Trump finally endorses House Speaker Paul Ryan
Reeling from missteps that have alarmed many fellow Republicans, Donald Trump endorsed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan for reelection on Friday in a grudging move to unite the badly fractured party.
His reversal came amid a decline in his poll ratings both nationally and in crucial battleground states, with his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton establishing a solid lead in the aftermath of the party conventions.
Defying critics, Trump says U.S. might abandon allies attacked by Russia or North Korea
Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton “dumb” on Friday for saying the United States should defend allies under military attack by Russia or North Korea even if they have failed to pay in full for U.S. protection.
The Republican presidential nominee renewed his threat to abandon U.S. allies in Europe and Japan, saying, “You always have to be prepared to walk.”
“I don’t think we’d walk,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa. “I don’t think it’s going to be necessary. It could be, though. It could be that Japan will have to defend itself against North Korea.”
Trump complained that Japan, Germany and other allies “don’t pay anywhere near what it costs” to defend them. So the U.S. should threaten to break its obligation to defend NATO members under attack by Russia, he said.
“Russia’s plenty tough, but we got to – you got to go with the punches folks,” Trump said. “We got to do what we have to do. We have to make it good, and you always have to be prepared to walk.”
Trump’s remarks followed weeks of criticism by both Democrats and fellow Republicans over his sympathetic approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Former acting CIA Director Michael Morell argued Friday in a New York Times op-ed piece endorsing Clinton that Putin had effectively recruited Trump “as an unwitting agent” of Russia by flattering him with compliments.
At the Iowa rally, Trump mocked his Democratic rival and unnamed “eggheads” who say the U.S. must honor its defense pacts regardless of whether allies pay in full for protection.
“Once the allies hear her dumb talk, because it’s dumb, why would they ever pay?” Trump asked.
Describing the United States as mired in debt, Trump repeated his inaccurate assertion that America is “one of the highest taxed nations in the world.” In a ranking of tax burdens around the globe, the CIA’s World Factbook lists the United States as No. 171 out of 219 countries.
Trump called Clinton the “queen of corruption.” If she wins, he argued, it would bring “the destruction of this country from within.” He responded to chants of “Lock her up!” by saying, “Thank you.”
At a time when critics charge that Trump lacks the temperament needed for a commander in chief, he also alleged that Clinton was “unbalanced” and “pretty close to unhinged.”
Hillary Clinton again tries to explain her comments about FBI email probe
Here’s a prediction: Hillary Clinton’s latest four-and-a-half minute answer to questions about whether she mishandled classified email is not going to satisfy her critics.
Clinton was asked Friday to explain whether she had misrepresented the findings of FBI Director James Comey when she seemed to say in a Fox News interview last week that he had concluded that her statements about her use of a private email server while secretary of State were “truthful.”
To the extent she acknowledged any misstatement Friday, Clinton said she may not have been as clear as she could have been and possibly “short-circuited” her response to Fox’s Chris Wallace. She said she meant only to say that Comey had stated that her answers during an FBI interview were truthful.
She went on to say that what she told the FBI was consistent with her past public statements on the matter. But many listeners were left with the impression that Clinton was claiming that Comey had also concluded that her statements to the FBI were consistent with her public statements.
In fact, Comey made no such determination and noted that some evidence collected by the FBI contradicted Clinton’s public statements, such as her assertion that she never sent classified material over the private server or never sent materials marked classified.
On Friday, Clinton attributed the confusion to miscommunication.
“I think Chris Wallace and I were probably talking past each other,” she said at a gathering of black and Latino journalists.
“What we have here is pretty much what I have been saying throughout this whole year. And that is, that I never sent or received anything that was marked classified,” she said again Friday.
Her explanation bore all the hallmarks of a legal argument, but not a particularly satisfying political case.
About 110 emails were determined by the FBI to be classified at the time they were sent, though they were not marked as such. Even so, Comey said that “participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”
Three of the recovered emails included markings within the text to indicate certain information was classified. But Comey said he did not believe Clinton understood the meaning of the markings. And the State Department later said those markings were improperly applied due to human error, and that the emails did not contain classified materials at the time they were sent.
