The 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump, an American businessman, politician, television personality, and author, began on June 16, 2015. Trump is the nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States in 2016, having won the most state primaries, caucuses, and delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention. Trump chose Indiana governor Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate.
Trump's populist positions in opposition to illegal immigration and various free trade agreements have earned him support especially among blue-collar voters and voters without college degrees. Many of his remarks have been controversial and have helped his campaign garner extensive coverage by the mainstream media, trending topics, and social media.
Trump's disdain for what he considers to be political correctness has been a staple theme of his campaign. Various mainstream commentators and some prominent Republicans have viewed him as appealing to racism. Trump's most polarizing and widely reported statements have been about issues of immigration and border security, especially his proposed deportation of all illegal immigrants, the proposed construction of a substantial wall on the Mexico–United States border at Mexican expense, his characterizations of many illegal immigrants traveling over the Mexican border into the U.S. as "criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.", and a temporary (which he later modified to apply to people originating from countries with a history of terrorism against the United States or its allies).
Trump's campaign rallies attracted large crowds, as well as public controversy. A number of protesters were asked to leave, removed by security, or arrested for trespassing at Trump's campaign events. Some of the events were marked by incidents of violence between Trump supporters and protesters, mistreatment of some journalists, attempts to assassinate Trump, and disruption by a large group of protesters who effectively shut down a major rally in Chicago. Trump said he himself wished to punch protesters, and defended their ejection from his events, but has also said he hopes that he has not encouraged physical force in order to subdue or remove protesters. During the campaign Trump has made statements questioning the broad protection currently afforded to journalists against legal accusations of libel.
Since the 1988 presidential election, Trump has been considered a potential candidate for President in nearly every election. In October 1999, Trump declared himself a potential candidate for the Reform Party's presidential nomination, but withdrew on February 14, 2000. In 2004, Trump said that he identified as a Democrat. Trump rejoined the Republican Party in 2009.
In early 2011, presidential speculation reached its highest point and Trump began to take a lead in polls among Republican candidates in the 2012 election. At the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump said he is "pro-life" and "against gun control". He also spoke before Tea Party supporters.
Early polls had Trump among the leading candidates. In December 2011, Trump placed sixth in the "ten most admired men and women living of 2011" USA Today/Gallup telephone survey. However, Trump announced in May 2011 that he would not be a candidate for the office.
In 2013, Trump researched a possible run for President of the United States in 2016. In October 2013, New York Republicans suggested Trump should run for governor of the state in 2014. In February 2015, Trump did not renew his television contract for The Apprentice, which raised speculation of his candidacy for president of the United States in 2016. Later that year, Trump was a featured speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Trump formally announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, with a campaign rally and speech at Trump Tower in New York City. In his speech, Trump drew attention to domestic issues such as illegal immigration, offshoring of American jobs, the U.S. national debt, and Islamic terrorism. The campaign slogan will be "Make America Great Again." Trump declared that he would self-fund his presidential campaign, and would refuse any money from donors and lobbyists.
Following the announcement, most of the media's attention focused on Trump's comment on illegal immigration: "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with [them]. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." Trump's statement was controversial and led several businesses and organizations—including NBC, Macy's, Univision, and NASCAR—to cut ties with Trump. Reactions from other presidential candidates were mixed, with some Republican candidates disagreeing with the tone of Trump's remarks yet supporting the core idea that illegal immigration is an important campaign issue, while other Republican candidates, along with the leading Democratic candidates, condemning Trump's remarks and his policy stances as offensive or inflammatory.
After the public backlash, Trump stood by his comments, citing news articles to back his claims. Trump clarified that he intended his comments to be aimed solely at the government of Mexico, specifically for using the insecure border as a means of transferring criminals into the United States and said he did not intend his comments to refer to immigrants themselves.
Trump traveled to several states including Iowa and New Hampshire to campaign ahead of the 2016 Republican primaries. By early July 2015, Trump was campaigning in the West, giving rallies and speeches in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. On July 23, he visited the Mexican border and planned to meet with border guards. The meeting did not take place due to the intervention of the national border guard union.
In July, the Federal Election Commission released details of Trump's wealth and financial holdings that he submitted when he became a Republican presidential candidate. The report showed assets above $1.4 billion and outstanding debts of at least $265 million. Shortly afterwards, Trump's campaign released a statement claiming his net worth to be over $10 billion, although Forbes estimates it to be $4 billion. On August 6, 2015, the first Republican primary debate took place on Fox News. During the debate, Trump refused to rule out a third-party candidacy. In September 2015, Trump eventually signed a pledge promising his allegiance to the Republican Party.
On August 21, 2015, the Federal Election Commission released a list of filings from super PACs backing candidates in the 2016 presidential race, which revealed Trump to be the only major presidential candidate among the Republican candidates who appeared not to have a super PAC supporting his candidacy. Two months later, the Make America Great Again PAC, which had collected $1.74 million and spent around $500,000 on polling, consulting, and other activities, was shut down after The Washington Post revealed multiple connections to the Trump campaign.
Border wall and illegal immigration
In his announcement speech, Trump promised that he would build "a great, great wall" on the United States–Mexico border, and has emphasized the proposal throughout his campaign, further stating that the construction of the wall would be paid for by Mexico. Trump proposed a broader crackdown on illegal immigration, and, in a July 6 statement, claimed that the Mexican government is "forcing their most unwanted people into the United States"—"in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc." In his first town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire on August 19, 2015, Trump stated: "Day 1 of my presidency, they're getting out and getting out fast." Trump's Republican rival Jeb Bush stated that "Trump is wrong on this" and "to make these extraordinarily kind of ugly comments is not reflective of the Republican Party." Trump acknowledged that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus asked him to tone down his rhetoric on immigration reform and stated that his conversations with the Republican National Convention were "congratulatory" as well.
