The Latest: Trump backtracks on US forces to fight militants

AP News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2016 9:46 PM
The Latest: Trump backtracks on US forces to fight militants

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on campaign 2016 (Eastern Daylight Time):

9:30 p.m.

Republican Donald Trump now says he would "never ever" deploy 20,000 to 30,000 American troops to combat Islamic State militants, despite suggesting he would be open to that at a recent debate.

Trump says during an interview on CNN that he wants to "get people from that part of the world to put up the troops."

He says he would assist with air power and other military support.

During a recent GOP debate, Trump said he would "listen to the generals," who were suggesting the 20,000 to 30,000 number.

He said then of the Islamic State: "We have to knock them out. We have to knock them out fast. And we have to get back home."

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8:10 p.m.

Hillary Clinton is paying tribute — perhaps inadvertently — to a classic rock band from her home state, Illinois.

As Clinton spoke to more than 1,350 people packed into a high school gymnasium in Phoenix, she urged them to think about the kind of future and the kind of president they wanted.

One man called out, "We want you!"

The Democratic presidential candidate drew laughs by responding, "I want you to want me!"

It wasn't clear whether Clinton was making a reference to the 1979 hit by Rockford, Illinois-based Cheap Trick.

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7:25 p.m.

Ted Cruz is attacking Donald Trump for promising to be "neutral" in brokering a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Texas senator seized on Trump's past statement during his speech to pro-Israel activists on Monday. Trump, himself, did not address his past reference to neutrality as he took the stage just before Cruz.

Cruz noted Trump's comments and said, "As president, I will not be neutral." He added, "America will stand unapologetically with the nation of Israel."

Cruz is chasing Trump in the Republican presidential primary.

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7:15 p.m.

Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords is telling an Arizona crowd that "come January, I want to say these two words, Madam President."

Giffords, who was seriously wounded by a gunman during a public event in 2011, was greeted rapturously at a Clinton rally in Phoenix. Giffords praised Clinton in brief remarks, calling her "strong" and "courageous."

Clinton thanked Giffords for her support when she took the stage.

The 2011 shooting in Tuscon left six dead and 13 injured, including Giffords, who was shot in the head. She has a language disorder known as aphasia, and the right side of her body is largely paralyzed.

Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly founded a gun control advocacy group.

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7:00 p.m.

Democrat Bernie Sanders says the United States should have unwavering support for Israel but any Middle East peace solution must recognize civil rights of the Palestinian people.

The Vermont senator criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's administration for the construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and withholding tax revenues from the Palestinians. But he criticized leaders of Hamas and the organization's attacks on Israel.

Sanders delivered a foreign policy address in Salt Lake City during a Western campaign trip that prevented him from speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington. Sanders' Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, spoke at AIPAC earlier in the day.

Sanders said the speech is one he would have given before a pro-Israel lobbying group, where Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and the three GOP candidates were speaking Monday.

Sanders, who is Jewish, says he's the only presidential candidate with personal ties to Israel and says he served on a Kibbutz as a young man.

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7:00 p.m.

The leader of one of Washington's most prominent synagogues says he felt compelled to denounce Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump as he spoke at a conference of Israeli activists.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of the Ohev Sholom congregation wept as he described to reporters the importance of standing up to what he viewed as Trump's hatred, describing him as "wicked."

He said he is frightened by the support Trump is receiving from the Jewish community in the nation at large.

"This man is inspiring violence," Herzfeld said. "He is an existential threat to our country."

"This man is wicked," Herzfeld added, referring to Trump. "He inspires racists and bigots. He encourages violence. Do not listen to him.'"

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6:55 p.m.

On the heels of Donald Trump's speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, his political rival Ted Cruz began by calling Trump out on a reference to "Palestine" in his speech.

"Palestine has not existed since 1948," Cruz began in his speech Monday to applause from the crowd in Washington.

Trump made at least three references to "Palestine," and noted that both sides must compromise if a peace deal to work.

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6:50 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump is focusing on Iran as he delivers a highly-anticipated foreign policy speech in Washington.

Trump tells a gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: "Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world."

Trump has been speaking from prepared remarks — a rarity for the businessman who usually speaks off-the-cuff using hand-scrawled, point-form notes.

He's repeatedly bashed Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, speaking with the aid of a teleprompter.

Trump is also slamming the United Nations. He says the group is "not a friend" of democracy, freedom, the United States or Israel.

He says he would veto any attempt by the UN to impose its will on the Jewish state.

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6:40 p.m.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump says that "each side" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "must give up something" for a peace deal to work.

Speaking to attendees of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Monday, Trump said a deal that "imposes conditions" on the two sides will "do nothing to bring peace."

"It will only further delegitimize Israel and it would reward Palestinian terrorism," he said.

Outside the venue, anti-Trump protesters gathered to voice anger over Trump's brash political rhetoric and his attendance at the conference.