Comey recommended against criminal prosecution over the email episode, but accused Clinton of being “extremely careless” in her handling of classified material.
Clinton did not acknowledge that portion of Comey’s comments on Friday.
“I will go back to where I started,” she said. “I regret using one account. I have taken responsibility for that. But I’m pleased to be able to clarify and explain what I think the bottom line is on this.”
The Trump campaign pounced. “Clinton’s habitual lying about the use of her secret server to send and receive classified, top secret information shows her blatant disregard for national security and a continued pattern of bad judgment,” spokesman Jason Miller said. “Clinton knows the actions she has taken are disqualifying for someone wishing to become commander-in-chief, and that is why today’s painful, pretzel-like response to a simple question about her illegal server was obvious to everyone watching.”
Hillary Clinton says she takes it ‘seriously’ when polls show her as untrustworthy
A feisty Hillary Clinton said Friday that she “takes it seriously” when polls show that voters view her as untrustworthy, but she pushed back against such perceptions and cited her record of accomplishments over the years.
“Every time I’ve done a job, people have counted on me and trusted me,” Clinton said during a Q&A session at a conference of black and Latino journalists in Washington.
The former secretary of State has been dogged by trust issues as fallout tied to her use of personal email while overseeing the State Department has continued into the summer. Even after the Department of Justice decided not to file charges against Clinton in the case, her poll numbers when it comes to questions of trust have remained dismal.
Ahead of last week’s Democratic National Convention, a CNN/ORC poll found that 68% of respondents said Clinton isn’t honest and trustworthy. That was up from 65% earlier in July and 59% in May.
“I take this seriously, don’t doubt that ... it doesn’t make me feel good,” Clinton said. “I do recognize I have work to do.”
Clinton said that when she ran for Senate in New York in 2000, people had reservations about her candidacy, but that she was able to prevail and was elected to a second term.
“I’m going to work my heart out in this campaign and as president to produce results for people,” she said.
Clinton, who in recent national polls has expanded her lead over Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, was asked about comments in which she’s called Trump’s language racist and sexist.
When asked how that reflects on Trump’s supporters, Clinton focused instead on their angst with the economy.
“I think the core of his support really centers on the disappointment in the economy that so many Americans feel,” Clinton said. “Some of the appeal is xenophobic and racist and misogynistic and offensive. We have to acknowledge that. But let’s not lose sight of the real pain many Americans are feeling because the economy has left them behind.”
Scenes from the trail: Mike Pence stumps in Virginia on Thursday
Speaking in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence promised Trump would fix problems at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He laid the rise of Islamic State, the Middle East terrorist group, directly at the feet of President Obama and Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Some highlights from the events >>
Hillary Clinton insists immigration reform will be critical from Day 1
Pence fires back at a former CIA director’s claims about Trump and Russia’s Putin
Donald Trump’s campaign asserts he can and will “stand up” to Russia, but a former CIA director thinks otherwise.
Michael Morell, who served as acting director under President Obama and as a briefer for President George W. Bush during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, announced his endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. He then ripped into the Republican candidate, accusing Trump of being an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation” for his public praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him,” Morell wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. “He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.”
In recent weeks, Trump has invited Russian hackers to target his Democratic rival and suggested he may rethink U.S. commitments under NATO to defend other members from Russian aggression, Morell argued. These remarks expose Trump’s lack of experience in national security issues and pose a threat to the nation if he wins in November, he added.
Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Mike Pence, fired back at the claims that Trump will be outsmarted by Putin. And he accused the CIA of failing to warn President Obama about the growing threat of Islamic State.
“I suppose this is the same CIA that told the president that ISIS was the JV [junior varsity] team,” the Indiana governor told NBC’s “Today.”
Pence blamed the Obama administration — which during the first term included Clinton as secretary of State — for projecting weakness on the world stage.
“Standing up to Russian aggression is going to be really different under a Trump-Pence administration,” Pence said.
Trump walks back his claim that he saw a plane carrying ransom money to Iran
Donald Trump tweeted on Friday that he didn’t actually see a plane carrying ransom money to Iran — a rare admission of error for the Republican presidential nominee.