At a July 2015 rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Trump was welcomed by the Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, turning over the lectern for part of his speech to a supporter whose child was killed in Los Angeles in 2008 by a Mexican-born gang member. The brother of Kate Steinle, who was murdered in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant, criticized Trump for politicizing his sister's death.
Univision announced it would no longer carry broadcasts of the Miss USA Pageant. In response, Trump indicated the matter would be handled by legal action, and followed through by filing a $500 million lawsuit against Univision. The complaint asserted that Univision was attempting to suppress Trump's First Amendment rights by putting pressure on his business ventures. NBC announced it would not air the Miss Universe or Miss USA pageant. Afterwards, the multinational media company Grupo Televisa severed ties with Trump, as did Ora TV, a television network partly owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Trump gave the rights to broadcast the Miss Universe and Miss USA Pageants to the Reelz Channel. Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica did not send representatives to the 2015 Miss Universe competition.
Macy's announced it would phase out its Trump-branded merchandise. Serta, a mattress manufacturer, also decided to drop their business relationship with Trump. NASCAR ended sponsorship with Trump by announcing it would not hold its post-season awards banquet at the Trump National Doral Miami.
Among the American public, reactions to Trump's border-wall proposal were polarized by party, with a large majority of Republicans supporting the proposal and a large majority of Democrats against it; overall, a September 2015 poll showed 48% of U.S. adults supporting Trump's proposal, while a March 2016 poll showed 34% of U.S. adults supporting it.
Temporary Muslim ban proposal
In remarks made following the November 2015 Paris attacks, Trump stated that he would support a database for tracking Muslims in the United States and expanded surveillance of mosques. Trump's support for an American Muslim database "drew sharp rebukes from his Republican presidential rivals and disbelief from legal experts."
On December 7, 2015, in response to the 2015 San Bernardino attack, Trump further called for a temporary ban on any Muslims entering the country. He issued a written statement saying, "Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on," which he repeated at subsequent political rallies.
The next day, December 8, 2015, the Pentagon issued a statement of concern, stating Trump's remarks could strengthen the resolve of ISIL. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, and the Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls, both issued statements in response to Trump's press release condemning him. However, Geert Wilders, leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom in the Netherlands applauded his remarks calling them "brave" and "good for Europe". Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party called it "perhaps a political mistake too far" and even Marine Le Pen of the far-right French National Front distanced herself from the idea. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also rejected Trump's proposal, prompting Trump to "postpone" a planned trip to Israel. Trump was also criticized by leading Republican Party figures, including Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.
Trump justified his proposals by repeatedly saying that he recalled "thousands and thousands of people … cheering" in Jersey City, New Jersey, when the World Trade Center towers fell on September 11, 2001. Fact-checking publications noted that this claim was false and was based on debunked and unproven rumors.
Following Trump's controversial comments on Muslim immigration, a petition on the British Parliament's e-petition website, calling on the UK government's Home Secretary to bar him from entering the country. The total number of signatures exceeded the required half-million threshold to trigger a parliamentary debate. On January 18, the UK's House of Commons debated whether to ban Trump from the country; while some in the House condemned Trump's remarks and described them as "crazy" and "offensive", most were opposed to intervening in the electoral process of another country, and a vote was not taken.
Trump later appeared to modify his position on Muslims. In May he stated that his proposed ban was "just a suggestion". In June he stated that the temporary ban would apply to people originating from countries with a proven history of terrorism against the United States or its allies. He also commented that it "wouldn't bother me" if Muslims from Scotland entered the United States.
Trump caused further controversy when he recounted an apocryphal story about how U.S. general John J. Pershing shot Muslim terrorists with pig's blood-dipped bullets in order to deter them during the Moro Rebellion. His comments were strongly denounced by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Trump had high poll numbers during the primaries. A survey conducted by The Economist/YouGov released July 9, 2015, was the first major nationwide poll to show Trump as the 2016 Republican presidential front-runner. A Suffolk/USA Today poll released on July 14, 2015, showed Trump with 17% support among Republican voters, with Jeb Bush at 14%. A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken on July 16–19, showed Trump had 24% Republican support, over Scott Walker at 13%. A CNN/ORC poll showed Trump in the lead at 18% support among Republican voters, over Jeb Bush at 15%, and a CBS News poll from August 4 showed Trump with 24% support, Bush second at 13%, and Walker third at 10%.
A CNN/ORC poll taken August 13–16, 2015, in the swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania showed Trump ahead of, or narrowly trailing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in direct match-ups in those states. In Florida, Trump led by two points, and in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, he was within five points of Clinton.
Trump has had a persistently high popularity among Republican and leaning-Republican minority voters. Surveys taken in late 2015 showed Trump polling unfavorably among women and non-white voters, with 64% of women viewing Trump unfavorably and 74% of non-white voters having a negative view of the candidate, according to a November 2015 ABC News/Washington Post poll. A Public Religion Research Institute survey in November 2015 found that many of his supporters were working class voters with negative feelings towards migrants, as well as strong financial concerns.
Trump's status as the consistent front-runner for the Republican nomination led to him being featured on the cover of Time magazine in August 2015, with the caption: "Deal with it."