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6:20 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump made a rare appearance in Washington on Monday to shore up support from a skeptical Republican establishment and deliver a much-watched speech to a major pro-Israel lobby — and, while he was at it, boast about the new luxury hotel he's building in town.

Trump stepped away from the campaign trail for hours to return to his day job, touring and touting his renovations of a landmarked Washington building that will soon be the latest glitzy hotel to bear his name.

The candidate fielded questions about Israel and the Supreme Court but was most excited to discuss the hotel in the Old Post Office Building.

He whisked reporters on an impromptu tour of the property and offered a job to a woman who approached him at the news conference.

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6:00 p.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is stressing his experience as he speaks in front of a major Israel lobby and taking subtle shots at rival Donald Trump.

"I don't need on the job training," he told the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday, saying he already knows about the dangers facing the U.S. and its allies.

The Ohio governor also stressed his "firm and unwavering" support for the Jewish State and vowed to work to stamp out intolerance, racism and anti-semitism.

But some of his loudest applause came as he appeared to take on Trump.

"We are Americans before we are Republicans and Democrats," he said, adding: "I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land."

Unlike some of his GOP rivals, Kasich for months did not pledge to "rip up" the multi-nation deal on his first day in office. But he is now calling for a suspension in the U.S. involvement in the Iran nuclear deal in response to recent ballistic missile tests, which he says are a violation.

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5:40 p.m.

The crowds protesting Donald Trump outside Washington's Verizon Center have grown as the Republican presidential front-runner gets set to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

Hundreds of protesters from Answer Coalition, Code Pink and other groups gathered outside the conference center Monday protesting Trump and AIPAC, a pro-Israel advocacy group.

One chant synthesized the two messages: "All the walls have to go, from Palestine to Mexico."

Protester Stephen Spitz of Falls Church, Va. accused Trump of using "hateful speech... not good for Jewish people."

Sharon Goldtzvik, a spokeswoman for the group ifnotnow said that Trump doesn't lack the platforms needed to express his views. "For AIPAC to give him another one is completely wrong," she said.

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5:20 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump says he would consider opening a Trump hotel in Cuba under certain conditions.

In an interview with CNN's Situation Room Monday, the billionaire real estate mogul said that "Cuba has certain potential," but that there are other factors, namely the 49 percent interest rate, that need to be adjusted before he would consider it seriously.

Trump said the liabilities must also be examined to avoid lawsuits and other fallout from a business deal with the Cuban government.

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3:45 p.m.

Several dozen protesters are gathering outside the Verizon Center in Washington protesting Donald Trump's appearance at the largest pro-Israel advocacy conference.

Thousands of conference attendees filed in for the evening session of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Monday as the protesters alternated between anti-Trump and anti-Israel chants.

"Dump Trump" some said. "Stop the Violence, Stop the Hate — Israel is an apartheid state," others cried.

The protest was peaceful, and included a person wearing an oversized Donald Trump head waving to the AIPAC attendees.

Trump is among four presidential contenders scheduled to speak at this year's annual AIPAC conference.

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3:30 p.m.

Donald Trump may not win Utah's caucuses Tuesday but a split in the votes could help him walk away with delegates.

That's because Utah will give its 40 delegates on a proportional basis if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the caucus vote. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is hoping to clear that threshold and deny Trump delegates. But Ohio Gov. John Kasich is making a push in the state that could keep Cruz below 50 percent.

Mitt Romney has said he's voting for Cruz in Utah and on Monday Utah Republicans received a pre-recorded call from the GOP's first Mormon presidential nominee. Romney urged them to support Cruz.

Romney warned: "A vote for John Kasich is a vote for Donald Trump."

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3:25 p.m.

Lawmakers who attended a meeting with Donald Trump in Washington say that the Republican front-runner fielded dozens of questions and talked strategy in a session that's likely to be followed by several more.

Most of the lawmakers in attendance Monday were backbenchers like Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee, Chris Collins of New York and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich was there as well, as was former Rep. Bob Livingston of Louisiana. None of the current GOP leaders attended, however.

DesJarlais said "people up here need to take a look at what's happening and probably get used to the idea that it's very likely Donald Trump will be our nominee."

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2:30 p.m.

Donald Trump appears to have just offered a job to an onlooker at his press conference at his under-construction Washington hotel.

Trump hosted the event Monday to tout progress of the transformation of Washington's Old Post Office Pavilion into a Trump-branded hotel.

A woman, who was not identified, asked Trump for a job and he brought her to the podium. He then suggested that if they could agree upon a salary, she'd be brought onto the staff at the hotel, which he set to open this fall. He did not, however, break out his catchphrase "You're hired!"

The Republican front-runner then said he "felt good about her" and that his "gut instinct" told him that she would be a good hire.

The woman showed her gratitude by giving him a hug and kiss on the cheek.

