Trump brushes off ac­cu­sa­tions

GOP nom­i­nee slams crit­ics amid 4 women’s claims

Baltimore Sun - - ELECTION 2016 - By Noah Bier­man, Me­lanie Ma­son and Seema Me­hta

WASHINGTON — Don­ald Trump re­sponded to new al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual as­sault by step­ping up an­gry re­but­tals and threats Thurs­day, blam­ing me­dia, spe­cial in­ter­ests and Hil­lary Clin­ton’s ma­chine for try­ing to de­stroy his rep­u­ta­tion in or­der to main­tain their grip on power.

Trump cast him­self as a mar­tyr, “tak­ing the slings and ar­rows, gladly, for you.”

“I’m be­ing pun­ished for leav­ing the spe­cial club and re­veal­ing to you the ter­ri­ble things that are go­ing on hav­ing to do with our coun­try,” Trump said dur­ing a rally in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The rally epit­o­mized his pen­chant for en­gag­ing his crit­ics at his own ex­pense, in that Trump spent most of his time delv­ing into ac­cu­sa­tions Wed­nes­day of sex­ual mis­con­duct that have fur­ther un­der­mined his cam­paign.

It in­cluded a ref­er­ence to the looks of a former Peo­ple magazine re­porter who ac­cused him of an un­wanted ad­vance, re­newed claims that the FBI is cor­rupt for de­clin­ing to rec­om­mend that Clin­ton be pros­e­cuted over her pri­vate email server, and a qual­i­fied prom­ise to re­lease “sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence” to re­but ac­cu­sa­tions from fe­male ac­cusers in an “ap­pro­pri­ate way and at an ap­pro­pri­ate time.”

That fol­lowed sev­eral Don­ald Trump, seen at a Thurs­day rally in West Palm Beach, Fla., says he’s “be­ing pun­ished for leav­ing the spe­cial club.” days in which he has lashed out at other per­ceived en­e­mies and fought with Repub­li­can lead­ers who failed to come to his de­fense.

“I do not think it’s smart for Don­ald Trump to get sucked in on these per­son­al­ity fights, and he doesn’t seem to be able to re­sist it,” former House Speaker Newt Gin­grich said on Fox News. “If he could dis­ci­pline him­self to stay big, he would win this elec­tion by a shock­ing mar­gin.”

Trump’s cam­paign blind­sided the di­rec­tor of the Vir­ginia GOP on Wed­nes­day night by declar­ing dur­ing a daily con­fer­ence call that it was with­draw­ing re­sources from the cru­cial bat­tle­ground state, ac­cord­ing to a Repub­li­can of­fi­cial who would not be named re­count­ing pri­vate dis­cus­sions. That puts added pres­sure on Trump to win Penn­syl­va­nia, where his re­marks about women have made him “toxic” in the Philadel­phia sub­urbs, which have a large con­cen­tra­tion of af­flu­ent ed­u­cated women, the of­fi­cial said.

Democrats have been more than happy to con­tinue the bat­tle with Trump on their ter­rain, as Trump gets caught up in sex­ual al­le­ga­tions that fol­lowed last week’s re­lease of a 2005 video in which Trump bragged in vul­gar terms that celebri­ties like him can grope women at will. Trump de­nied dur­ing Sunday’s de­bate that he had ever kissed or groped women with­out con­sent.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, cam­paign­ing Thurs­day for Democrats in Ohio, said GOP com­pla­cency led the party to nom­i­nate a can­di­date who brags and jokes about grop­ing women.

“You can’t wait un­til that fi­nally hap­pens and then say, ‘That’s too much, that’s enough,’ and then say some­how you are show­ing some type of lead­er­ship and serve to be elected to the United States Sen­ate,” Obama said.

First lady Michelle Obama de­liv­ered an im­pas­sioned speech in New Hamp­shire, call­ing Trump’s words about women disgraceful and in­tol­er­a­ble.

Mul­ti­ple women re­counted be­ing kissed and groped by Trump with­out their con­sent in re­ports pub­lished Wed­nes­day, say­ing they came for­ward be­cause the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee dis­missed his lewd com­ments caught on tape as “locker room talk.”

Two spoke with the New York Times. Jessica Leeds, 74, said Trump grabbed her breasts and tried to slip his hand up her skirt in the first-class cabin of a plane more than three decades ago.

Rachel Crooks told the Times that Trump kissed her on the mouth when she in­tro­duced her­self to him in front of an el­e­va­tor in 2005 while she was work­ing as a 22-year-old sec­re­tary in Trump Tower.

Trump threat­ened to sue, and his at­tor­neys de­manded a re­trac­tion, say­ing the ar­ti­cle was “reck­less, defam­a­tory and con­sti­tutes li­bel.” Times at­tor­ney David McCraw re­sponded force­fully Thurs­day in a state­ment that essen­tially dared Trump to sue.

The Palm Beach Post pub­lished a report from a 36-year-old woman who said Trump grabbed her pos­te­rior at Trump’s Mar-aLago es­tate 13 years ago.

And Peo­ple magazine pub­lished an ac­count from one of its former writ­ers, Natasha Stoynoff, who de­scribed be­ing mauled by the GOP nom­i­nee when she went to Mar-a-Lago to in­ter­view Trump and his wife, Me­la­nia, for a story about their first wed­ding an­niver­sary.

Trump, dis­count­ing the report dur­ing Thurs­day’s rally, ap­peared to take a shot at the writer’s ap­pear­ance.

“Look at her, look at her words, you tell me what you think,” he said, ges­tur­ing with his hands. “I don’t think so.”

Some core sup­port­ers agreed with Trump that the ac­cu­sa­tions amount to pro­pa­ganda from the left.

“He didn’t rape no­body,” said Mark Breaux, a con­trac­tor from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. “He touched some­body on the hiney.”

EVAN VUCCI/AP

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