Caucuses and primaries
In the lead-up to the Iowa caucus, poll averages showed Trump as the front-runner with a roughly four percent lead. Ted Cruz came in first in the vote count, ahead of Trump. Cruz, who campaigned strongly among evangelical Christians, was supported by church pastors that coordinated a volunteer campaign to get out the vote. Before the Iowa vote, an email from the Cruz campaign falsely implied that Ben Carson was about to quit the race, encouraging Carson's supporters to vote for Cruz instead. Trump later posted on Twitter, "Many people voted for Cruz over Carson because of this Cruz fraud", and wrote, "Ted Cruz didn't win Iowa, he stole it."
Following his loss in Iowa, Trump rebounded in the New Hampshire primary, coming in first place with 35% of the vote, the biggest victory in a New Hampshire Republican primary since at least 2000. Trump "tapped into a deep well of anxiety among Republicans and independents in New Hampshire, according to exit polling data," running strongest among voters who feared "illegal immigrants, incipient economic turmoil and the threat of a terrorist attack in the United States." Trump commented that in the run-up to the primary, his campaign had "learned a lot about ground games in a week."
This was followed by another wide victory in South Carolina, furthering his lead among the Republican candidates. He won the Nevada caucus on February 24 with a landslide 45.9% of the vote, his biggest victory yet; Marco Rubio placed second with 23.9%.
By May 2016, Trump held a commanding lead in the number of state contests won and in the delegate count. After Trump won the Indiana contest, Cruz dropped out of the race. He had called Indiana a pivotal opportunity to stop Trump from clinching the nomination. Following Trump's Indiana win, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, among others, called Trump the party's presumptive nominee, though he noted that Trump still needed more delegates to clinch the nomination.
Rallies and crowds
Trump has held large rallies during his campaign, routinely packing arenas and high school gymnasiums with crowds.
A Trump rally on July 11, 2015, in Phoenix, Arizona, "drew several thousand people to the Phoenix Convention Center, making it one of the largest events for any candidate so far, though short of the crowd of 10,000 predicted by the Trump campaign." Trump was introduced by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. During his speech, Trump invoked Richard Nixon's "silent majority" speech, saying "The silent majority is back."
Trump's campaign released approximately 20,000 tickets for a 1,400-person venue for a January 7 rally in Burlington, Vermont. Ultimately, 2,000 people lined up at the door, and the campaign imposed a loyalty test at the door, admitting only Trump loyalists.
Violence and expulsions at rallies
There have been verbal and physical confrontations between Trump supporters and protesters at Trump's campaign events, some committed by Trump supporters and others by anti-Trump demonstrators. A number of protesters have been asked to leave, removed by security, or arrested for trespassing at Trump's campaign events. There have also been incidents near Trump properties related to the campaign.
On several occasions in late 2015 and early 2016, Trump was accused of encouraging violence and escalating tension at campaign events. Prior to November he used to tell his rallies "Get 'em (protesters) out, but don't hurt 'em." But in November 2015, Trump said of a protester in Birmingham, Alabama, "Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing." On February 1 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he told the crowd there might be tomato-throwing protesters, and urged his audience to "knock the crap out of 'em" if anyone should try. "I promise you, I will pay the legal fees," he added. On February 23, 2016, at a rally in Las Vegas, Trump reacted to a protester by saying "I love the old days—you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They'd be carried out on a stretcher, folks," adding "I'd like to punch him in the face." On March 9 a Trump supporter was charged with assault after he sucker-punched a protester who was being led out of the event. When Trump was asked if he would pay the man's legal fees, Trump said he was "looking into it", although he "doesn't condone violence in any shape." The local sheriff's office considered filing charges against Trump for "inciting a riot" at that event, but concluded there was not sufficient evidence to charge him.
Presumptive nominee and party reaction
Some Republicans declined to support Trump's candidacy, including former primary rival Jeb Bush (who announced that he would not vote for Trump) and Bush's father and brother, former presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush (who announced that they would not endorse Trump). Paul Ryan announced that he was "not ready" to endorse Trump for the presidency. On May 8, Trump's campaign said that he would not rule out a bid to remove Ryan from his post as chairman of the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the following day, Ryan said that he would step down as convention chairman if asked by Trump to do so. On June 2, Ryan announced that he would vote for Trump.
Senator Jeff Sessions was the first sitting U.S. senator to endorse Trump. Other prominent Republicans, such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, governors Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry, and former senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, announced that they will support Trump's candidacy. McConnell stated, “The right-of-center world needs to respect the fact that the primary voters have spoken."
On May 26, Trump secured his 1,238th delegate, achieving a majority of the available delegates.
In June 2016, two groups of Republican delegates opposed to Trump emerged. Free the Delegates sought to change the convention rules to include a 'conscience clause' that would allow delegates bound to Trump to vote against him. Delegates Unbound engaged in "an effort to convince delegates that they have the authority and the ability to vote for whomever they want." According to the group, "There is no language supporting binding in the temporary rules of the convention, which are the only rules that matter" and "barring any rules changes at the convention, delegates can vote their conscience on the first ballot."
General election campaign staff
On June 20, 2016, Trump fired his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, reportedly in response to lagging fund raising and campaign infrastructure, as well as power struggles within the campaign, according to multiple GOP sources. Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chairman, who was brought in during the primary to prepare for a contested convention, assumed the role of chief strategist.
Kevin Kellems, a veteran GOP strategist and former aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, resigned from Trump's staff after he was appointed to help inspect the campaign’s surrogate operations. Erica Freeman, another aide to Trump who worked with surrogates, also resigned.
