In attacking Clinton foundation, Trump
seeks a Republican rallying cry
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[August 24, 2016]
By Ginger Gibson and Emily Stephenson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After struggling to
find a consistent message and consolidate party support, Donald Trump is
honing his attack on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton and
the foundation bearing her family's name in hopes of making it a
rallying cry for fellow Republicans.
Trump began hammering the Democrat this week over the Clinton
Foundation, an organization created by her and her husband former
President Bill Clinton that funds aid programs in developing countries.
On Monday, Trump called for the foundation to be shut down and for a
special prosecutor to be named to investigate it. In particular, he
accused Clinton of having turned the charity into a "pay-for-play"
scheme in which wealthy donors to the organization got favors from the
State Department while Clinton was secretary of state from 2009-2013.
The Clinton campaign denied that, saying Clinton never took any action
because of donations to the foundation.
After a primary campaign that left the party bitterly divided, Trump has
struggled to find an attack line that fellow Republicans can rally
behind. His criticism of the parents of a dead Muslim American soldier
who spoke at the Democratic National Convention drew strong rebukes from
many in his own party. His attacks on Clinton's health have been
dismissed as conspiracy theories.
Clinton, who leads in nearly every national and swing state opinion poll
ahead of the Nov. 8 election, has largely avoided criticism about the
foundation, although there was a spate of media investigations last year
after she announced she was running for president. Her main Democratic
rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, did not attack her on that front
during the primary campaign.
The focus on the foundation is likely to build some confidence among
Republicans that Trump’s campaign is healing internal divisions. Last
week, Trump shook up his campaign's top leadership, putting Steve Bannon
and Kellyanne Conway in top jobs. Campaign chairman Paul Manafort
Chris Collins, a Republican member of Congress, said supporters have
been urging Trump to focus on Clinton.
“Anything we can do to put her character forefront in the campaign is
going to help Donald Trump," Collins said in a phone interview.
Republican Chairman Reince Preibus said if Trump continues to remain
"measured," he could be "tied or ahead" in the polls by the first week
in September. Recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion polls have found Clinton
increasing her lead over Trump during August. The latest poll, on
Monday, showed Clinton at 45 percent, and Trump at 33 percent.
Clinton’s campaign has pushed back at the attack. Clinton spokesman
Robby Mook said the foundation will not shut down given its humanitarian
work, and he did not see it hurting Clinton's lead in polls.
"This is an absurd call by Donald Trump. It is an act of desperation on
his campaign given the turmoil that we've seen from his campaign in
recent weeks," he told MSNBC.
[to top of second column]
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump attends a campaign
rally in Akron, Ohio, U.S., August 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Trump abandoned plans to deliver a policy speech on Thursday about
immigration. The postponement came as signs of internal disagreement
on his immigration policy became public, but the move also allowed
him to focus on what he and his advisers see as a Clinton weakness.
The foundation has long been a potential liability for Clinton. The
fact it accepted corporate and foreign donations sparked criticism
that it represented a conflict of interest while Clinton was
secretary of state. On Sunday, the foundation announced it would no
longer accept foreign donations if Clinton is elected and that the
group is prepared to hand off programs to other charity
Democrats are hopeful Trump is making an issue of the foundation too
late for it to make a difference.
Most American voters already have an opinion of Hillary Clinton,
said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist who once worked for Senate
Minority Leader Harry Reid.
“The views are pretty hardened on both sides, and I don’t think
anything is going to move that needle,” he said.
Both Clinton and Trump have unusually high "unfavorable" ratings
among voters, although Trump currently scores worse on that score,
opinion polls show.
The dual controversies over the foundation and over Clinton's use of
a private server and email account while secretary of state
dovetailed on Monday. Conservative legal group Judicial Watch sought
to make the case that previously unreleased emails provide evidence
that Clinton offered access to donors to the foundation while she
was secretary of state.
(Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Emily Stephenson and Alana Wise in
Washington; Luciana Lopez in New York; and Steve Holland in Austin,
Texas; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Frances Kerry)
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