MIAMI (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Donald Trump on Friday (Sept 16) called for disarming the bodyguards who protect his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, and mused about the consequences of such a move by saying "Let's see what happens to her."
The Republican presidential nominee was speaking at a rally in Miami, where he contrasted his supporters, who he said back police and want crime reduced, to Clinton, who he derided as someone who "lives behind walls and raises money from hedge funds."
"I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. I think they should disarm immediately, what do you think, yes?," he said. "Take their guns away, she doesn't want guns. Take them, let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay. It will be very dangerous."
Both candidates have been protected by the Secret Service for months, but Trump's latest take on Clinton's security detail brought swift denunciations, particularly from Clinton allies. "Tonight, Donald Trump once again alluded to violence against Hillary Clinton," said Elizabeth Shappell, spokeswoman for Correct The Record, a pro-Clinton media watchdog group. "This is a truly deplorable comment that betrays our nation's most fundamental democratic values," Shappell said in a statement.
Stuart Stevens, a Washington-based political consultant who worked on Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, tweeted: "The Secret Service should investigate this threat".
Trump made a similar comment about Clinton and her armed protection in May while accepting the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, when he said Clinton would end the US Constitution's Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms. "Let's see how they feel walking around without their guns or their bodyguards," he told the gun lobby group, speaking about Clinton and her Secret Service detail.
Trump was criticised by opponents last month when he suggested that gun rights activists could act to stop Clinton from nominating liberal US Supreme Court justices, a comment some interpreted as encouraging a political assassination.
"If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks,"Trump told a rally in North Carolina on Aug 9. "Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know," he continued.
Clinton has called for tighter access to guns, including universal background checks, but has never said she planned to get rid of the Second Amendment.
Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Friday's remarks fall into a pattern of Trump inciting people to violence. "Whether this is done to provoke protesters at a rally or casually or even as a joke, it is an unacceptable quality in anyone seeking the job of Commander in Chief," Mook said in a statement.
At the same rally, Trump also vowed to reverse improved US relations with Cuba unless the island nation meets his demands for more religious and political freedom.
Trump’s comments at a Friday rally in Miami mark a reversal of his previous position. He told the Daily Caller in September 2015 that he was “fine” with “the concept of opening with Cuba.”
President Barack Obama has been moving to normalise diplomatic relations with the island nation that soured more than five decades ago during the Cold War, which effectively ended most forms of American investment. In March, Obama visited Cuba with his family, the first trip by a US president in 88 years.
“All of the concessions that Barack Obama has granted the Castro Regime were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them –and that is what I will do, unless the Castro Regime meets our demands,” Trump said at the rally.
Trump said during prepared remarks that his administration would “stand with the Cuban people in their fight against Communist oppression.”
In December 2014, Obama announced that the US would move toward normalising relations with the former Soviet ally.
The State Department since took Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terror.
The US also reopened an embassy in Havana for the first time since the Eisenhower administration in 1961 cut diplomatic ties with Fidel Castro’s new regime. The Obama administration has made it easier for US residents to travel to the island.