In June 2016, Trump hired Jason Miller to assist the communications operation. On July 1, 2016, Trump announced he hired Kellyanne Conway, a veteran GOP strategist and canvasser, for a senior advisory position. Conway, who formerly backed Cruz, was expected to advise Trump on how to better appeal to female voters. Conway had headed a pro–Cruz super PAC funded by hedge-fund tycoon Robert Mercer. After Trump won the Republican presidential nomination, the PAC morphed into the “Defeat Crooked Hillary PAC”. When the Trump campaign hired Conway, it referred to her as “widely regarded as an expert on female consumers and voters.” Conway became the first woman to run a Republican general election presidential campaign.
On August 17, 2016, Trump announced Breitbart News executive chairman Stephen Bannon as the campaign chief executive and promoted Conway to campaign manager, replacing Paul Manafort who had been handling those duties unofficially. Manafort had been criticized in the media for connections to former Ukrainian prime minister Victor Yanukovich and other dictators. Although Manafort initially retained the title of campaign chairman, he resigned as campaign chairman on August 19, 2016.
Selection of running mate
From early to mid-July, various media outlets widely reported that Trump's short list for his pick as vice president and running mate had narrowed to Indiana governor Mike Pence, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
On July 15, 2016, Trump officially announced via Twitter his presumptive running mate to be Mike Pence. Pence accepted the nomination on July 20 at the Republican National Convention.
Trump has stated that he is a "conservative Republican". Commentators Norman Ornstein and William Kristol have labeled his collective political positions as "Trumpism." The Wall Street Journal used the term in drawing parallels with populist movements in China and the Philippines. From an external political perspective, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel has termed Trump a right-wing populist similar to Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders or Silvio Berlusconi.
On August 31, 2016, he made an important visit to Mexico in order to build relations in the country and defend building a wall on the Mexican border.
The campaign draws heavily on Trump's personal image, enhanced by his previous media exposure. Prior to his presidential bid, The Trump Organization also relied on the 'Trump' surname as a key part of its marketing strategy. Consequently, the 'Trump' name was in widespread use in the U.S. well before the presidential campaign itself started. Due to successful branding and media coverage, Trump soon gained a leverage in the race despite spending comparatively little on advertising himself.
Before the announcement of Mike Pence as running mate in July 2016, the campaign relied on a wordmark of the 'Trump' surname capitalised and set in the bold Akzidenz-Grotesk typeface. Following the announcement, the campaign unveiled a new logo combining the names of the two candidates by featuring an interlocking 'T' and 'P', formed to create the image of the American flag. The logo became the subject of parodies that interpreted the symbol as being sexually suggestive; the campaign revised the logo shortly afterward to remove the flag and interlocking symbol, leaving the wordmark.
The primary slogan of the Trump campaign, extensively used on campaign merchandise, is Make America Great Again. The red baseball cap with the slogan emblazoned on the front has become a symbol of the campaign, and is frequently donned by Trump and his supporters.
Trump spent only a modest amount on advertising during the primary—$10 million through February 2016, far behind opponents such as Jeb Bush ($82 million), Marco Rubio ($55 million), and Ted Cruz ($22 million). Trump benefited from free media more than any other candidate. From the beginning of his campaign through February 2016, Trump received almost $2 billion in free media attention, twice the amount that Hillary Clinton received. Trump earned $400 million alone in the month of February. According to data from the Tyndall Report, which tracks nightly news content, through February 2016, Trump alone accounted for more than a quarter of all 2016 election coverage on the evening newscasts of NBC, CBS and ABC, more than all the Democratic campaigns combined. Observers have noted Trump's ability to garner constant mainstream media coverage "almost at will."
In response, a petition to "Stop promoting Donald Trump" accused the media of giving Trump endless airtime for the purpose of increasing viewership and ratings and quickly amassed over 200,000 signatures. The media's coverage of Trump generated some disagreement as to its effect on his campaign. John Sides of The Washington Post argued that Trump's success was because of the mass news coverage, yet a later article in The Washington Post stated that he remained successful in spite of the drop in media attention. On September 21, 2015, Politico said, "blaming the press for the Trump surge neglects the salient fact that so much of the coverage of him has been darkly negative." However, Barry Bennett—senior adviser to Trump—said in response to the high amount of interviews Trump has given:
Well the demand is pretty high so it's hard not to do them. And it's free media. And we've literally gotten hundreds of millions of dollars worth of free media. No other candidate can talk when everybody is talking about you. So there's some strategic benefit to it.
In a January 2016 interview with CBS, Trump said of his campaign's plans to purchase advertising; "I think I'm probably wasting the money. But I'm $35 million under budget. Look, I was going to have 35 or 40 million spent by now. I haven't spent anything. I almost feel guilty … I'm leading by, as you all say, a lot. You can take the CBS poll. You can take any poll and I'm winning by a lot. I don't think I need the ads. But I'm doing them. I almost feel guilty."
In February 2016, in response to complaints from Trump that Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly would be unfair to him in a Republican primary debate preceding the Iowa caucuses, Fox released a sarcastic statement about Trump, saying they were "surprised he's willing to show that much fear," regarding Kelly. Trump responded by criticizing the "wise-guy press release" and withdrew from the debate, instead hosting a competing event in the state designed to raise money for wounded veterans on the day of the debate.
Trump has frequently criticized the media for writing what he alleged to be false stories about him and referred to them as being the "worst people" and he has called upon his supporters to be "the silent majority", apparently referencing the media. At a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, in February 2016, Trump stated that if elected he would "open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money." Trump has specifically alleged that reporting about him by The New York Times and The Washington Post has included falsehoods. Trump says the media has "put false meaning into the words I say", and says he does not mind being criticized by the media as long as they are honest about it.
General election TV ads
The Trump campaign released its first general election TV ad in August 2016. The Washington Post fact-checker found it to be factually inaccurate, giving the ad "four Pinocchios", its lowest rating for truthfulness.
