Trump says he admired Saddam Hussein only for how he killed terrorists
Donald Trump defended his praise of Saddam Hussein at an Ohio rally where he spent nearly an hour heaping scorn on television networks for the way they have covered his presidential campaign.
“I don’t love Saddam Hussein,” Trump said of the late Iraqi dictator on Wednesday. “I hate Saddam Hussein. But he was damn good at killing terrorists.”
The Republican business tycoon also said an aide should not have removed a six-pointed star from a recent Trump tweet that was widely denounced as anti-Semitic. It showed his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, a pile of cash and the star, later changed into a circle, with the caption, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!”
“They took the star down,” Trump complained. “I said too bad; you should have left it up. I would have rather defended it. Just leave it up and say no, that’s not a star of David; that’s just a star.”
Trump’s angry remarks in a key battleground state where Clinton is outpacing him in advertising and organization distracted from his effort to highlight the FBI’s condemnation of her use of a private email server when she was secretary of State.
VP or not, Gingrich would play role in his administration, Trump says
With his search for a running mate drawing to a close, Donald Trump dropped hints Wednesday that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich remains a top contender.
Gingrich, who introduced the Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting at a rally in Sharonville, Ohio, is one of the 10 potential running mates that Trump says he is still considering.
“Newt has been my friend for a long time,” the New York business mogul told the crowd in Ohio. “Not saying anything – in one form or another, Newt Gingrich is going to be involved with our government. That I can tell you. He’s going to be involved. He’s smart, tough – he gets it.”
Flattery is apparently helping.
“He says I’m the biggest thing he’s ever seen,” Trump said with delight. “Now Newt’s going to be involved, if I get approval from his wife.”
Trump has been conducting a relatively public vetting of vice presidential prospects. They include Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who met with Trump over the weekend, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former rival for the GOP presidential nomination.
On Twitter, Trump has been publicizing his meetings with a few possible running mates. One of them, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennesee, took himself out of the running on Wednesday, a day after campaigning with Trump in North Carolina.
Another, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, met with Trump on Monday, but also appeared to bow out of consideration Wednesday, telling Politico there remains much more for her to do in Congress.
Trump told Fox News on Wednesday that he was considering two generals, but did not name them. But he emphasized that he prefers a seasoned politician with expertise in lawmaking.
Hillary Clinton extends an olive branch to Bernie Sanders while whacking Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton moved Wednesday to shore up support from Bernie Sanders and his young fans, significantly expanding her plan for increasing the affordability of higher education, and, in the process, winning praise from her rival.
The move came one day after FBI Director James B. Comey sharply criticized Clinton but removed the threat of criminal prosecution over her handling of classified information on her private email server while secretary of State.
It also showed progress for the two-pronged strategy that Clinton has pursued since clinching the Democratic nomination a month ago.
Clinton has tried to win over Sanders and the bulk of his supporters by accepting some of his campaign priorities.
When presidential candidates fight on Twitter, ‘Frozen’ edition
Trump on Newt Gingrich in Ohio
Marco Rubio joins list of Republicans skipping GOP convention
On second thought, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will not be attending the GOP convention this month.
Rubio had been planning to attend the confab in Cleveland but now joins a long list of Republicans who seem to be calculating it’s better politics to stay away.
It’s another way presumptive nominee Donald Trump is breaking the rules of politics — instead of providing coattails for down-ballot lawmakers hoping to share his stage, he seems to have little to offer them.
A Rubio spokeswoman said the senator decided to spend his time closer to home now that he is running for reelection.
“Florida has always been a competitive state and it will be this fall,” said Olivia Perez-Cubas. “Marco had planned to go to the convention before he decided to seek reelection. Since Marco got into the race late, he will be in Florida campaigning and meeting with voters instead of going to Ohio.”
The change of plans was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
Rubio decided to seek another term rather than retire, as planned, after his failed presidential bid. Fellow GOP senators pressed him to run to help their odds of keeping control of the Senate.
Justice Department formally closes Clinton email investigation with no charges
The Justice Department on Wednesday formally closed its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, following the rare public recommendation of FBI Director James B. Comey, who said a day earlier that the former secretary of State’s actions, though sloppy, did not warrant criminal charges.
The decision was announced in a statement by Atty. Gen Loretta Lynch, who said she had met late Wednesday with Comey and career prosecutors and agents who conducted the investigation.
“I received and accepted their unanimous recommendation that the thorough, year-long investigation be closed and that no charges be brought against any individuals within the scope of the investigation,” Lynch said.
