Hours before a make-or-break presidential debate, a defiant Donald Trump unleashed an aggressive _ and politically dangerous _ personal attack on Democrat Hillary Clinton Sunday by seizing on unsubstantiated rape allegations levied against her husband years ago.
The pointed and unproven charge against Bill Clinton, outlined in an interview that Trump tweeted, marks a dramatic escalation of an already nasty campaign as Trump seeks to deflect fallout from his own sexually predatory comments.
The interview by the pro-Trump Breitbart website described Juanita Broderick reliving “brutal rapes.” Her lawsuit against Clinton was dismissed in 2001 and criminal charges were never filed. He has denied the allegations.
Trump’s approach, which foreshadows a likely debate-stage attack, threatens to undermine his already weak standing with many women. It comes as he faces unprecedented opposition from within his own party just a month before Election Day.
More than two dozen Republican office holders have declared since Friday that they will not vote for Trump. Many have called on him to step aside after his vulgar descriptions of sexual advances on women were revealed in a recording.
“I thought about years from now when my daughter Kate is old enough to know what is in those tapes and to understand what he is talking about,” New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte said of her 12-year-old daughter during a press conference Sunday. “I want her to know where I stood.”
Trump’s task in Sunday’s debate is enormous. Even before the recording was made public, the businessman lagged behind Clinton after an undisciplined first debate. Beyond concerns about his view of women, he is struggling to overcome deep skepticism about his temperament and qualifications to be commander in chief.
Trump’s focus on Bill Clinton’s past was backed by top surrogate, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who equated Trump’s latest controversy to the actions of Hillary Clinton in the 1990s when her husband struggled through the fallout of his own sexual transgressions.
Over the objections of CNN’s Jake Tapper, Giuliani insisted that Hillary Clinton “was the leader of the attack” against “the women who Bill Clinton sexually assaulted, sexually abused.”
In what was billed as a videotaped apology, Trump over the weekend said “Bill Clinton has actually abused women” and Hillary Clinton “bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated” her husband’s “victims.”