People and groups
Trump has received little support from African Americans. In a national poll in August 2016, only 5% of black voters said they intend to vote for Trump. Starting in July and August, in an effort to improve his appeal to black Americans and make a direct appeal for their votes, Trump was vocal in expressing concern for their situations. Speaking in Virginia on August 23, 2016, Trump said, “You’re living in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed — what the hell do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump?” He further said, "Look. It is a disaster the way African-Americans are living...We'll get rid of the crime...You'll be able to walk down the street without getting shot." On September 3 Trump visited a black congregation in Detroit, Michigan, the Great Faith Ministries International Church, accompanied by Dr. Ben Carson, and attended a church service. Trump was interviewed afterward by Bishop Wayne T. Jackson for later broadcast on the church's cable channel. He also visited Dr. Carson's childhood home.
On September 15, as Trump was addressing a small assembly at Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint, Michigan, the pastor, Faith Green Timmmons, interrupted him as he criticized Clinton and asked him not to "give a political speech". Trump complied.
In May 2016 the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce commented that the business community is cautious about both Trump and Clinton, adding "There hasn't been much support from the business community for either of them." Members of the business community who have endorsed Trump include investors T. Boone Pickens, Carl Icahn and Wilbur Ross, Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone, and entrepreneur and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. As of January 2016, small and mid-size business owners and officers were second to retirees as the most common donors to Trump's campaign. Reasons cited for their support of Trump included opposition to Obamacare and immigration, as well as feeling "fed up with politicians". In a survey conducted in late January 2016, 38 percent of small business owners indicated that they believed Trump would be the best president for small business, while 21 percent selected Hillary Clinton.
Other members of the business community have been critical of Trump. In June 2016, the Clinton campaign released a list of endorsements from more than 50 influential current and former business leaders, including several longtime Republicans. The group included longtime Democrats and Clinton supporters, like Warren Buffett and Marc Benioff, as well as independents or Republicans who had recently switched sides, like Daniel Akerson and Hamid R. Moghadam.
Trump's right-wing populist positions—nativist, protectionist, and semi-isolationist—differ in many ways from traditional conservatism. He opposes many free trade deals and military interventionist policies that conservatives support. He opposes cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits. He insists that Washington is "broken" and can only be fixed by an outsider. Washington-based conservatives have been surprised by the popular support for his positions.
Prominent conservatives have praised Trump. Newt Gingrich describted him as the latest incarnation of the Reagan Revolution and said his election would be "very healthy for America." In the aftermath of Trump's statements regarding the Khan's, Gingrich later said that Trump was making himself a less acceptable candidate for the presidency than Hillary Clinton, but that "Trump is vastly better than Hillary as President". Rush Limbaugh, while clearly favoring Ted Cruz, relishes the degree to which Trump exposed the conservative establishment as an elitist self-interested clique. Sean Hannity was an unapologetic advocate for Trump and has endorsed him. David Horowitz praised Trump for courage and rejecting political correctness, and attacked "Never Trump" Republicans as reckless and blind.
Other conservative commentators have been strongly opposed to him. National Review released a January 2016 special issue called "Against Trump", in opposition to Trump's bid for the presidency. William Kristol, publisher of The Weekly Standard, has been highly critical of Trump and has carried on a public search for an independent candidate to run against Trump and Clinton in the general election, citing a "patriotic obligation to try and offer the American people a third way." Columnist George Will, who has often been critical of Trump, quit the Republican party in June 2016 because of Trump's impending nomination, saying: "This is not my party".
Fox News and Megyn Kelly
Trump was one of ten candidates in the main Fox News debate on August 6, 2015. Bret Baier questioned Trump about Obamacare, Chris Wallace asked him about Mexican illegal immigrants, and Megyn Kelly asked about how he would respond to the Clinton campaign saying that he was waging a "war on women". Trump replied, "I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct."
In a later interview with Don Lemon on CNN Tonight, Trump said that Kelly is a "lightweight" and had "blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her... wherever." Trump tweeted that his remark referred to Kelly's nose but was interpreted by critics as a reference to menstruation.
Trump retained his first place standing after the debate, with an NBC News poll showing him at 23% support and a Reuters/Ipsos poll at 24%, followed by Ted Cruz at 13% and Ben Carson at 11%.
Following the Megyn Kelly incident, Roger Stone, Trump's veteran political adviser, left the campaign, citing "controversies involving personalities and provocative media fights." Despite this, Stone remained a Trump confidant and said in an interview with National Review that he is "the ultimate Trump loyalist."
In March 2016, Trump resumed his feud with Fox News and Kelly in a number of Twitter messages disparaging Kelly and calling for a boycott of her show. Fox News responded with a statement saying that Trump's behavior was an "extreme, sick obsession" beneath the dignity of a presidential nominee.
In April 2016, Kelly met with Trump at Trump Tower at her request to "clear the air". Following the meeting, Trump stated that Kelly was "very, very nice" and regarding the meeting: "Maybe it was time... By the way, in all fairness, I give her a lot of credit" for requesting it.
Hispanic and Latino Americans
Trump's popularity among Hispanic and Latino Americans is low; a nationwide survey conducted in February 2016 showed that some 80% of Hispanic voters had an unfavorable view of Trump (including 70% who have a "very unfavorable" view), more than double the percentage of any other Republican candidate. These low rankings are attributed to Trump's anti-illegal immigrant rhetoric. Alarm at Trump's rise has prompted an increase in the number of eligible Latino immigrants who have chosen to naturalize to vote against him. Despite his poor national standing with Hispanic and Latino Americans, he had constantly garnered higher numbers from them than each of his Republican rivals, along with other minority groups. At the same time, Trump has received pockets of Hispanic support, winning around 45 percent (plus or minus 10 percentage points) of the Hispanic Republican vote in the Nevada Republican caucuses (where about 8% of Republican caucus-goers were Hispanic), and receiving some support among Cuban Americans in Florida.
