NATION POLITICS TRAIL GUIDE

Donald Trump won't be charged over that punch thrown at his rally in North Carolina

Will Michigan prove a tipping point or fluke for Bernie Sanders? Analysts speculate going into the Ohio primary.

California billionaire Tom Steyer labels Trump a 'racist'

 (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, who is pondering a run for California governor in 2018, on Monday called Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump “a racist and a liar.”

“Trump uses hate-filled rhetoric to divide America by race, religion, and ancestry. He deliberately incites violence against those who dare question him,” Steyer wrote on Medium three days after a Trump rally in Chicago was canceled as it descended into chaos. Some political observers said the development was predictable given the businessman’s penchant for incendiary rhetoric about Mexican immigrants, Muslims and others.

“Donald Trump is unfit for office and endangers our nation,” Steyer said.

Steyer’s language goes a hair further than some Democratic leaders, notably Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for her party’s nomination and the beneficiary of a fundraiser hosted by Steyer and his wife at their San Francisco home. She called Trump “bigoted” on Sunday but declined to answer a pointed question asking whether he's racist during a Democratic debate last week.

Steyer, a former hedge fund manager, has spent tens of millions of dollars of his personal wealth on liberal causes, notably climate change, with middling results. He was the nation's largest individual donor in 2014.

He argued that Trump is the result of conservatives stoking fear among voters to win at the ballot box.

“He preys on America’s prejudices and scapegoats entire races of people, all for the sake of his own ego,” Steyer wrote. “Trump’s vitriol attracts large crowds and may even win him the Republican presidential nomination but dishonors our best traditions.”

Donald Trump won't be charged with inciting a riot

Donald Trump is not going to face charges of inciting a riot at a North Carolina rally where a protester was punched by one of Trump's supporters, officials announced.

"We have reviewed the evidence accumulated" and it does "not meet the requisites of the law," the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

"The investigation with regard to Mr. Trump and his campaign has been concluded, and no charges are anticipated," the statement concluded. 

A lawyer for the Sheriff's Office had said earlier Monday that investigators were still examining the case, but that charges seemed unlikely. 

The case against John McGraw, the man charged with punching the protester at the Wednesday rally, is ongoing. Trump has said he's considering paying McGraw's legal fees.

Marco Rubio's lament: Being 'vain and self-absorbed' is now somehow a virtue

 (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Marco Rubio struck a contemplative tone at a Florida rally Monday night, comparing this topsy-turvy election season to a broader shake-up of the country's values.

"We have a culture today where what used to be wrong is now considered right," Rubio told the audience at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach on the eve of the state's crucial primary, which could prove decisive for his presidential ambitions.

"My whole life I’ve been told, being humble is a virtue. And now being humble is a weakness and being vain and self-absorbed is somehow a virtue," he said in a veiled shot at current GOP front-runner Donald Trump and his healthy ego.

Rubio continued: "My whole life I’ve been told, no matter how you feel about someone, you respect everyone because we all are the children of the same god. And now being respectful to one another is considered political correctness and therefore goes too far."

Rubio lamented Trump's outlandish rhetoric, noting the billionaire peppers his speeches at times with profanity. 

"We have never had a presidential candidate that has to be bleeped out," Rubio said.

He conceded he bore some responsibility for the tenor of the campaign as well, saying he "felt terrible" for his crass swipes at Trump.

"Let me tell you, it embarrassed my children. It embarrassed my wife," he said.

John Kasich says he'll stay positive, no matter what

 (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

The night before the Ohio primary that could decide his presidential campaign's future, John Kasich stayed resolutely upbeat at a rally in his hometown of Westerville.

Kasich, who has been Ohio's governor for six years, is under pressure to score a victory in his own state and disrupt Donald Trump's march to the Republican nomination. 

Appearing at a local high school with former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Kasich insisted he wouldn't stray from his campaign's positive message. 

“I will never take a low road to the highest office in the land," he said. "I will not do it.”

Recent polls have shown a close race in Ohio, with Kasich a few points ahead of Trump. Kasich didn't take any direct shots at the Republican front-runner but alluded to him in a few of his remarks.

“We don’t fix America by demonizing people. We don’t fix America by dividing people," he said. “We fix America ... by bringing people together. We’re stronger when we’re unified.”

