Campaign 2016 updates: Ryan won’t campaign with Trump

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump return to the campaign trail after an acrimonious second debate.

  • “Do what’s best for you,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan tells GOP House members.
  • Mike Pence says it is “absolutely false” that he pondered quitting the ticket.
  • Thwarted: Trump campaign plan to make a scene.
  • Here’s how our judges scored the debate.

Trump shows little remorse in his return to the trail after controversy over leaked remarks

Donald Trump at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
(Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)

A contrite Donald Trump? That’s so yesterday.

Trump, returning to the campaign trail for the first time after his past disparaging comments about women were revealed in a leaked recording, seemed hardly chastened Monday by the battering his campaign has withstood.

In a pair of rallies in Pennsylvania, Trump was playful, defiant and unabashed in his appeal to his base, doubling down on his threats to prosecute Hillary Clinton should he be elected and signaling more attacks on her husband’s infidelities.

The leaked comments — in which he lewdly boasted of pursuing women without consent — have dominated the political world and unleashed an unprecedented civil war within the Republican Party. But they went barely mentioned in Trump’s public remarks.

At his first rally, in the western Pennsylvania town of Ambridge, he briefly acknowledged being “beaten up for 72 hours” for “locker room talk,” but did not apologize for those comments, as he did on Friday after the tape was leaked.

He did not refer to the remarks later at a rally in Wilkes-Barre. His opener, former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, said he would save a salty comment about the Clinton Foundation for “the locker room.” The mention drew loud cheers from the crowd.

Trump lobbed ceaseless attacks at Clinton, homing in on leaked excerpts of her speeches to Wall Street audiences in which she called for a globalized trade policy.

The GOP nominee also warned his audience of the election possibly being “stolen,” a charge with implicit racial undertones. In Ambridge, he told the predominantly white crowd to watch “other communities” to make sure no fraud was being committed. In Wilkes-Barre, he raised the specter of “horror shows” of stolen elections in Philadelphia, which has sizable black and Latino populations.

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Clinton’s tale of the tape: I’ll see your ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ and raise you Bin Laden

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton on Monday seized on an opening Donald Trump gave her in their second debate to make a more explicit contrast of their respective records, hers in public service and his in business.

Trump had attacked Clinton for her inability to accomplish any of her stated policy goals despite a lengthy career.

“For 30 years she’s been doing this,” he said. “Why didn’t she do something about it? She doesn’t do anything about anything other than talk. With her, it’s all talk and no action.”

Speaking before the biggest crowd of her second presidential campaign, more than 10,000 on the campus of Ohio State University, Clinton went decade by decade in comparing the paths she and the Republican nominee have taken to this point.

In the 1970s, she was working to fight discrimination while he was being sued by the Justice Department for racial discrimination at apartments he owned, she said.

In the 1980s, she worked as Arkansas’ first lady to improve the state’s school system while Trump was getting a $14 million loan — her figure — to start his businesses.

In the 1990s, she went to Beijing as America’s first lady to advocate for women’s rights, while Trump “insulted Miss Universe.” (She also referred to her rival as an “equal opportunity insulter if there ever was one.”)

“And on the day that I was in the Situation Room watching the raid that brought Osama Bin Laden to justice, he was hosting ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’” she said. “So if he wants to talk about what we’ve been doing the last 30 years, bring it on!”

Clinton made a special appeal again to young voters, urging them not to give in to cynicism made worse by her opponent’s negativity.

“The only way to rebuke this is to vote, use the single most important fundamental right you have as citizens,” she said.

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Producer says contracts, not him, prevent the release of ‘Apprentice’ footage of Trump

Since a 2005 tape of “Access Hollywood” footage showing Donald Trump bragging about groping women leaked on Friday, rumors have swirled about more damaging recordings from “The Apprentice,” the Republican nominee’s reality show.

Now the show’s producer is denying reports that he’s keeping tapes under wraps to protect Trump.

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Republican Party chairman reassures members: We’re sticking by Trump

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

Seeking to clamp down on speculation that the GOP was primed to cut its presidential nominee loose, party Chairman Reince Priebus told Republican National Committee members that the organization continues to stand behind and work with Donald Trump.