Even after his own campaign acknowledged he didn’t see a video of a plane carrying $400 million in cash from the United States in January, Trump had refused to back down on his claim Thursday. He asserted again at a rally in Maine that he saw footage of people carrying money off the plane, which he said was ransom paid for the release of four Americans. He insisted Iran made and released the video to embarrass the U.S.
But by then even Trump’s campaign had acknowledged that the candidate was referring to video of the hostages landing in Geneva — not money being moved.
Trump finally backed down Friday on Twitter.
President Obama explained on Thursday that the money was not a ransom payment but the return of Iranian funds as part of a claim dating back to 1979. He noted that the administration had publicly announced the $400 million in January and it was widely reported at the time.
The $400 million was paid by Iran in the 1970s as part of a weapons purchase from the U.S. The money was frozen after the 1979 Iranian revolution and subsequent hostage crisis, which blocked delivery of the weapons.
Republicans have said the timing of the transfer and the fact that it was paid in cash gave the appearance that the U.S. was paying ransom for the release of four Americans in January.
Watch Obama talk about the $400 million payment >>
President Obama talks about the $400-million cash payment to Iran.
Trump’s wife facing questions about her own immigration history
After a campaign full of fierce vows to stop foreigners from entering the U.S. illegally, Donald Trump is now facing an immigration controversy close to home.
Trump’s wife, Melania, who was born in what is now Slovenia and worked as a New York fashion model in the mid-1990s, has held herself up as an example of an immigrant who came to the U.S. legally and followed the law. She said she applied for a green card and eventually obtained U.S. citizenship.
But the timing of her early photo shoots and her own accounts of her travels have created questions about when she first entered the U.S. and whether she was legally permitted to work during her earliest days here.
Her original modeling agent in the U.S., Paolo Zampolli, said Thursday that he recruited her to come to New York from Milan, Italy, and helped her obtain an H1-B visa, which allowed her to stay in the U.S. for three years and do modeling work.
Obama calls Islamic State’s defeat ‘inevitable’ even as he warns of attacks in the West
President Obama said Thursday that defeating Islamic State was “inevitable,” but he warned that the terrorist network is likely to focus increasingly on attacking Western targets.
Speaking at a news conference after a briefing at the Pentagon, Obama said the Sunni Muslim extremist group has suffered so many setbacks on the battlefield that it has begun to concede its goal of holding a permanent territorial footprint in the Middle East.
He said the group, sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL, is adapting by pursuing high-profile attacks in Europe and elsewhere, even if they are less deadly than the coordinated Al Qaeda plots of a decade or so ago.
“What ISIL has figured out is that if they can convince a handful of people or even one person to carry out an attack at a subway or a parade or some other public venue, and kill scores of people as opposed to thousands of people, it still creates the kind of fear and concern that elevates their profile,” Obama said.
Op-Ed: Bernie Sanders: I support Hillary Clinton. So should everyone who voted for me
The conventions are over and the general election has officially begun. In the primaries, I received 1,846 pledged delegates, 46% of the total. Hillary Clinton received 2,205 pledged delegates, 54%. She received 602 superdelegates. I received 48 superdelegates. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee and I will vigorously support her.
Donald Trump would be a disaster and an embarrassment for our country if he were elected president. His campaign is not based on anything of substance — improving the economy, our education system, healthcare or the environment. It is based on bigotry. He is attempting to win this election by fomenting hatred against Mexicans and Muslims. He has crudely insulted women. And as a leader of the “birther movement,” he tried to undermine the legitimacy of our first African American president. That is not just my point of view. That’s the perspective of a number of conservative Republicans.
Read MoreWatch Sanders’ speech at the DNC >>
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont speaks at the Democratic National Convention.
Which Republicans are supporting Trump, and who’s jumping ship?
Donald Trump is struggling to unite the Republican Party and has seen a series of high-profile defections following his nominating convention in July. As the presidential campaign continues, we’ll keep track of Republicans standing by Trump, and who’s jumping ship.