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2:25 p.m.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has convened reporters at the Old Post Office Pavilion in Washington, the site of his newest Trump-branded hotel.

The billionaire businessman, who has often intermingled politics and business on the campaign trail, will be speaking at a podium with a "Trump Hotels" logo, flanked by renderings of the future hotel's ballroom, guest room and other locations.

Trump is in town for meetings and a speech in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He met with a group of lawmakers earlier Monday afternoon.

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1:20 p.m.

If there was any doubt Sen. Elizabeth Warren doesn't like Donald Trump, the liberal icon is firing a fusillade of tweets that label him a loser, an authoritarian — and then some.

The Massachusetts Democrats tweeted Monday, "@RealDonaldTrump knows he's a loser. His insecurities are on parade: petty bullying, attacks on women, cheap racism, flagrant narcissism."

Warren used her campaign's official Twitter account to unleash eight rapid-fire attacks on the front-running Republican presidential candidate. She accused him of being an authoritarian. She said he is ready to tear apart American values. She said his businesses cheated people.

She warned her allies that though he's a loser, it doesn't mean he'll lose the election.

Trump accused Warren of being a fraud in an interview last week with The New York Times.

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12:50 p.m.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is putting out the call for volunteers from around the country to come to Wisconsin in advance of its April 5 primary.

Cruz's campaign manager Jeff Roe on Monday announced the first Camp Cruz since the South Carolina primary on Feb. 20 will be opening in Wisconsin on Friday.

Camp Cruz is the name the senator's campaign has given to its headquarters for volunteers who travel into a state to help out. Camp Cruz was previously operational only in the first three voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Roe says Camp Cruz was "absolutely critical" to the Iowa win.

There are 42 Republican delegates at stake in Wisconsin, a state where Cruz thinks he has a good chance of doing well against front runner Donald Trump.

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12:45 p.m.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert is endorsing Ted Cruz, giving the Texas senator support from another key political figure in the state ahead of the presidential caucus Tuesday.

Herbert announced his decision Monday at the state capitol in Salt Lake City, saying Cruz has the best chance to defeat Donald Trump.

Cruz already has the support of Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, the party's 2012 presidential nominee who is well respected in Utah.

Cruz is considered the front runner to defeat Trump in Utah. Political observers say Trump's brash demeanor doesn't play well in a culture rooted in the Mormon faith that values on manners and amiability.

Herbert, a Republican, had said he wasn't sure he would make an endorsement and that he would back whoever the party's nominee is.

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10:35 a.m.

Bernie Sanders has scored a big win in the Democrats Abroad global primary.

The party says 34,570 U.S. citizens living abroad in 38 countries cast votes by Internet, mail and in person from March 1 to 8. Sanders received 69 percent of the vote to earn nine of the 13 delegates at stake. Hillary Clinton won 31 percent, picking up four delegates.

It's an important victory for Sanders, who was swept by Clinton in five states last Tuesday.

Still, Sanders continues to trail Clinton by more than 300 delegates.

Clinton now has 1,163 delegates to Sanders' 844, based on primaries and caucuses.

When including superdelegates, or party leaders who can support any candidate, her lead is even bigger — 1,630 to Sanders' 870. It takes 2,383 delegates to win the nomination.

Halfway into the primary season, the Democratic race now moves to Western states this week that Sanders is counting on winning to cut into Clinton's lead. On Tuesday, Democrats vote in Arizona, Idaho and Utah, with 131 delegates up for grabs; on Saturday, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington hold caucuses with 142 delegates at stake.

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10:20 a.m.

Early voting has begun in Wisconsin ahead of its April 5 primary.

Voters were able to cast ballots in person at local election offices beginning at 8 a.m. Monday. The first voter in line in the capital city of Madison, Andrew Powell, was there to vote for Donald Trump.

Powell said he is an independent who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012, but he thinks Trump will cut taxes for the middle class. Powell said Trump stands for "truth, justice and the American way."

Rachel Brenner voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Brenner said she's very worried about the tone of the race, noting that it hurts the candidates, country and ultimately, the world.

Early voting in Wisconsin runs through April 1.

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8:45 a.m.

Hillary Clinton is planning to take some veiled shots at Republican front-runner Donald Trump during an address to a pro-Israel advocacy organization.

Clinton will tell attendees of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Monday that the U.S. must never be "neutral" about defending Israel. She will also stress that the relationship with Israel is not "negotiable," her campaign said, previewing her remarks.

In February, Trump said he'd be "sort of a neutral guy" on Israel, sparking criticism from Republican allies of the Jewish state. While the U.S. is officially neutral in the Middle East conflict, his statement sparked a marked rhetorical departure for typically-strongly pro-Israel U.S. presidential candidates.

Clinton will also say the next president must be a "steady hand, not unpredictable" when dealing with allies like Israel.