According to two party members on an RNC conference call Monday, Priebus said there was no change in the party’s coordination with the Trump campaign, and he said the RNC’s Victory project, dedicated to helping Trump, was still operating, despite media reports last weekend to the contrary.

The call came hours after House Speaker Paul Ryan told his caucus that he would no longer campaign with Trump, focusing his efforts on congressional races again. The decision underscored the deepening fractures in the GOP following the revelation of Trump’s crude comments in 2005 about groping women.

Priebus asserted the main job of the RNC was to support the party’s presidential nominee.

“It needed to be said. People have been wanting to hear a message from the RNC on this,” said one committee member, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

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Florida voter registration deadline extended after Democratic Party lawsuit

Wreckage in Flagler Beach, Fla., from Hurricane Matthew
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

A federal judge ordered Florida to allow voters to register until Wednesday evening, agreeing with Democratic Party lawyers that the deadline should be extended because of disruption from Hurricane Matthew.

The original deadline was Tuesday, and Republican Gov. Rick Scott had resisted requests to push it back.

“Hurricane Matthew not only forced many of those voters to evacuate the state, but also foreclosed the only methods of registering to vote: in person or by mail,” wrote Judge Mark Walker. “As a result, Florida’s statutory framework completely disenfranchises thousands of voters, and amounts to a severe burden on the right to vote.”

A court hearing on the lawsuit, which requested a new deadline of Oct. 18, is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

“It has been suggested that the issue of extending the voter registration deadline is about politics,” wrote Walker, who was appointed by President Obama. “Poppycock.This case is about the right of aspiring eligible voters to register and to have their votes counted.”

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GOP civil war gathers force as House Speaker Paul Ryan cuts loose Donald Trump

Republicans faced a deepening split in their ranks Monday as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan declared he would no longer defend Donald Trump and instead focus the last four weeks of the presidential campaign on preserving the GOP’s majority in Congress.

He urged fellow lawmakers to do whatever is necessary to win Nov. 8, effectively declaring every man and woman for themselves.

Ryan drew an immediate backlash on Capitol Hill and at the party’s grass roots as loyalists were stunned at the spectacle of the top elected Republican in the country cutting loose the GOP standard-bearer 29 days before the election.

Trump responded with a slap on Twitter: “Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.”

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Hillary Clinton and ‘real billionaire’ Warren Buffett fact check Trump’s tax claims

(Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton brushed off Donald Trump’s attacks and doubled down on her own at her first post-debate rally here Monday, using a “real billionaire” to counter the Republican’s claims about his own taxes.

Clinton told a crowd of more than 3,000 supporters in Detroit that each of them had probably paid more in federal income taxes than Trump.

She cited Warren Buffett’s new statement that he has paid federal income taxes every year since 1944, and was prepared to release all 72 years of his returns — none of which use a loophole that Trump employed to avoid paying taxes by writing off nearly a billion dollars in losses.

“It does take a certain amount of genius to lose a billion dollars in a single year,” Clinton tweaked.

Buffett released the statement after Trump defended his move and claimed that many of Clinton’s friends “took bigger deductions. Warren Buffett took a massive deduction.”

“If you’re going to call out Warren Buffett, you better be prepared for him telling some good, old-fashioned, honest Nebraska facts,” Clinton said. Buffett is from Omaha.

Clinton and her team seemed confident that she enhanced her standing after Sunday’s caustic second debate.

“You never saw anything like that before,” she said as she began her remarks.

She did not address Trump’s charges about her husband’s infidelity and her role in responding to women who accused him of sexual assault. But she did plead with supporters, particularly younger voters, not to let the negativity of the race make them cynical about politics.

“That’s what the other side wants you to feel,” she said. “They want you to just say, ‘I’m not going to vote because it’s so nasty.’ That’s the main reason to vote, to make it clear that we’re not putting up with that kind of attitude.”

Clinton said she hoped young people would represent the biggest voting group in the election.

“I know that it is sometimes a little bit challenging to figure out what is going on. Who should I believe? What do I need to know?” she said. “Trust your heart. Because if we work together, we can make this country what we know it will be and should be.”

