Tue, Oct 11, 2016 - Page 7 News List

Republican Party on brink of civil war over Trump

NY Times News Service

Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump looks on as Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton answers a question from the audience in their town hall debate at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, on Sunday.

Photo: Reuters

The US Republican Party was on the brink of civil war on Sunday as its presidential candidate Donald Trump signaled he would retaliate against lawmakers who withdraw their support from his campaign and senior party leaders privately acknowledged that they now feared losing control of both houses of Congress.

Even before Trump’s second debate against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, the party faced an internal rift unseen in modern times.

A wave of defections from Trump’s candidacy, prompted by the revelation of a recording that showed him bragging about sexual assault, was met with boastful defiance by the Republican presidential candidate.

On Twitter, Trump attacked the Republicans fleeing his campaign as “self-righteous hypocrites” and predicted their defeat at the ballot box.

In a set of talking points sent to his supporters on Sunday morning, Trump’s campaign team urged them to attack turncoat Republicans as “more concerned with their political future than they are about the country.”

The pressure from Trump did not deter new expressions of resistance as Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced he would not vote for Trump. So did multiple members of the US Congress.

However, much of the party appeared to be in a state of paralysis, uncertain of how to achieve political distance from Trump without enraging millions of voters who remained loyal to his campaign.

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives offered scant guidance to their members, scheduling a conference call for yesterday morning, but leaving lawmakers to fend for themselves in the meantime, according to two members of the US Congress, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

With no overarching strategy yet in place for abandoning their nominee, Republicans beat a ragged and improvised retreat from Trump, pulling endorsements here and scolding him there, and preparing to flee more visibly in the event of another disastrous debate on Sunday night.

Steven Law, a lieutenant of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, said the party had descended into chaos.

“The Republican Party is caught in a theater fire; people are just running to different exits as fast as they can,” Law said.

One member of the House Republican leadership compared the situation to the 2006 scandal involving a representative’s inappropriate conduct with congressional pages.

If that scandal was the equivalent of a house fire, the lawmaker said, Trump had brought on the political equivalent of a nuclear attack.

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