Clinton campaign struggles to deal with FBI fallout
The Clinton campaign has had little to say in response to the withering criticism of her email practices made by FBI Director James B. Comey.
Hillary Clinton avoided mentioning it at big campaign events on Tuesday and Wednesday. Questions shouted by reporters have been ignored.
But the thought of an encore performance by Comey — and a fresh forum for Clinton’s Republican critics to demand he go even further and indict her — has provoked a strong reaction from the campaign. Campaign spokesman Brian Fallon delivered a sharp, preemptive rebuke to House Republicans who have called in Comey to testify before Congress on Thursday.
“One week after their two-year investigation into the Benghazi attacks turned up nothing new, House Republicans are launching yet another taxpayer-funded sham of an inquiry to try to hurt Hillary Clinton politically,” Fallon wrote. “For weeks Republicans have said they trusted FBI Director Comey to lead an independent review into Secretary Clinton’s emails, but now they are second-guessing his judgment because his findings do not align with their conspiracy theories.
“The bottom line is the career officials who handled this case have determined that no further action is appropriate here, no matter how much Republicans may seek to continue politicizing this.”
Republicans will not be heeding Fallon’s advice to drop the matter anytime soon. Several leading GOP lawmakers called on the FBI to release evidence and interview notes accumulated during its investigation. Such a release, while unlikely, would give Republicans a new arsenal of material to use in undermining Clinton between now and November.
“Even Director Comey said there should be extraordinary transparency,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said in a statement. “That means more than simply giving the public a brief summary of his view of the facts. It should include the actual evidence.”
Hillary Clinton outpaces Donald Trump 15-to-1 in ad spending
Hillary Clinton and her allies continue to trounce Donald Trump and his supporters by a 15-to-1 margin in television and radio ad spending with about four months until Election Day.
Clinton and her backers have doled out a total of $45 million on ads so far in the general election, according to a report released Wednesday by NBC News and SMG Delta, a firm that tracks ad spending. Of that total, $19 million was spent by Clinton’s campaign and the remaining $26 million from the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA.
By contrast, Trump and his supporters have spent about $3 million in ad spending. About $1.5 million was from the National Rifle Assn., which released a television ad assailing Clinton last week in several swing states. An additional $1.3 million came from Rebuilding America Now, a super PAC supporting Trump.
The billionaire businessman’s campaign has yet to spend on a TV or radio ad in the general election, according to the report. Prior to last week, Trump and his supporters had spent nothing on ads.
On Wednesday, Trump announced he raised $51 million for both his campaign and the Republican National Committee in June.
Still, that total was well below the $68.5 million Clinton and the Democratic National Committee reported raising last month.
Donald Trump raises $51 million for campaign and RNC in June
Donald Trump’s accelerated fundraising in June pulled in more than $26 million, his campaign announced Wednesday, marking a rebound from the presumptive GOP nominee’s anemic haul the previous month.
Trump raised an additional $25 million jointly with the Republican National Committee. The real estate mogul contributed $3.8 million himself.
“We just started our fundraising efforts in the last week of May, and we are extremely pleased with the broad-based support in the last five weeks for the Trump Campaign and Trump Victory,” Steven Mnuchin, the campaign’s finance chair, said in a statement.
Trump continues to be outpaced in the money chase by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who raised $68.5 million for her campaign and the Democratic National Committee in June.
But his improved financial showing in June should placate some Republicans who were alarmed by his dismal fundraising effort in May; Trump brought in just $3 million in contributions and ended the month with a paltry $1.3 million on hand.
Since then, Trump has ramped up his efforts, attending high-dollar fundraisers and aggressively stepping up online solicitations for donations. According to his campaign, more than 400,000 people donated in June, the vast majority of whom gave less than $200.
Sens. Bob Corker, Joni Ernst indicate little interest in becoming Trump’s VP
Check Sen. Bob Corker’s name off the list of possible running mates for Donald Trump.
The Tennessee senator, among those on a short list of potential vice presidential picks, withdrew his name from consideration on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson in his office.
Corker’s exit comes a day after he campaigned with the presumptive Republican nominee in North Carolina, one of several swing states.
In an interview with the Washington Post, which first reported the news, Corker said that “there are people far more suited for being a candidate for vice president.”
“It’s a highly political job, and that’s not who I am,” he told the Post.
Corker was joined on Wednesday by Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, another possible Trump running mate, who told Politico that she intended to remain in the Senate.
Still, in an interview on Fox News, Trump insisted he has a deep bench, but declined to offer any specific names.
“I’m looking at 10 people,” Trump said. “Three or four called me up, all want to be considered.”