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Even after the video, the faithful are sticking by Trump

(Jeff Swensen / Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s electoral prospects may have been badly bruised in recent days, but the faithful fans streaming into a high school gym here in western Pennsylvania on Monday said they were as committed as ever to the embattled GOP nominee.

Waiting in line before Trump’s first rally since leaked audio emerged of the him crudely boasting of groping women, Ken Rice of Perryopolis said he was not shaken by the revelation.

“He admitted he was wrong,” said Rice, a 62-year-old trucker. “You shouldn’t disparage ladies, but they all do it.”

Rice said he expected more embarrassing recordings of Trump to come out, but said there was nothing the GOP nominee could say that would lose his support.

And he had no patience for Republican politicians peeling away from Trump.

“He’s the flag-bearer. They should be behind them,” Rice said.

Michele Schillig, an Air Force veteran wearing a Women for Trump button, said she too was “very much” disappointed by GOP lawmakers’ efforts to isolate themselves from Trump and warned that contortions like those of Republican Sen. Pat Toomey — who is locked in a contentious reelection battle here — may backfire.

Toomey denounced both Trump and Hillary Clinton on Monday but would not say whom he supported for president.

“He better stand up for Trump,” said Schillig, 72, of Toomey. “I’m not all that crazy about him.”

The rally attracted several dozen demonstrators, including John Leonard of Sutter, who held a sign bluntly calling Trump a “sexual predator.” He said the GOP’s pacing and body language at Sunday’s debate backed up that characterization.

“He was actually stalking behind her,” said Leonard, 69. “That’s a predator.”

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After ‘an interesting few days,’ Mike Pence returns to the campaign trail, all in for Trump

(Nell Redmond / AP)

Mike Pence roused a few hundred enthusiastic supporters here Monday, showing that whatever doubts he may have had over the weekend about being Donald Trump’s running mate were behind him, at least in public.

“As I come before you today, it’s been an interesting few days,” he said early in his speech, drawing nervous chuckles. “But I got to tell you, I joined this campaign in a heartbeat because you have nominated a man for president who never quits.”

Pence called Trump a fighter and a winner who showed on the debate stage that he “embodies the spirit of America.”

He also addressed a video that surfaced Friday on which Trump talks about using his fame as a pass to grope women. Pence accepted Trump’s apologies — criticized by detractors as hedged — as full-throated.

“It takes a big man to know when he’s wrong and to admit and have the humility to apologize,” Pence said.

Pence then went on to speak about his own faith, his wife and the significance of being born again.

“We all fall short,” he said. “I don’t condone what was said and I spoke out against it,” he said. “But the other part of my faith is, I believe in grace.”

He drew loud applause when he gave Trump credit for showing heart and humility at the debate, “and then he fought back.”

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Clinton campaign says she wasn’t intimidated by Trump’s debate ‘stunt’

(John Locher / Associated Press)

If Donald Trump thought he could rattle Hillary Clinton with his “stunt” featuring Bill Clinton’s past accusers, he was shown wrong, her campaign said Monday.

“This was a threat. He followed through on his threat. ... And it failed,” campaign communications director Jen Palmieri told reporters.

“So I don’t know what he is going to do for an encore. But she’s just going to continue to run her race,” she said. “She doesn’t get rattled very easily. She’s been through a number of trials over the course of her career. She wasn’t going to let him intimidate her.”

Palmieri expects the race to remain close in the remaining four weeks. But if there is a boost at the moment, the campaign is seeking to maximize it with a series of rallies featuring Clinton and her top surrogates encouraging supporters to vote early.

Clinton wants to “show that she is somebody who is focused on bringing the country together,” Palmieri said.

“It’s hard to break through on any one day. And that’s why we just have to keep at it,” she said. “She’s gonna continue every day to talk about -- and you see it in the advertising we’re putting up as well -- talk about what she would want to do and how she would bring the country together.”

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Clinton campaign: GOP leaders legitimized Trump, and voters will hold them accountable

(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton’s campaign says it’s too late for Republican leaders to try to put distance between themselves and Donald Trump.

Speaking with reporters en route to Hillary Clinton’s first post-debate rally in Michigan on Monday, campaign communications director Jen Palmieri called it “stunning” that House Speaker Paul D. Ryan would need to say he can no longer defend his party’s presidential nominee.