Kasich went on to say, "I’m tired of hearing people say how terrible everything is in America. We’ve got our challenges, but America is incredible, it's great."

Trump: 'I really want to focus' on Clinton

Donald Trump unleashed all his usual insults against his GOP competitors Monday afternoon in Tampa: "Little Marco," "Lyin' Ted," and the "nasty and vicious and terrible" John Kasich.

But what he really seems to want is a different target: Hillary Clinton.

"The beauty would be, if we win Florida and we win Ohio, we can go and attack Hillary," Trump told a crowd at a town-hall-style rally at the Tampa Convention Center.

"That’s what I really want to focus on," he said.

Those two states are the biggest prizes in Tuesday's presidential primaries. Polls show Trump holding a sizable lead over Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, but a closer race in Ohio against Kasich, the state's governor.

Trump has only recently trained his sights on Kasich; on Monday, he denigrated Ohio's economy and said he bested the governor in an exchange in the first Republican debate.

"I hit him so hard that he never came back at me again. It was like 30 seconds of horrible, horrible fury," Trump said.

The GOP front-runner was joined on stage by some of his most prominent backers: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Pam Bondi, Florida's attorney general.

Palin canceled an event earlier in the day, citing a serious snowmobile accident involving her husband, Todd. But she told audience members in Tampa that he was "recovering in an ICU" and said the wreck made her appreciate the value of time.

"What we don’t have time for is all that petty, ... little thuggery stuff that’s been going on," she said, swiping at the protesters who have become a common presence at Trump's events.

Sure enough, there were a handful of such interruptions Monday.

"Every once in a while, we'll have a disrupter," Trump said, sounding almost bored by the outbursts.

Donald Trump could face inciting-a-riot charge in North Carolina, official confirms

Investigators in North Carolina are examining whether to charge Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump with inciting a riot after one of his supporters hit a protester at a rally Wednesday. 

Ronnie Mitchell, a lawyer for the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office, said in a statement that the office is looking into "the potential of whether there was conduct on the part of Mr. Trump or the Trump campaign which rose to the level of inciting a riot."

Also under consideration are additional charges for John McGraw, the Trump supporter who was caught on video punching the protester as he was being escorted out of the rally by police. The conduct of sheriff's deputies, who faced criticism when they did not immediately arrest McGraw but instead detained the protester, is also being examined, according to Mitchell. 

“We are continuing to look at the totality of these circumstances," Mitchell said.

The possibility of new charges -- first reported by WRAL, a local television station in North Carolina -- comes at a time when Trump is facing increased scrutiny for his political rhetoric. 

Trump has expressed nostalgia for "the old days" when protesters would be "carried out on a stretcher." When one demonstrator was ejected from a rally, Trump said he'd "like to punch him in the face." 

In addition, Trump has said he's considering paying McGraw's legal fees.

In a phone conversation, Mitchell said the sheriff's office hopes to wrap up their investigation within a day or so. 

“There’s probably not sufficient evidence to warrant actually charging him,” he said. “We’ll just have to see. We try not to rush to judgement.”

Mary-Rose Papandrea, a University of North Carolina law professor focusing on First Amendment issues, said the standard for proving incitement is strict.

“It’s not sufficient for someone to be engaging in offensive speech, speech that gets people upset,” she said. “What you have to see are words that expressly advocate unlawful conduct, and are imminently likely to cause unlawful conduct.”

Papandrea said Trump could potentially meet that definition, depending on what he said at the North Carolina rally where the protester was punched. She said there are non-legal considerations as well.

“Does the sheriff’s office want to file these charges in the context of a political campaign? That would be highly unusual,” she said. “That’s not a constitutional question.”

Palin and Christie among guest stars at Trump's Tampa rally

Donald Trump's angry 'love fests'

The chaos outside Donald Trump's canceled rally in Chicago on Friday. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)
The chaos outside Donald Trump's canceled rally in Chicago on Friday. (E. Jason Wambsgans / Chicago Tribune)

“You know how many people have been hurt at our rallies?” Donald Trump asked as the first of what would be several interruptions from protesters emerged during his presidential campaign stop in Hickory, N.C., on Monday. “I think, like, basically none.”

Really?

