Clinton, Trump joust on domestic security after weekend attacks

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 20, 2016 4:31 PM

By Amanda Becker and Emily Flitter

WASHINGTON/HIGH POINT, N.C. (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton consulted national security advisers on Tuesday after weekend bomb blasts renewed fears of domestic attacks, as Republican rival Donald Trump accused her of pushing policies that made the United States less safe.

The two rivals in the Nov. 8 election have been vying to portray themselves as the best equipped to protect the nation.

The domestic security issue returned to the forefront after a New York City bomb hurt 29 people, a pipe bomb went off and unexploded bombs turned up in separate incidents in New Jersey, and a man stabbed 10 people at a Minnesota mall.

Clinton spoke by phone with former Defense Department official Michele Flournoy, former CIA deputy head Mike Morell and other advisers, her campaign said in an email.

"We can't lose our cool and start ranting and waving our arms," Clinton said on the call, according to her campaign in an apparent reference to Trump. "We shouldn't toss around extreme proposals that won't be effective and lose sight of who we are. That's what the terrorists are aiming for."

The call was supposed to be open to news media, but when reporters called in, they could not hear anything.

Clinton has called for better intelligence, new efforts to counter online recruiting of militants and smashing Islamic State strongholds in the Middle East.

She has said militant groups use rhetoric employed by Trump as a recruiting tool by painting the United States' battle against terrorism as a war on Islam.

At a rally in High Point, North Carolina, Trump countered by saying that, as Democratic President Barack Obama's first secretary of state, Clinton backed policies that made the United States less safe.

"I'm much tougher than her on this horrible situation, but she goes around saying it's a recruiting tool," Trump said.

The New York businessman accused Clinton of supporting policies in Iraq and Syria that he said allowed Islamic State to take root.

Trump has pointed to the pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 - which occurred after the Obama administration and Iraqi leaders could not agree on the withdrawal - and what he has characterized as a push for regime change in Syria. A U.S.-led coalition has conducted air strikes on Islamic State in Iraq and northern Syria.

Trump also criticized Clinton for supporting the entry of some Syrian refugees into the United States, reiterating his call for tougher vetting of people seeking admission.

On Monday, U.S. authorities arrested Ahmad Khan Rahami in following a shootout with police in nearby Linden, New Jersey, in connection with the Saturday night bombing in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood. Rahami, 28, is a naturalized American citizen born in Afghanistan.

Law enforcement officials were also investigating the stabbings, also on Saturday night, at the St. Cloud, Minnesota, mall as "an act of terrorism. An off-duty policeman shot dead the attacker, Dahir Adan, 20, whom an Islamic State news agency claimed as "a soldier" of the militant group. Reuters could not verify the claim.

Adan came from a Somali family that settled in the United States.

Democrats on Tuesday also criticized Trump's business activity. U.S. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called the real estate developer a "fraud" in a speech on the Senate floor, pointing to his multiple bankruptcies and lawsuits.

Clinton's campaign repeated its call for Trump to release his tax returns after The Washington Post reported Trump's charitable foundation had spent thousands of dollars to settle lawsuits involving his businesses.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Writing by Emily Stephenson; editing by Richard Valdmanis)