“There was a time when they could have stopped Donald Trump. There was a time when they could have spoken out against him. And that time was this summer,” she said. “Obviously, it’s too late now.”

Republican leaders need to account for their role in a “civil war” breaking out within the party, Palmieri added.

“Donald Trump didn’t become the nominee of the Republican Party on his own. These leaders helped legitimize him, and I think that they have a lot to answer for,” she said. “Voters, I imagine, will hold them accountable, too.”

Palmieri, though, downplayed a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll Monday that showed Clinton opening her largest lead in months.

“This has been a very close race and we expect that it will return to being a close race,” she said.

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Was Melania Trump’s pussy-bow blouse a fashion statement or a political one?

(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

It’s fair to say that going into last night’s presidential debate, fashion was not anticipated to be a headline-generator. Following Friday’s release of Donald Trump’s vulgar comments on women, from 2005, the second debate was watched closely to see how Trump would address the offensive and alienating remarks. And while Trump said much — roughly 40 minutes worth of comments — his wife Melania made a loud statement in silence.

The Republican candidate’s wife attended the debate in a fuchsia silk crepe de chine blouse from Gucci (yes, once again sporting a non-American designer), which featured what is known as a pussy bow at the neck.

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, was wearing Ralph Lauren.

Melania’s choice instantly caught the attention of viewers and sparked memes, jeers and discussion on social media. The jury’s still out on whether this was simply a rather misguided oversight or a pointed response to her husband’s crass comments.

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Hillary Clinton is looking for Republican voters with new TV ads

(David Goldman / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton has made no secret of her desire to win over some Republican voters disillusioned with Donald Trump.

Now her campaign is releasing a series of videos that highlight Republicans who plan to vote for Clinton.

Here’s one of them, featuring a woman who once worked with the party to elect former President Reagan.

The four videos are being run nationally on cable news channels and locally in battleground states.

They come on the heels of a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that showed Clinton has more support among Democrats than Trump does among Republicans. While 85% of Democrats surveyed said they would back Clinton, only 72% said the same about Trump.

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Donald Trump fires back at Paul Ryan

House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t formally withdraw his endorsement of Donald Trump on Monday, but his attempt to insulate his caucus from the New York businessman’s floundering presidential campaign didn’t go over well.

Trump responded in a tweet shortly after a conference call among Ryan and other House Republicans.

Ryan’s office seemed to brush off Trump’s tweet.

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Clinton takes double-digit lead over Trump in weekend poll

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump, 52%-38%, among likely voters in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey conducted over the weekend, before Sunday night’s debate.

In a four-way matchup including Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green party nominee Jill Stein, Clinton led Trump, 46%-35%, with Johnson at 9% and Stein at 2%.

The poll was conducted after news broke on Friday about a video in which Trump can be heard boasting that he can grope women because “when you’re a star, they let you do it.”

Trump’s problems may be washing over his party, as well, either by tainting it with his own unpopularity or by discouraging Republican turnout, the poll indicated. Asked which party they would favor in congressional elections, likely voters sided with the Democrats, 49%-42%, the poll found.

That result is up from a 3-point Democratic advantage last month. Whether it would be large enough to overturn the Republican majority in the House, however, is not clear. In 2006, when Democrats won control of the House, their average advantage in polls was about 8 percentage points, but redistricting after the 2010 Census has given Republicans a significant cushion in many races.

Among Republicans, the poll indicated that Trump retains significant support -- a problem for congressional Republican leaders who are trying to distance the party from him. About two-thirds of Republicans in the poll said the party’s candidates should continue to back Trump.

The poll surveyed 500 registered voters on Saturday and Sunday. It has a margin of error of 4.6 percentage points in either direction for the likely voter sample.

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Hillary Clinton’s first step after the debate: Promote early voting to lock in support in battleground states

(Michael A. Memoli / Los Angeles Times)

With an intense and combative debate behind her and top Republicans privately questioning whether to revoke their support for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is looking to run up the score – banking as many votes as she can now before a race with no shortage of twists and turns takes another one.

On Monday, Clinton will campaign in two battleground states, with two deadlines in mind. She arrives first in Detroit on the eve of Michigan’s voter registration deadline, to urge supporters in the heavily Democratic city to ensure they and their friends will be able to cast a ballot on election day.

