Trump vows to press on after tape scan­dal

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Peo­ples and JIll Colvin

A de­fi­ant Don­ald Trump in­sisted Satur­day he would “never” aban­don his White House bid, re­ject­ing a grow­ing back­lash from Repub­li­can lead­ers across the na­tion who dis­avowed the GOP’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee after he was caught on tape brag­ging about preda­tory ad­vances on women.

Trump’s own run­ning mate, In­di­ana Gov. Mike Pence, de­clared he could nei­ther con­done nor de­fend Trump’s re­marks, which sparked wide­spread panic in­side Trump Tower and through­out the Repub­li­can Party with early vot­ing al­ready un­der­way ex­actly one month be­fore Elec­tion Day.

“We pray for his fam­ily,” Pence said in a state­ment after can­cel­ing a Wis­con­sin ap­pear­ance sched­uled with House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man, Reince Priebus, both of whom had con­demned Trump’s re­marks the day be­fore but stopped short of with­draw­ing sup­port al­to­gether. The furor places enor­mous pres­sure on Trump to try to tamp down a cri­sis sure to spill into Sun­day night’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate.

Even as the fall­out deep­ened frac­tures in a party al­ready torn about Trump, many re­mained loyal to the po­lit­i­cal out­sider.

Wis­con­sin voter Jean Stan­ley donned a shirt pro­claim­ing “Wis­con­sin Women Love Trump” and called Ryan a “traitor” for de­nounc­ing the pres­i­den­tial con­tender’s com­ments.

“He’s a real hu­man,” Stan­ley said of the New York busi­ness­man, sur­rounded by Trump supporters at the Wis­con­sin rally where he and Pence were sched­uled to ap­pear be­fore the video­tape emerged.

Ryan and Priebus did not join a cho­rus of GOP of­fice­hold­ers from Utah to Alabama to New Hamp­shire who de­cided the for­mer re­al­ity tele­vi­sion star’s bomb­shell was too much to take. More than a dozen Repub­li­cans — sen­a­tors, con­gress­men and sit­ting gover­nors — an­nounced Satur­day they would not vote for Trump. Many went far­ther and called on him to quit the race al­to­gether.

“I thought sup­port­ing the nom­i­nee was the best thing for our coun­try and our party,” Alabama Rep. Martha Roby said in a state­ment. “Now, it is abun­dantly clear that the best thing for our coun­try and our party is for Trump to step aside and al­low a re­spon­si­ble, re­spectable Repub­li­can to lead the ticket.”

His party in chaos, Trump spent Satur­day with a close cir­cle of ad­vis­ers in his cam­paign’s mid­town Man­hat­tan head­quar­ters.

Most of his staff and net­work of supporters were left in the dark about the fast­mov­ing de­vel­op­ments. Con­fer­ence calls were can­celed and promi­nent supporters were given no guid­ance about how to re­spond to the ex­plo­sive de­vel­op­ment, ac­cord­ing to a per­son close to the Trump op­er­a­tion. The per­son in­sisted on anonymity, lack­ing the author­ity to dis­cuss in­ter­nal cam­paign mat­ters pub­licly.

Trump ad­dressed the dire sit­u­a­tion on Satur­day with a light-hearted tweet: “Cer­tainly has been an in­ter­est­ing 24 hours!”

He later tweeted he would not yield the GOP nom­i­na­tion un­der any cir­cum­stances: “The me­dia and estab­lish­ment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN!”

The po­lit­i­cal firestorm was sparked by a 2005 video ob­tained and re­leased Fri­day by The Wash­ing­ton Post and NBC News. In the video, Trump, who was mar­ried to his cur­rent wife at the time, is heard de­scrib­ing at­tempts to have sex with a mar­ried woman. He also brags about women let­ting him kiss them and grab their gen­i­tals be­cause he is fa­mous.

“When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do any­thing,” Trump says in the video. He adds sec­onds later: “Grab them by the p---. You can do any­thing.” He said of his im­pulse to kiss beau­ti­ful women: “I don’t even wait.”

He apol­o­gized in a video state­ment re­leased by his cam­paign after mid­night early Satur­day morn­ing.

Me­la­nia Trump said she hoped peo­ple would ac­cept her hus­band’s apol­ogy “as I have.”

Trump said, “I was wrong and I apol­o­gize,” but also de­fi­antly dis­missed the rev­e­la­tions as “noth­ing more than a dis­trac­tion” from a decade ago. Fore­shad­ow­ing a likely at­tack in Sun­day night’s pres­i­den­tial de­bate, he also sug­gested that ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton has com­mit­ted greater sins against women.

“I’ve said some fool­ish things,” Trump said. “But there’s a big dif­fer­ence be­tween the words and ac­tions of other peo­ple. Bill Clin­ton has ac­tu­ally abused women and Hil­lary has bul­lied, at­tacked, shamed and in­tim­i­dated his vic­tims.”

While still pub­licly back­ing Trump, the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee is con­sid­er­ing how to move for­ward.

One pos­si­bil­ity: re-di­rect­ing its ex­pan­sive po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tion away from Trump and to­ward help­ing vul­ner­a­ble Se­nate and House can­di­dates. Such a move would leave Trump with vir­tu­ally no po­lit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture in swing states to iden­tify his supporters and en­sure they vote.

“We are work­ing to eval­u­ate the ap­pro­pri­ate mes­sag­ing go­ing for­ward,” said RNC chief strate­gist Sean Spicer. The lat­est Trump drama forced vul­ner­a­ble Repub­li­can can­di­dates to an­swer a painful ques­tion: Even if they con­demn Trump’s vul­gar com­ments, will they still vote for him?

The an­swer was “No” for a grow­ing num­ber of GOP of­fice­hold­ers, in­clud­ing at least two sit­ting gover­nors, six sen­a­tors and a half dozen con­gress­men.

“I’m a mom and an Amer­i­can first, and I can­not and will not sup­port a can­di­date for pres­i­dent who brags about de­grad­ing and as­sault­ing women,” New Hamp­shire Sen. Kelly Ay­otte said. “I will not be vot­ing for Don­ald Trump or Hil­lary Clin­ton and in­stead will be writ­ing in Gov. Pence for pres­i­dent on Elec­tion Day.”

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a mem­ber of the Se­nate Repub­li­can lead­er­ship team, of­fered a sharp re­buke as well: “Don­ald Trump should with­draw and Mike Pence should be our nom­i­nee ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately.”

Ne­vada Se­nate can­di­date Joe Heck said he was with­draw­ing his sup­port: “I can no longer look past this pat­tern of be­hav­ior and in­ap­pro­pri­ate com­ments from Don­ald Trump.”

And Repub­li­can Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho re­voked his en­dorse­ment: “This is not a de­ci­sion that I have reached lightly, but his pat­tern of be­hav­ior left me no choice.”

Elec­tion law ex­perts sug­gest it would be lo­gis­ti­cally im­pos­si­ble to re­place Trump on the bal­lot al­to­gether, with early vot­ing un­der­way in some states and over­seas bal­lots al­ready dis­trib­uted to mil­i­tary ser­vice­men and oth­ers.

EVAN VUCCI —THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this Oct. 6, 2016, photo, Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump speaks dur­ing a town hall in Sandown, N.H.

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