In August 2016, Trump created and met with a Hispanic advisory council. He also hinted publicly that he might soften his call for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants. On August 31, 2016, he made a visit to Mexico and met with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, saying he wanted to build relations in the country. However, in a major speech later that night, Trump laid out a 10-step plan reaffirming his hardline positions, and used harsh rhetoric to portray many illegal immigrants as a danger to Americans. In reaction, one member of Trump's Hispanic advisory council resigned, and several other Hispanic supporters said they were reconsidering their support.
The Jeb Bush–Trump dynamic was one of the more contentious relationships among the Republican contenders. Bush's campaign spent millions of dollars on anti-Trump ads, while in response Trump mocked Jeb Bush with the lasting epithet that he was "low energy". During an exchange with Jeb Bush in the ninth Republican primary debate, the audience (most favoring Bush) repeatedly booed Trump. Trump scoffed that the audience was made up of "Jeb's special interests and lobbyists".
According to The Washington Post, the most telling aspect of the Bush–Trump duel may have been the fact that, "No candidate in the race was prepared for GOP voters' opposition to immigration, with the exception of Trump," and the anti-illegal immigration sentiment that Trump tapped into throughout the campaign, and with the Act of Love advertisement.
Bush did not attend the 2016 Republican National Convention and said he will not be voting for either Trump or Clinton, but will focus on Congressional elections. Bush's father George H. W. Bush and his brother George W. Bush also did not attend the convention and have said they will avoid involvement in this year's campaign.
In summer 2015 U.S. Senator John McCain (former presidential candidate, Vietnam War naval veteran, and prisoner of war) and Trump criticized each other on several occasions, primarily over their differing positions on immigration. At a July 18, 2015 event Trump described McCain as a "loser" and added, "He's not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured." His comments were heavily criticized; some of his primary rivals said he should withdraw from the race because of them. At a later press availability Trump denied having said McCain is not a war hero, saying “If somebody’s a prisoner, I consider them a war hero.” At the same time, he criticized McCain for not having done enough for veterans. McCain said Trump should apologize, not to him personally, but to former American prisoners of war and "the families of those who have sacrificed in conflict". Trump declined to issue any apology.
McCain continued to criticize Trump. In March he said he agreed with Mitt Romney's strong opposition to Trump and expressed concern about Trump's "uninformed and indeed dangerous statements" on national security issues. In August he issued a lengthy statement denouncing Trump for criticizing the Muslim parents of a fallen American soldier and saying "I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates."
McCain endorses Trump because he is the nominee of the Republican party. On August 2 Trump said he was not endorsing McCain in his campaign for the Republican nomination for his existing Senate seat. Three days later he did endorse him, saying in prepared remarks, "I hold in the highest esteem Sen. John McCain for his service to our country in uniform and in public office and I fully support and endorse his reelection."
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a primary rival, has been "one of Trump's fiercest critics". He called Trump a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot" and asserted that Trump doesn't have the temperament or judgment to be president. After Trump attacked a federal judge for his Mexican heritage, Graham urged people who have endorsed Trump to rescind their endorsements, saying “This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy." Graham has stated that he will vote for neither Trump nor Clinton.
On July 21, 2015, Trump publicly gave out Graham's phone number during a speech in South Carolina as a response to Graham calling him a "jackass". Graham released a statement on Twitter that he would "probably [be] getting a new phone" and later released a video in which he destroyed his phone. Gawker subsequently released a phone number belonging to Trump, and he responded by setting the phone number to play a campaign message.
An open letter signed by 88 retired generals and admirals, and released on 6 September 2016, expressed support for Trump. One of the originators of the letter, Maj. General Sidney Shachnow, stated that Trump "has the temperament to be commander-in-chief".
A live televised event hosted by IAVA was presented on September 7, 2016 by NBC News and MSNBC. The candidates responded to questions from the audience in separate 1/2 hour segments: Clinton first followed by Trump. The objective was to focus exclusively on issues pertaining to defense, foreign policy, and veterans. The audience consisted of mostly retired veterans and active duty service members.
On February 24, 2016, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney called on Trump to release his tax returns, suggesting they contain a "bombshell". On March 3, Romney expanded his criticisms in a widely reported speech in which he said that Trump's economic plans would cause profound recession, criticized his foreign policy proposals as reckless and dangerous, and called him a "con man", a "fake", and a "phony", joking that Trump's promises are "as worthless as a degree from Trump University." In June he expressed concern that some of the things Trump says could legitimize racism, and that Trump as president could cause "trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things (that) are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America."
Unlike many other Republican critics who came around after Trump was confirmed as the presumptive nominee, Romney continued his "increasingly lonely" challenge to Trump. He explained, “I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.” He hinted that he might vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
In contrast, while Romney was running for president in 2012, he praised Trump and sought his endorsement.
Stop Trump movement
A concerted effort by some Republicans and other prominent conservatives to prevent Trump from obtaining the Republican Party presidential nomination gained momentum following Trump's wins in the Super Tuesday primaries on March 15, 2016.
On March 17, 2016, several dozen conservatives led by Erick Erickson met at the Army and Navy Club in Washington D.C. to discuss strategies for preventing Trump from securing the nomination at the Republican National Convention in July. Among the strategies discussed were a "unity ticket", a possible third-party candidate and a contested convention, especially if Trump does not gain the 1,237 delegates necessary to secure the nomination.
