right lies. These events never hap­pened.” Don­ald Trump, Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date

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