Then in Ohio she will highlight early voting, which begins there Tuesday.

The voter turnout efforts are key to how Clinton spends her time, campaign manager Robby Mook explained late Sunday after the debate.

“Most voter registration deadlines are just a few days away; that is why she is going to be spending time in Michigan, Ohio, down in Florida,” he said.

Clinton will campaign with Al Gore in Miami on Tuesday, Florida’s voter registration deadline – though state Democrats have filed suit seeking to extend it by one week because of the disruption caused by Hurricane Matthew.

“We are already starting to see historic turnout numbers for vote by mail and early vote in Florida, North Carolina, in Minnesota,” Mook said. “That is going to be her overwhelming priority moving forward in the race.”

But Clinton’s massive get-out-the-vote efforts are also expensive. She will end her week on the West Coast with fundraisers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

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Trump’s camp says debate commission unfairly stopped them from seating Bill Clinton’s accusers in family box

Donald Trump’s supporters are now citing one more reason they believe the presidential debates are rigged against him: seating arrangements.

A plan by the Trump campaign to seriously rattle Hillary Clinton was thwarted at the last minute, when the Commission on Presidential Debates warned campaign officials not to seat some of Trump’s guests in the candidate’s family box, as first reported by the Washington Post.

But these were no ordinary guests. These were three women who had accused Bill Clinton of sexually assaulting them, and a fourth who charges Hillary Clinton with callously defending in court the man accused of raping her as a child. Trump advisor Rudolph Giuliani told the Post the seating plan was designed to make a scene.

The Trump campaign, Giuliani said, was hoping to see the women confront Bill Clinton as both he and they were escorted to their respective boxes minutes before the debate. The top advisors involved in the plotting had kept their plan a secret from even others in the campaign until the last possible moment. But before it could be carried out, the commission intervened. Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., the co-chair of the commission and a Republican, warned the Trump campaign that if the women were seated in the family box, they would be removed by security.

The Trump campaign blinked. “We weren’t going to have a fight on national TV with the commission to start the debate,” Giuliani told the Post.

The four women were moved to general seating, where their presence created a spectacle, but not nearly as big a one as a confrontation with the former president would have produced.

Now, Trump supporters are complaining of unfair treatment. They note that Clinton was allowed to seat billionaire and Trump antagonist Mark Cuban in the front row during the first debate, prompting the GOP nominee to express extreme irritation. Trump had threatened to bring the Clinton accusers to that event once Cuban boasted of his front-row seat, but he held off until the next match-up.

But Trump was not alone in having the seating plans for his VIP box upended by the commission on Sunday night, at a debate where the intimate “town hall” format created more possibility for disruption than at the earlier event. Just before Trump’s guests were booted from his box, the Clinton campaign was told to find another seat for Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, one of Clinton’s top surrogates. The boxes were to be reserved for family only, both campaigns were told.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan will not campaign with Trump, but still endorses him

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will not campaign with Donald Trump and told House GOP lawmakers to make their own decisions on whether to support the presidential nominee.

The speaker has long said his priority was to save the House majority, but his explicit refusal to defend Trump at a crucial time was a stunning acknowledgement of the potential electoral loss.

Trump chastised the speaker for his comments. “Paul Ryan should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee,’’ Trump tweeted.

Ryan’s approach also elicited protests from rank-and-file Republican lawmakers who said that fighting for Trump was the best way to stop Democrat Hillary Clinton’s agenda.

“You all need to do what’s best for you in your district,” Ryan told Republicans, according to someone on the morning conference call granted anonymity to discuss the private session.

Ryan reiterated his position that he would work to ensure Clinton does not get a “blank check “ with a Democrat-controlled Congress.

But Ryan stopped short of yanking his endorsement of Trump, and told members he would not defend the presidential nominee or campaign with him for the remainder of the election.

Congress is on recess but Republican leaders arranged the call to help lawmakers navigate the fallout from the tape of Trump’s sexually aggressive comments about women.

About a dozen members spoke up on the call, and most disagreed with Ryan’s approach, according to sources on the call.