In June 2016, activists Eric O'Keefe and Dane Waters formed a group called Delegates Unbound, attempting to convince delegates to vote for whomever they want. By June 19, hundreds of delegates to the Republican National Convention calling themselves Free the Delegates had begun raising funds and recruiting members in support of an effort to change Party convention rules to free delegates to vote however they want - instead of according to the results of state caucuses and primaries. However, the convention's Rules Committee voted down, by a vote of 84–21, a move to send a "minority report" to the floor allowing the unbinding of delegates, thereby defeating the "Stop Trump" activists and guaranteeing Trump's nomination. The committee then endorsed the opposite option, voting 87–12 to include rules language specifically stating that delegates were required to vote based on their states' primary and caucus results.
Our Principles PAC and the Club for Growth tried during the primary season to prevent Trump's nomination. Our Principles Pac spent more than $13 million on advertising attacking Trump. The Club for Growth spent $11 million in an effort to prevent Trump from becoming the Republican Party's nominee.
On March 7, 2016, Henry Kraemer founded the Trump Has Tiny Hands PAC. A week later, he was forced to change the name because of FEC rules governing the use of a candidate's name in the names of PACs. Kraemer changed the name to Americans Against Insecure Billionaires with Tiny Hands.
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, has been sharply critical of Trump on multiple occasions. In December 2015 when Trump called for a ban on foreign Muslims entering the country, Ryan said "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for, and more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.” Even after endorsing Trump, Ryan continued to criticize Trump's religion-based immigration proposals. In early March 2016 Ryan condemned Trump's failure to repudiate the support of white supremacists, and in mid March he strongly objected to Trump's suggestion that there could be "riots" at the Republican convention if he is not the nominee. In June when Trump said the judge hearing a lawsuit against him was biased because he was of Mexican extraction, Ryan said Trump's remarks were "absolutely unacceptable" and "the textbook definition of a racist comment".
In May when Trump was declared the presumptive nominee, Ryan told CNN that he was not ready to endorse Trump, saying "I'm not there right now," He questioned Trump's commitment to conservative values but added he hoped to back him eventually. Trump and Ryan met once during May, and on June 2 Ryan published an op-ed piece endorsing Trump and stressing the need to prevent Hillary Clinton's election. Ryan later explained that as Majority Leader he feels obligated to support the Republican nominee in the interest of party unity.
On August 2, 2016, one week before Ryan faced a primary for re-election to his house seat, Trump declined to endorse him, saying "I'm just not quite there yet." He also praised Ryan's primary opponent. Trump's comments infuriated Republican officials, particularly GOP chairman Reince Priebus. Three days later Trump endorsed Ryan, reading from a prepared statement, "So in our shared mission, to make America great again, I support and endorse our speaker of the House, Paul Ryan."
Trump is a Presbyterian and says he attends Marble Collegiate Church, although the church said in a statement that he is "not an active member." In campaign speeches has routinely praised and sometimes carried the Bible, often saying that his own book Trump: The Art of the Deal is his "second-favorite book after the Bible." On occasion, Trump has "reflected a degree of indifference" to religion, causing unease among some social conservatives.
Trump has solicited the support of religious leaders, inviting in September 2015 dozens of Christian and Jewish leaders to his New York City offices for a meeting and laying on of hands prayer gathering. Trump has praised prominent national evangelical leaders of the Christian right, including Tony Perkins and Ralph Reed, and has received a blessing and endorsement from Greek Orthodox priest and hedge fund manager Emmanuel Lemelson. In January 2016, Trump received the endorsement of Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., a prominent evangelical leader.
Trump has drawn high levels of evangelical support despite holding political views and religious commitments at odds with many evangelicals. In July 2016, 78% of white evangelicals said that they would vote for Trump according to Pew Research Center.
Conversely, some Christian religious leaders have critiqued Trump. After finishing a trip to the U.S.–Mexico border, Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, in response to a question about Trump's border-wall proposal: said: "A person who thinks only about building walls—wherever they may be—and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel." Trump then called the pope's comments "disgraceful."
Other figures have made more direct religious-based critiques of Trump, including from the American Christian right. Russell D. Moore, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public-policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is a prominent Trump critic and has argued that Christians should vote for a conservative third party. Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who has served in the last three Republican presidential administrations, said that Trump "embodies a Nietzschean morality rather than a Christian one," writing that Trump is "characterized by indifference to objective truth (there are no facts, only interpretations), the repudiation of Christian concern for the poor and the weak, and disdain for the powerless." On the Christian left, a number of commentators, including preacher and New York Daily News columnist Shaun King criticized Trump's racially charged rhetoric as inconsistent with Christianity.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz was a primary rival for the Republican nomination. In the early days of the primary Cruz showered praise on Trump. But as the primary season went on, Cruz went on the attack, calling Trump a "bully" and a "pathological liar", and Trump took to referring to Cruz as "Lyin' Ted". Trump repeatedly claimed Cruz was not eligible to be president because he was born in Canada.
In March 2016 a pro-Cruz super PAC used a picture of Melania Trump posing nude for GQ in a Facebook advertisement. Trump tweeted a threat to "spill the beans" about Cruz's wife Heidi, and later posted pictures comparing Heidi Cruz unfavorably to Melania Trump. In response, Cruz called Trump a "sniveling coward" and told him to "leave Heidi the hell alone."