“Other than I guess maybe somebody got hit once. But there is no violence,” Trump told New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was on the stage with him. He seemed to be referring to the now infamous sucker punch. Even so, the statement seemed at odds with TV news images, viewed by millions, of the rally Trump canceled in Chicago on Friday because of, well, fistfights, screaming and the danger that a lot of people were about to get hurt.

The GOP front-runner, who has been condemned by every one of his rivals, including the Republicans, for inciting violence at his rallies, said the critics have it all wrong. The events, Trump said, are “love fests. We love each other.”

They just happen to be angry love fests, he explained.

“We are angry,” Trump said. “We are not angry people, I will tell you that.

"But there is a lot of anger."

Trump explained the "angry love fest" phenomenon.

“I’m supposed to say, ‘Oh no, we don’t have anger. We are wonderful people. We are so happy with the way the country is run,'” he said. “I say, ‘Wait a minute, I am not going to say that. I am going to tell the truth.' I say, ‘Yes, I am angry, yes, the millions of people that are supporting Trump and I am supporting them, we are all angry because we are tired of a government that is run incompetently.'” 

Now it's John Kasich's turn -- Baby! Liar! -- for the Donald Trump treatment

 (Gene J. Puskar / AP)
(Gene J. Puskar / AP)

First he went after “Little Marco” Rubio. Then he targeted “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz.

Facing a key test on Tuesday in Ohio, a state that could hasten his way to the Republican presidential nomination or raise a significant hurdle, Donald Trump has now turned his sights on its governor, presidential rival John Kasich.

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In Youngstown, Bernie Sanders rallies followers with a call to jobs lost

If there is any place in Ohio where Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign should find a popular audience, it would be in Youngstown, a symbol of loss in a state where 300,000 jobs vanished in recent years.

His message excoriating a “corrupt” campaign finance system and a “rigged” economic system found that audience Monday morning, although it was a small one by Sanders’ standards, far fewer than the 7,000 screaming students who greeted him at Ohio State University in Columbus on Sunday night.

The median age was higher too, as the typically young Sanders crowd was met by union workers whose jobs have suffered from the state’s economic downturn. Things are looking up now, but the jobs that can be found don’t pay as well as the old ones did -- a frustration that fits into Sanders’ message.

“He’s talking about things that need to be talked about,” said Dave Williams, a 52-year-old cement finisher from Youngstown. “The middle class.”

For Sanders, delivering his speech took effort; after months of campaigning, he is painfully hoarse. He criticized his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, for being supported by super PACs and for delivering highly compensated speeches to Wall Street insiders.

“Democracy is not about billionaires buying elections,” he said. “That’s not democracy! That is oligarchy! And this country is not going to become an oligarchy if we have anything to say about it.”

As he has frequently in recent days, Sanders said he took offense at Republican candidate Donald Trump’s behavior, including his references to violence in campaign rallies and his suggestion Sunday that he might pay the legal fees for a man who sucker-punched a protester at a recent event in North Carolina.

“We together will defeat Donald Trump because the American people fully understand that bringing our people together … will always trump separating us,” he said. “At the end of the day, love always trumps hatred.”

He cited recent polls that show him defeating Trump in a general election. But he did not mention polls that have him behind Clinton in Ohio. As with every state from here on out, it looms as a must-win if Sanders is to keep his momentum going.

Beating her in Ohio will depend on a high turnout of his supporters, he suggested.

“The story of this campaign is that we win elections when voter turnout is high; we lose elections when voter turnout is low,” he said, asking for “a massive voter turnout” in Ohio.

Sarah Palin cancels Trump event after husband injured in accident

Trump's endorsement of violence reaches new level: He may pay legal fees for assault suspect

When Donald Trump said Sunday that he might pay the legal fees of a man charged with hitting a protester in the face at one of his rallies, it was the latest of many occasions when the leading Republican candidate for president appeared to condone or accept violence by supporters.

Heckling at rallies is a staple of all presidential campaigns, and the New York billionaire attracts more than average. For both Democrats and Republicans, it’s routine to urge unruly crowds to remain peaceful, as Trump often does.

But Trump alone has openly endorsed violent retaliation against people who disrupt his rallies, many of whom accuse him of racism.

The racially charged mayhem that erupted at his planned rally in Chicago on Friday night, with black and Latino protesters and white Trump supporters taking swings at one another on live television, did nothing to temper what critics in both parties have labeled his dangerous rhetoric.

