Trump, under pressure to unite Republicans, sharpens attack on Clinton

Reuters News
|
Posted: May 06, 2016 6:08 AM

By Steve Holland

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Reuters) - Donald Trump is testing out themes to use against Democrat Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee tries to persuade disgruntled party loyalists to get behind his campaign.

At a rally in West Virginia on Thursday night, the billionaire businessman criticized Clinton for the vast sums of money that she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, accepted for the Clinton Foundation, which he called a "scam." The Clintons have dismissed criticisms of the charitable organization as politically motivated.

Trump also linked her to some of her husband's decisions when he was president in the 1990s, such as the NAFTA agreement that opened up trade among the United States, Mexico and Canada. Trump has vowed to rewrite trade deals if elected on Nov. 8.

"We have to win the general election," he said. "We cannot take Hillary Clinton anymore. NAFTA was given to us by Clinton. We can’t take any more of the Clintons."

He put on a hard hat presented to him by the state's coal miners' association and blasted Clinton for saying recently she would impose clean-energy policies that would put coal miners out of business.

On Friday, Trump took aim at Clinton over her use of a private email server while U.S. secretary of state. Clinton has said she did not send or receive information marked as classified. The FBI is investigating whether laws were broken.

"The email scandal should take her down but I don't think it's going to because I think she's being protected by the Democrats," Trump said on "Fox & Friends."

Still, Trump faces an uphill climb to bring the party together.

House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top elected Republican in the United States, said on Thursday he was not ready to support Trump, a sign of lingering establishment concern about the New Yorker's position on immigration and trade.

MORE ENDORSEMENTS

But in a sign some Republicans are rallying around Trump, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, whose family has helped bankroll an anti-Trump group, is set to endorse him on Friday.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, who last year described Trump as a "cancer on conservatism" while running against him for the Republican nomination, supported him as well.

Trump is looking at potential running mates and on Friday ruled out picking a Democrat. He scoffed at the Republicans who have said they would not be interested in the job.

"So many people are saying, 'I've decided to turn it down.' They were never on the list," he told Fox.

Trump's effort to raise as much as $1 billion for his campaign and the Republican Party for the general election is just getting started and may not be able to rely on some major past sources of financial support.

One example of that is Theresa Kostrzewa, who raised money for 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and 2016 candidate Jeb Bush. She gave no indication she would raise money for Trump.

"I'll be voting in November," she said. "Those are my plans."

Trump emerged as the last man standing in the Republican presidential race with a vow to disrupt the old order in Republican Party politics but is finding that in some respects, he needs the old order.

The Republican National Committee, which is trying to bring the various warring factions together, said it anticipated a meeting soon between Trump and Ryan.

One opportunity could come next week, when Trump may visit Washington, where his top backer on Capitol Hill, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has been trying to get more lawmakers to endorse him.

But the message emanating from the Trump campaign is the same.

While Trump did not mention Ryan in his Charleston speech, an introductory speaker, the Reverend Mark Burns, made reference to it.

"You know the reason why the establishment is afraid of Donald J. Trump?" he said. "They're afraid because they can't control him."

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)