WASHINGTON (AP) — Here comes Donald Trump, unfiltered. Again.
The Republican presidential candidate is vowing to win the election his own way, as party leaders step away from him.
He declared on Fox News on Tuesday night that he’s “just tired of non-support” from Republican leaders and “I wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole with a lot of these people.”
Those people might need a foxhole. With his campaign floundering and little time to steady it, he’s reverting to the combative, divisive strategy that propelled him to victory in the GOP primary, not that he ever left that fully behind. That means attack every critic — including fellow Republicans. Those close to Trump suggest it is “open season” on every detractor, regardless of party.
That approach raises questions about the future direction of the Republican Party. Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said Wednesday she does not foresee a new political party emerging from the Trump split.
“What I think you do see is a party that has growing pains because it is an expansive party that represents different viewpoints,” she said on Fox News. “So I think this party is very dangerously close to being the party of the elites. And yet Donald Trump is really giving voice to the workers. … He’s been able to expand the party in many ways.”
Trump is striking hard at House Speaker Paul Ryan, who told Republicans Monday he’ll no longer campaign for Trump with four weeks to go before Election Day.
“I don’t want his support, I don’t care about his support,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole with a lot of these people, that I can tell you, including Ryan. By the way, including Ryan, especially Ryan.”
Hillary Clinton’s top adviser, meanwhile, raised the prospect of an extraordinary link between Russia and the U.S. presidential election. John Podesta said Tuesday that the FBI is investigating Russia’s possible role in hacking thousands of his personal emails, an intrusion he said Trump’s campaign may have been aware of in advance.
Podesta, while acknowledging the evidence was circumstantial, said the alleged ties could be driven either by Trump’s policy positions, which at times echo the Kremlin, or the Republican’s “deep engagement and ties with Russian interests in his business affairs.”
Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone flatly denied any such link to Russia. Stone, in an email to The Associated Press late Tuesday, said Podesta’s accusations were “categorically false” and “without foundation.”
Trump has acknowledged the possibility of defeat in recent days, but on Tuesday he tried to shift the blame for his struggles on Republican defections and an election system that may be “rigged” against him. On Monday, he warned of potential voter fraud in heavily African-American Philadelphia, a claim for which there is no evidence but one that could challenge Americans’ faith in a fair democratic process.
Yet Trump’s aggressive shift is popular among his most loyal supporters, who continue to flock to his rallies by the thousands.
Allison Ellis, 30, deemed Ryan “a traitor” and shrugged off Trump’s sexually aggressive comments in the 2005 video. She pointed at Democrat Hillary Clinton’s shortcomings.
“I have daughters and I don’t like what he said but I also wouldn’t want to be held responsible for everything I said 11 years ago,” Ellis said at Trump’s Panama City Beach, Florida, rally. “And it’s nothing compared to what she did — she should be in jail.”
But some of Trump’s supporters admitted their confidence was shaken.
“I still think he can do it, but he has to play mistake-free the rest of the way,” said Mike Novoret, 59. “If something else comes up, he’s toast.”
Trump’s campaign released a new ad that focuses on Clinton’s recent bout with pneumonia. The ad features images of masked gunmen and nuclear weapons as a sick Clinton stumbles toward a vehicle.
And at the rally in Panama City Beach, Trump declared that hacked emails released by WikiLeaks on Tuesday showed collusion between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department during an investigation into the former secretary of state’s email server.
The evidence does indicate there was communication between the two about a court hearing date. But such dates are not inside information. They would have been publicly posted in advance on the court’s docket.
The emails show that in May 2015, Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon alerted other staffers that the Justice Department was proposing to publish Clinton’s work-related emails by January in response to requests by news organizations. Fallon, a former Justice Department spokesman, wrote that unspecified “DOJ folks” told him there was a court hearing planned soon in the case.
The name and email address of the person who shared the information with Fallon had been deleted.