One Trump supporter, Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, expressed his frustration that the party and its leaders were not unifying around Trump.

“The best way to ensure a Republican majority in the House is to make Donald Trump the most successful candidate we can make him,” Cramer said. “The idea that running from him strengthens that, I don’t buy that strategy.”

Even though Republicans are not expected to lose control of the House in November barring a major upset, Ryan needs to stem GOP losses to provide a cushion as he leads a majority hampered by infighting.

According to a person on the call, Ryan will spend all his time and energy preserving the House majority, rather than campaigning with Trump.

Ryan has had a difficult time with Trump’s candidacy, first refusing to endorsee the nominee him, then reluctantly coming on board despite their many differences in style and substance.

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Woman who has long criticized Hillary Clinton got paid by Trump ally

(Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

At least one of the women Donald Trump invited as his guest to the debate Sunday night as part of his effort to paint Bill and Hillary Clinton as victimizers of women received a cash payment from a pro-Trump organization.

A super PAC founded by former Trump campaign senior advisor Roger Stone has paid $2,500 to Kathy Shelton, an Arkansas woman sexually assaulted as a child by a man whom Hillary Clinton was appointed to represent in court. Trump called out Clinton for her work on the case during a testy exchange Sunday, as he sought to deflect attention from the recently disclosed video in which Trump appears to brag about sexually assaulting woman.

The payment, first reported by the Associated Press, came in May from the Committee to Restore America’s Greatness PAC. Campaign finance records describe it as being made for “contract labor.” Stone told the AP that Shelton “was extensively interviewed on video about her experience with Hillary Clinton and was paid for her time.”

Stone has arranged to pay other women critical of the Clintons. At one point he started a fund to cover the mortgage of Kathleen Willey, who accused Bill Clinton of making unwanted sexual advances toward her. Stone said Trump had contributed to it, a claim the Trump campaign denies.

It was also unclear who paid the travel costs to the debate for the Clinton accusers who came. Juanita Broaddrick, an Arkansas nursing home administrator whose allegations of rape against Bill Clinton were dismissed in court, told reporters that Breitbart Media, a conservative news outlet with close ties to the Trump campaign, paid her travel.

On Twitter, the conservative media firm WeSearchr, which works to bring attention to rumors about liberals it says are not getting covered by the mainstream media, took credit for covering the cost of Shelton’s travel.

The Trump campaign told the AP that neither Breitbart nor WeSearchr paid such expenses. It said travel costs were covered by the campaign.

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No change in Speaker Paul Ryan’s support for Trump ‘at this time’

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan will confer with GOP lawmakers on a conference call Monday, but it appears unlikely he will announce a change in support for Donald Trump.

“There’s no update in our position at this time,” a leadership aide said ahead of the call.

Congress is on recess with lawmakers scattered around the country on the campaign trail. Republican leaders arranged the call as they navigate the fallout from the tape of Trump’s sexually aggressive comments about women.

Barring a major surprise, Republicans are not expected to lose control of the House in November. But Ryan needs to stem GOP losses to provide a cushion as he leads a majority hampered by infighting.

After Trump’s debate performance, one GOP strategist, Ron Bonjean, said the nominee had appeared to have “stopped the bleeding.”

“The bar is really low but doubtful GOP leaders walk away, for now,” he said.

Trump’s troubles pose problems for lawmakers in the few districts that are highly competitive, particular in the suburban swing districts where races up and down the ticket are most in play.

The decision Monday by Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, to stay on the ticket also may shore up support. He is a former leader in the House.

Ryan has had difficulty maintaining his reluctant support for Trump amid their different styles and ideas.

House leadership’s message Monday will likely be one that allows lawmakers to chart their own course -- sticking with Trump if it makes sense in conservative districts, for example, or shunning him if they must.

“The call is an opportunity to discuss the news of the day and regroup following the second debate,” a leadership aide said.

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Pence says reports he considered dropping out are ‘absolutely false’

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears to be fully on board with the Trump campaign. The vice presidential nominee, during interviews on cable news shows, threw cold water on talk that he had considered bolting from the ticket after the disclosure of a videotape featuring Trump’s boasts of sexually assaulting women.

