Trump escalates attack on Clinton, defends Putin rhetoric

Donald Trump is illuminated by a spotlight as he points to supporters in the crowd after speaking at a campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida, US, on Sept 9.
Donald Trump is illuminated by a spotlight as he points to supporters in the crowd after speaking at a campaign rally in Pensacola, Florida, US, on Sept 9. PHOTO: REUTERS

(Bloomberg) – Donald Trump escalated his attacks against Hillary Clinton and defended his rhetoric on Russian President Vladimir Putin in a speech in Pensacola, Florida, where the Republican presidential nominee went off-teleprompter several times.

Trump on Friday (Sept 9)  told a capacity crowd of 12,000 people at the Pensacola Bay Center arena that Clinton is above the law. “She could walk into this arena right now and shoot somebody, with 20,000 people watching, right smack in the middle of the heart and she wouldn’t be prosecuted,” Trump said.

Trump has suggested Clinton should be charged with a crime for her use of private e-mail while secretary of state and what he says are pay-to-play schemes with her family philanthropic foundation. He calls her “crooked Hillary.” 

His line about Clinton shooting someone was reminiscent of when he said in January ahead of the Iowa Caucuses in Sioux Center that he could “shoot somebody” and not lose support.

Trump’s latest comments come as his campaign has tried to temper his public comments, to somewhat mixed-results.  


Earlier in the day Friday, he stuck to script during an address to evangelical Christians at the Values Voter Summit in Washington. The day-and-night difference between the two speeches was similar to the careful remarks he made in Mexico City last month, and the way he let loose with a speech about cracking down on illegal immigration later that same night in Phoenix.

- Uneasy Republicans -

At the Florida rally, Trump also brought up the controversy over his public embrace of Putin that has opened up a renewed line of criticism of him by Clinton and his appearance on Russian television that have left some fellow Republicans uneasy.

“I’ll tell you this, if we get along with Russia, that wouldn’t be so bad, would it?” he said. “Honestly, I don’t know the gentleman, but you know what – he’s been nice to me. If he’s been nice to me, that’s fine, it’s not going to make a difference... It’s about getting great deals.” 

Trump said the recent harassment of a US Navy ships by Iranian patrol bots in the central Arabian Gulf wouldn’t happen on his watch.

“And by the way, with Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people and that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shout out of the water. OK? Believe me,” he said.

Trump also pushed back against Bill Clinton, who suggested that Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan is racist. The former president said while campaigning in Orlando, Florida, earlier this week that he was “old enough to remember the good old days, and they weren’t all that good in many ways,” referring to racial divisions of the 1960s.

“That message where ‘I’ll give you America great again’ is if you’re a white Southerner, you know exactly what it means, don’t you?” Clinton said.

“We found video footage of Bill Clinton repeatedly using the exact same phrase.” Trump said in Pensacola. “Make America Great Again. Racist? Racist? Except he used it, a lot.”