Every day I'm grateful I'm not there.

Former House Speaker John Boehner on his decision to quit Congress. He made his remark at an Ohio Republican Party dinner where he endorsed the state's governor, John Kasich, for president.

Ben Carson: Trump rally violence could get worse

Those protesting against Donald Trump, not Trump backers, are inciting the violence that marred his rallies over the weekend, former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said Monday, days after he endorsed the GOP front-runner.

The violence could get worse, Carson warned.

“If the protesters continue with their Alinsky-ite tactics, there is a real possibility of escalation,” Carson said on NBC’s “Today," referring to Saul Alinsky, the influential community organizer who wrote "Rules for Radicals."

Carson deflected the question when asked about Trump's calls for violence, which have included instructing supporters to "punch" or "knock the crap out of " protesters.

“The people of America are at a different place than I’m at,” Carson said. “They’re really more at a place where Donald Trump is because they’re so frustrated.”

Breitbart reporter and editor resign over encounter after Trump news conference

Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields and editor-at-large Ben Shapiro have resigned, saying the organization fell short in supporting Fields after she accused Donald Trump's campaign manager of manhandling her. 

Fields alleged that Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed her arm hard enough to leave bruises when she tried to ask Trump a question after a news conference last week in Florida. She has filed charges.

Breitbart itself, known for its pro-Trump leanings, published an article questioning the validity of Fields’ accusation and initially suggested that video showed her mistaking Lewandowski for someone else. But a Washington Post reporter who witnessed the encounter identified Lewandowski as having grabbed Fields, and video has emerged supporting his account.

"I do not believe Breitbart News has adequately stood by me during the events of the past week and because of that I believe it is now best for us to part ways,” Fields wrote in a statement.

Shapiro called Breitbart Chairman Stephen Bannon's handling of the situation a betrayal of founder Andrew Breitbart’s legacy.

"Steve Bannon is a bully and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda, to the extent that he abandoned and undercut his own reporter,” Shapiro said in a statement after his resignation.

Spokesman Kurt Bardella also severed ties with Breitbart last week. 

I ran a two-man office in Columbus, Ohio. And if I bankrupted Lehman Brothers from a two-man office I should have been selected pope, not run for president."

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, responding to Donald Trump's attacks for his work at the collapsed financial firm.

Mitt Romney to join John Kasich in Ohio today

Trump's businesses would create unprecedented challenges in the White House

Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Cabarrus Arena in Concord, N.C., (Jeff Siner / TNS)
Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at the Cabarrus Arena in Concord, N.C., (Jeff Siner / TNS)

At practically every stop in his wild and thus far successful ride to the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump has touted his businesses, and argued that his deep experience in financing and deal-making uniquely qualifies him to be president.

But if he actually reaches the White House, the sheer size of Trump’s holdings, his active role in varied companies and his knack for self-promotion will pose unprecedented political, financial and ethical challenges.

If elected, Trump would almost certainly be the richest person ever to occupy the White House. Independent estimates of his wealth range from a few hundred million dollars to $4.5 billion by Forbes magazine. He claims to be worth $10 billion, but has thus far refused to release tax records.

'Michigan on steroids': Factors that will determine whether Clinton or Sanders win Ohio

Hillary Clinton with Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) during a service at Mount Zion Fellowship Church in Highland Hills, Ohio, on March 13. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)
Hillary Clinton with Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) during a service at Mount Zion Fellowship Church in Highland Hills, Ohio, on March 13. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Through cities and suburbs, through isolated farmland and fractured steel towns, the Democratic presidential campaign has come to Ohio, whose verdict Tuesday will rest on an unpredictable mix of blue-collar anger, young-voter enthusiasm and African American strength.

Hillary Clinton found sustenance here before, in a romping 2008 primary victory over Barack Obama, and she is counting on loyalty and the state's Midwestern sensibility to help her dispatch this year's opponent, Bernie Sanders.

Sanders is hoping to build on his victory last week in Michigan, a neighboring state where he came from behind on the strength of his vehement opposition to foreign trade, attracting working-class voters and significantly cutting into Clinton's black support.

The question for both: Was Michigan a fluke or a tipping point?

By the numbers

How does Clinton or Trump get to 270 electoral votes? Play with our map.

Third debate scorecard: Here's who's winning each round

All things Clinton | All things Trump

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