Trump, who is expected to announce his vice presidential pick before the Republican National Convention, has been meeting with potential running mates and announcing the meetings on social media. During the holiday weekend, Trump visited with Ernst and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
Pence, a former congressman, has more than a decade of experience in Congress. Moreover, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an early supporter of Trump after abandoning his own presidential bid, is also under consideration as a possible No. 2.
On Wednesday, Trump is set to campaign with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Ohio, who has expressed interest in joining Trump on a GOP presidential ticket.
1:45 p.m. This post was updated with comments Trump made on Fox News.
12:05 p.m.: This post was updated with additional background.
Donald Trump defends his Atlantic City record after Clinton rally
Donald Trump defended his business record in Atlantic City on the heels of a Hillary Clinton rally held at the site of one of his failed casinos Wednesday.
“I created thousands of jobs and made a lot of money in Atlantic City, which was what, as a businessman, I am supposed to do for my company and my family,” Trump said in a statement.
Trump has pushed the point that his bankruptcies in Atlantic City are a testament to his business acumen, while Clinton said they were a warning of what could come from a Trump presidency.
Trump said that, as president, Clinton would only work to make herself more powerful.
Democratic Party’s uneasiness with pot goes up in smoke
Opponents of legal pot just can’t catch a break. As they battle the growing tide of legalization initiatives in the states, they now also find themselves at odds with the national Democratic Party.
The Democratic National Committee’s draft platform encourages states that want to legalize marijuana to go for it.
“We believe that the states should be the laboratories of democracy on the issue of marijuana, and those states that want to decriminalize marijuana should be able to do so,” the draft document says. It also calls for law changes that would make it easier to run pot dispensaries and for an end to racial disparities in drug law enforcement.
Pot legalization came up repeatedly during the Democratic presidential primary, with Bernie Sanders calling for an end to federal marijuana prohibition and Hillary Clinton voicing support for the right of states to experiment with legalization.
The anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana finds it all disheartening. It is imploring Democrats to reconsider, warning in a letter to the DNC on Wednesday that legalization is not an appropriate solution to uneven enforcement of drug laws and will merely lead to “turning pot into a third mass-produced addictive substance alongside alcohol and tobacco.”
Hillary Clinton hammers Donald Trump’s business record
Hillary Clinton stood under the faded “Trump Plaza” sign on a shuttered casino in Atlantic City and blasted Donald Trump’s record in the troubled New Jersey resort town, accusing him of cashing in at the expense of his workers and investors.
“Everything falls apart, people get hurt, and Donald gets paid,” Clinton said.
Trump has a checkered past in Atlantic City, where he owned multiple casinos, endured bankruptcies and fought with the banks which loaned him money. Clinton said voters should be wary when the presumptive Republican nominee says he would apply his business skills to the presidency.
“I want you to understand what he did here in Atlantic City is exactly what he would do if he wins in November,” she said.
Clinton was introduced at Wednesday’s event by Marty Rosenberg, whose company installed glass windows at a Trump casino. He said the company lost hundreds of thousands of dollars when it was stiffed along with many other contractors.
It was “the cost of doing business with Donald Trump,” Clinton said.
Trump quickly responded to Clinton’s speech, issuing a statement saying he “built a tremendously successful business.” He defended his bankruptcies as a common practice.
“I created thousands of jobs and made a lot of money in Atlantic City, which was what, as a businessman, I am supposed to do for my company and my family,” Trump said.
Hillary Clinton trashes Trump at the site of his closed casino
Hillary Clinton knocked Donald Trump and Chris Christie in Atlantic City Wednesday, criticizing Trump’s business record and Christie’s absence from New Jersey while campaigning with Trump.
Clinton accused Trump of doing whatever it took to make sure he profited at the expense of small businesses in the area.
Clinton said that a Trump presidency would create a scam that would affect the entire country.
Donald Trump calls out Hillary Clinton, local Democrats on Twitter before her Atlantic City rally
Bernie Sanders welcomes Hillary Clinton’s new college plan
Bernie Sanders, who has appeared hesitant to embrace Hillary Clinton even after she became the clear winner of the Democratic presidential primary season, is eagerly welcoming her new plan to make higher education more affordable.
In a sign that Sanders and Clinton are increasingly aligned as the party prepares for its convention later this month in Philadelphia, the Vermont senator said the proposals are “a result of the work of both campaigns.”
The Sanders campaign also took the unusual step of distributing a news release praising Clinton.
