Trump misses open goal during rough week for Clinton
Tycoon fails to score points on rival with Saddam Hussein gaffe and party clashes
Donald Trump at a campaign rally: during his speech to supporters in Raleigh, North Carolina, he praised Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for his skill in killing terrorists. Photograph: John Sommers II/Getty Images
What a week. And it should really have been Donald Trump’s week. Hillary Clinton was called “extremely careless” and “negligent” by FBI director James Comey over her handling of classified information on a personal email server in the basement of her New York home during her four years serving as US secretary of state.
The soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee escaped a criminal prosecution but still faces possible administrative sanction after the US state department announced late on Thursday that it was reopening an internal review of how she treated the classified information during her time in charge at the department.
This could have serious implications, if not for Clinton then for those former aides at the department who still surround her. They could, example, be denied the security clearances that are essential to join the White House national security council should she win in November.
All of this should have been rich pickings for Trump as he makes final preparations for the announcement of his running mate and the Republican national convention in Cleveland, Ohio, the lap of honour that should crown his most lucrative acquisition of his career yet: the Republican Party. Discipline and skill But it wasn’t, and it appeared that it was down to one reason: his mouth (again). The brash billionaire’s remarks at his political rallies this week, delivered in his typical stream- of-consciousness style, show he lacks the discipline and skill to score maximum points against his rival during one of the worst weeks of her 15-month presidential campaign.
Trump’s praise, during his speech to supporters in Raleigh, North Carolina on Tuesday, for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, for his skill in killing terrorists, sucked some of the oxygen from the media fire burning around Clinton’s email troubles. It also did him no favours as he set off for Capitol Hill on Thursday and a private meeting with Republicans in Congress to try to patch up the many differences of opinion and unite a party struggling to cope with him as its standard-bearer in November’s election.
The most heated exchanges involved senators Jeff Flake of Arizona, who is uncomfortable with Trump’s candidacy, and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who is a diehard Never Trumper and has actively sought out a third- party party candidate to challenge Trump. “You’ve been very critical of me,” Trump reportedly told Flake when he stood up and introduced himself at the meeting, the Washington Post reported.
“Yes, I’m the other senator from Arizona – the who didn’t get captured – and I want to talk to you about statements like that,” said Flake, referring to one of Trump’s more inflammatory remarks when the businessman said last summer that Arizona senator John McCain was not a war hero because he was captured during the Vietnam War.
Sasse’s spokesman said afterwards the senator still held the same view of Trump: “With these two candidates, this election remains a dumpster fire. Nothing has changed.”
This week Trump lost the chance of bringing much-needed credibility to his candidacy when Republican senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the influential Senate foreign relations committee and a potential vice-presidential candidate, ruled himself out. So too did freshman Iowa senator Joni Ernst, one of the most prominent female contenders who might have helped Trump’s dreadful standing among women voters.
Perhaps the one bright spot for the property developer this week was the figures on the funds raised for his campaign in June. Trump’s team announced he had raised $26 million through online donors, including more than $3 million in one day, along with $25 million raised with the Republican national committee.
This dwarfs the $3.1 million raised by the candidate in May. But some still treated the figures with caution. Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor at the University of California, Irvine, said it was not clear whether all of the $51 million Trump said he raised would go to its campaign or to other Republican election battles or funds, and that it would not be clear until his federal election commission filings were submitted later this month.
“Even if the fundraising numbers were true, which would show him behind, but not embarrassingly behind as he was in May, it still does not seem to be that the campaign is anywhere ramped up to where we would expect with a typical presumptive Republican nominee at this point, although Trump is anything but typical,” he said.
So, definitely not a great week for Trump despite the open goal left by the FBI on Hillary Clinton.