“It is absolutely false to think at any time we considered dropping off this ticket,” Pence said on CNN. “I look forward to campaigning shoulder to shoulder with Donald Trump.”

Pence also waved away the disagreement his running mate said the two have about how to handle the civil war in Syria, saying the debate moderator Sunday night misrepresented Pence’s position.

On Trump’s bragging of grabbing women’s genitals, Pence said he accepts Trump’s explanation that it was just talk. “He said it is not something he has done,” Pence said. “He made it clear last night. He said it was talk.”

Asked to recount his conversations with Trump and with his own family about the remarks Trump was caught making on a hot mike a decade ago, Pence demurred. But he made clear he remains in lockstep with Trump by arguing, as Trump did in Sunday night’s debate, that Bill and Hillary Clinton have an even worse record of victimizing women.

“The American people need to know the deeds not only of President Clinton, but efforts of Hillary Clinton to destroy the women who made accusations against her husband,” he said. He refused to acknowledge such attacks are perilous for the Trump campaign, considering the many accusations of sexual impropriety that have been brought against Trump.

Pence denied that he and Trump are at odds on Syria policy, even though Trump said as much in the debate. He said both men support establishing “safe zones” in Syria to protect civilians, and using military resources for that effort.

But Pence argued that a question from moderator Martha Radditz on Sunday implied he supports using the military to push for regime change, which Pence said he does not. “She misrepresented the statement I made in my national debate,” he said.

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Who won debate? Depends on which focus group you ask

Another reminder that focus groups can be an exceedingly unreliable reflection of the wider electorate came last night when two widely publicized snap-studies of undecided voters reached exactly opposite conclusions.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz reported that the voters he had been watching were so impressed by Donald Trump that he is back in the race. The Luntz focus group has been extensively covered by mainstream news networks, including CBS.

But over at CNN, the voters assembled might as well have been watching a different event. They said Trump got crushed. Only one undecided voter in the group of 29 said Trump had won the debate.

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A ‘really unattractive group.’ Trump wasn’t always so fond of Bill Clinton’s accusers

Confronted with a videotape in which he appeared to be bragging about sexually assaulting women, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump responded by lashing out at rival Hillary Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton. He held a news conference before the debate that included women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual assault, and then he invited them to be his guests at Sunday night’s second presidential debate. He spoke highly of them during in a heated debate exchange in which he accused the Clintons of far worse misdeeds than himself.

But Trump has not always spoken so favorably of the Clinton accusers. In fact, the last time they dominated the news, he described the situation as being “from hell” and the accusers as a “really unattractive group.”

“I don’t necessarily agree with his victims, his victims are terrible,” Trump said during a 1998 interview with Fox News. “He is really a victim himself. But he put himself in that position.”

He went on. “The whole group, Paula Jones, Lewinsky, it’s just a really unattractive group,” he said. “I’m not just talking about physical.”

On Sunday night, while delivering an angry condemnation of the Clintons, Trump raised the late-1990s sex scandal involving then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky that led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment. But here is what he said about Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky at the time: “They’ve taken nothing and made it a big monster,” Trump said. “I mean they’ve made Watergate out of really what should’ve been nothing.”

In another interview, he called Clinton accuser Paula Jones, who was among his guests in the debate hall Sunday night, “a loser.”

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CNN poll: Clinton won debate. And it wasn’t close

Hillary Clinton won Sunday night’s debate by a wide margin, according to a CNN/ORC poll of people who watched. Of those polled, 57% said they found Clinton the victor. After the first presidential debate, an even larger margin of viewers polled by CNN/ORC had concluded Clinton won.

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Watch: The full second debate

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Debate transcript: The nastiest, most important exchanges of the presidential town hall debate, annotated

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With a middling debate performance, Trump remains a candidate facing an uphill climb

(Win McNamee / Getty Images)

Donald Trump had a deep hole to climb out of Sunday in the second presidential debate, one he’d dug with a succession of self-generated controversies that culminated Friday in the release of a 2005 video in which he bragged about groping women.

It was perhaps an impossibly deep hole, and Trump did not succeed in climbing out.

Trump ended the debate in the same wounded condition in which he’d begun it: with fearful Republicans worried about the trajectory of his campaign, and in some cases asking him to abandon his candidacy.

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