“This proposal, when implemented, will revolutionize the funding of higher education in America, improve the economic future of our country and make life immediately better for tens of millions of people stuck with high levels of student debt,” Sanders said in a statement.
After often criticizing Clinton for not thinking big enough during the primaries, Sanders called her plan a “bold initiative.”
Clinton’s proposals include tuition-free attendance at in-state public colleges and universities for students from families earning up to $85,000 a year. Over four years, eligibility would expand to families earning up to $125,000 annually -- not the universal free tuition that Sanders had once called for, but a much more generous idea than Clinton’s earlier call for helping students attend college without taking on debt.
House Democrats boo Bernie Sanders for his delay in endorsing Clinton
Sen. Bernie Sanders was booed during a closed meeting with House Democrats on Wednesday, as lawmakers shouted “Timeline! Timeline!” — pressing for his endorsement of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee.
The Vermont senator did not directly answer Democrats’ many questions about his intentions, according to a source in the room who requested anonymity to discuss the private session.
“He went in there with his canned talking points from the stump,” the source said. “People just weren’t having it.”
Democrats have struggled to unify the party as Clinton all but secured the party’s nomination, but Sanders has continued his renegade campaign.
At one point, Sanders praised Democrats for the most progressive party platform, but then outlined differences he had over trade, climate change and the minimum wage, as well as rules over superdelegates.
But several progressive House Democrats are on the platform-writing committee and some lawmakers pressed for specifics.
One lawmaker said she felt “bullied” and “like a hostage” over his demands, the source said.
At one point, boos erupted when Sanders told the Democrats “the goal is not to win elections,” but to “transform America.”
House Democrats had extended the invitation to Sanders months ago to address the caucus. Clinton has twice visited privately with Democrats on the Hill.
Hillary Clinton prepares new plan for college affordability
Hillary Clinton will announce Wednesday new proposals to make higher education more affordable, including tuition-free enrollment at in-state public colleges and universities for students from families making up to $85,000 annually. The income benchmark would increase over four years to $125,000, applying to an estimated 80% of families.
A Clinton aide said the proposal is the result of conversations the presumptive Democratic nominee had with Sen. Bernie Sanders, her primary opponent who won heavy support among young voters with his call for free higher education. During the primary, Clinton criticized the plan and suggested more limited policies that would help students attend college debt-free.
Clinton also plans to use executive action to provide a three-month moratorium on student loan repayments for federal borrowers. The “time-out” would give students a chance to work with the U.S. Department of Education to consolidate their loans and reduce their monthly payments.
The Clinton campaign did not provide details on how the proposals would be funded when outlining them in advance of the official announcement.
Trump’s praise of Saddam Hussein brings bipartisan disdain
Donald Trump’s praise of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein drew swift backlash from both parties.
“He killed terrorists. He did that so good,” Trump said at a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday night. “They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. It was over.”
Hussein notoriously targeted political and sectarian enemies for assassination. He used poison gas to murder Iraqi Kurds, and he launched missiles at Israel. In his roughly 30-year reign, Hussein landed his country on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism before the U.S. invaded in 2003.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign quickly responded by calling Trump’s praise of “brutal strongmen” dangerous. Senior Clinton aide Jake Sullivan cited several instances of Trump lauding violent regimes, including Chinese leaders during the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, Kim Jong-un’s isolated power in North Korea and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Trump’s cavalier compliments for brutal dictators … again demonstrate how dangerous he would be as commander-in-chief,” Sullivan said.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who has repeatedly called out Trump for divisive comments, slammed his characterization of Hussein.
“[Hussein] was one of the 20th century’s most evil people,” Ryan said in a Fox News interview. “He committed mass genocide against his own people.”
Obama makes a forceful case for Hillary Clinton, showing why he’s an asset to her campaign
President Obama infused new energy into Hillary Clinton’s bid for the White House on Tuesday as he joined her on the stump for the first time, making a forceful case for her candidacy after the two arrived together in Charlotte on Air Force One.
His address offered a glimpse into Obama’s role in the Clinton campaign, and it looks to be a potent one. Obama, a natural campaigner and the first president in decades to vigorously stump for a possible successor, captivated the crowd in a state that is a must-win for Donald Trump. He spoke admirably of Clinton’s experience and judgment while laying out the policy gains made under his administration that are at risk if Democrats lose the White House.
The rally came at a welcome time for Clinton, who is scrambling to contain the damage from the harsh assessments the FBI made about her email practices while secretary of State. Though the FBI revealed Tuesday that it had advised against indicting Clinton, Director James B. Comey described her decision to set up a private server in her house as reckless.