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Paul Ryan distances himself from Trump

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The leader of the U.S. House of Representatives distanced himself from Donald Trump on Monday as the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign sank deeper into crisis over his sexually aggressive remarks about women.

House Speaker Paul Ryan told an emergency meeting of fellow Republican lawmakers that he would neither defend Trump or campaign with him in the coming 30 days, the time remaining to the Nov. 8 presidential and congressional elections, but would focus on protecting Republican majorities in Congress.

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His comments were made during a conference call by Republicans in the U.S. Congress, a source familiar with the call said. The call was arranged to work out how to handle the fallout from a video that surfaced on Friday showing the Republican nominee making lewd comments about women in 2005.

Ryan said that he would spend the remainder of the election campaign making sure that if Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wins in November she does not get a “blank check” in the form of Democrat-controlled Congress, the source said. Republicans currently control both the House and Senate.

The latest drama around Trump, a New York businessman who has never previously run for public office, has plunged the party into its biggest crisis in decades.

Ryan has had several public disagreements with Trump but until now has nonetheless supported his presidential bid.

During a weekend dominated by criticism of Trump over the remarks about women, a string of members of Congress, governors and other prominent Republicans called on him to drop out of the race.

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Republican members of Congress are worried that Trump’s campaign could ruin their chances of holding their majorities in the elections and inflict long-term damage on the party.

Nearly half of all 332 incumbent Republican senators, congress members and governors have condemned Trump’s remarks, and roughly 1 in 10 have called on him to drop out of the race, according to a Reuters review of official statements and local news coverage.

But any attempt to replace Trump on the ballot this close to Election Day would face huge legal and logistical hurdles.

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A defiant Trump went on the offensive in a vicious presidential debate on Sunday, saying Clinton would go to jail if he were president and attacking her husband, Bill Clinton, for his treatment of women.

The debate, the second of three before the vote, was remarkable for the brutal nature of the exchanges between the two.

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(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, David Morgan, Amanda Becker, Amy Tennery, Michelle Conlin, James Oliphant and Susan Heavey; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Frances Kerry)


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Elections 2016

Vietnamese women strive to clear war-era mines

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Inching across a field littered with Vietnam war-era bombs, Ngoc leads an all-women demining team clearing unexploded ordnance that has killed tens of thousands of people -- including her uncle.

"He died in an explosion. I was haunted by memories of him," Le Thi Bich Ngoc tells AFP as she oversees the controlled detonation of a cluster bomb found in a sealed-off site in central Quang Tri province.

More than 6.1 million hectares of land in Vietnam remain blanketed by unexploded munitions -- mainly dropped by US bombers -- decades after the war ended in 1975.

At least 40,000 Vietnamese have since died in related accidents. Victims are often farmers who accidentally trigger explosions, people salvaging scrap metal, or children who mistake bomblets for toys.

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Elections 2016

Chief Justice John Roberts issues New Year’s Eve warning to stand up for democracy

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In a progressive welcoming move, Chief Justice John Roberts issued his New Year's Eve annual report urging his fellow federal judges to stand up for democracy.

"In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public's need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital," he wrote. "We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary, a key source of national unity and stability."

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Trump’s next 100 days will dictate whether he can be re-elected or not — here’s why

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According to CNN pollster-in-residence Harry Enten, Donald Trump's next 100 days -- which could include an impeachment trial in the Senate -- will hold the key to whether he will remain president in 2020.

As Eten explains in a column for CNN, "His [Trump's] approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success. But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins."

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