In May 2016 Trump cited a National Enquirer article which suggested that Senator Cruz’s father, Rafael Bienvenido Cruz, might have been involved in the assassination of John F Kennedy. Trump asked, “What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death, before the shooting? It’s horrible.” The claim was described by experts as "outlandish" and "wild and unfounded." Trump later stated that he did not actually believe the story. But he returned to the claim on July 22, saying that the National Enquirer would not have run the story if it was wasn't true, and falsely stating that the Cruz camp never denied it.
At the Republican National Convention, Cruz was given a prime time speaking slot. He enraged attendees by urging them to "vote your conscience" instead of the expected endorsement of Trump. The next day he defended his refusal to endorse Trump, saying "I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father." Trump scoffed that he wouldn't accept Cruz's endorsement even if offered.
Trump has called his wife Melania "my pollster" and said that she supports his presidential run. Melania appeared at her husband's June 2015 campaign announcement and at the Fox News debate in Cleveland. She has also conducted several televised interviews and appeared at a Trump rally in South Carolina along with other family members. Trump's adult children Donald Jr, Ivanka, and Eric, as well as Ivanka's husband Jared Kushner, are all involved in his campaign and are regarded as key advisers. They were reportedly influential in persuading Trump to fire his controversial campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in June 2016. Melania, Donald Jr, Eric, and Ivanka were "Headliner" speakers on successive nights of the Republican National Convention.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
The 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United State released a statement by its national commander stating “Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression” and “There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed.” The statement followed Trump's attack on the family of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan who was killed by a suicide car bomb after ordering his subordinates away from the vehicle.
There is a large gender gap in support for Trump, with women significantly less likely to express support than men. A March 2016 poll showed that half of U.S. women had a "very unfavorable" view of Trump. A separate March 2016 poll showed women favoring Hillary Clinton 55% to 35% over Trump, "twice the gender gap of the 2012 presidential election", while a Gallup poll showed a 70% unfavorable rating.
At over 200,000 subscribers, the subreddit "/r/The_Donald" has faced controversy since its inception. Trump hosted a AMA on the subreddit during the 2016 Democratic National Convention on July 27, 2016. Trump answered thirteen of the thousands of questions posted on the subreddit. The subreddit previously hosted AMAs of notable Trump supporters, including Curt Schilling, Alex Jones, Roger Stone, and Peter Schweizer. Moderators of the subreddit claimed they banned more than 2,000 accounts during Trump's AMA session. The subreddit has been criticized by Vice as being anti-choice, pro-Russia, and censoring any differing opinion.
Trump support is high among working and middle-class white male voters with annual incomes of less than $50,000 and no college degree. This group, particularly those with less than a high-school education, has suffered a decline in their income in recent years. According to The Washington Post, support for Trump is higher in areas with a higher mortality rate for middle-age white people. A large sample of interviews with more than 11,000 Republican-leaning respondents from August to December 2015 found that Trump at that time found his strongest support in West Virginia, followed by New York, and then followed by six Southern states. As of April 17, 2016 Buchanan County, Virginia, is the county where Trump garnered the highest percentage of the vote with 69.7%.
Surveys have shown that significant proportions of Trump supporters hold negative views of immigrants, Muslims, and African-Americans. The Pew Research Center found that 69% of Trump supporters viewed immigrants as a burden, rather than a benefit, to the US, and 64% believed that American Muslims should be subject to greater scrutiny solely on the basis of their religion. Reuters found that Trump supporters were more than twice as likely as Clinton supporters to view Islam negatively. Trump supporters were also more likely than supporters of other candidates to hold negative views of African-Americans. Reuters reported that 40–50% of Trump supporters viewed African-Americans as being more "lazy", "rude", "violent", or "criminal" than whites, compared to 25–30% for Clinton supporters; while 32% of Trump supporters believed that African-Americans were less intelligent than whites, compared to 22% of Clinton supporters.
University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers, analyzing a national survey of likely Republican primary voters from December 2015, found that having an authoritarian personality and a fear of terrorism were the only two variables among those tested that were statistically significant predictors of Trump support. Another study based on a different survey, conducted by professors at the University of Chicago and University of Minnesota, concluded that Trump supporters were no more authoritarian than supporters of other Republican candidates, but rather were characterized primarily by a strong nationalist identity and a mistrust of experts, intellectuals, and perceived elites.
As of January 31, 2016, the Trump campaign had received $7.5 million in donations from individuals, $250,318 donated directly by Trump himself, and a $17.78-million loan from the candidate. The loaned amount can be repaid to Trump as other donations arrive. According to reports to the FEC, the campaign had $1.9 million on hand as of February 20.
As of March 31, he had raised $48.4 million, spent $46.3 million, and had $2.1 million cash on hand. His total spending including $3.2 million by outside groups, total $49.5 million. As of May 31, he had raised $63.1 million, spent $61.8 million, and had $1.3 million cash on hand. His total spending including $3.0 million by outside groups, total $64.7 million. As of June 30, he had raised $89.0 million, spent $68.8 million, and had $20.2 million cash on hand. His total spending including $7.6 million by outside groups, total $76.4 million.
On June 23, Trump announced that he was forgiving $50 million in loans that he had made to his campaign for the primary. His campaign refused to release evidence to the press that would prove that he had forgiven these loans.
In October 2015 Trump had said: "I am self-funding my campaign and therefore I will not be controlled by the donors, special interests and lobbyists who have corrupted our politics and politicians for far too long. I have disavowed all super PACs, requested the return of all donations made to said PACs, and I am calling on all presidential candidates to do the same." Politifact reports that Trump's claims that he is "self-funding" his campaign are "half-true." By the end of 2015, Trump's campaign had raised $19.4 million, with almost $13 million (about 66%) coming in the form of a loan from Trump himself and the remainder (34%) coming from others' contributions. The announcement came a day after a main super PAC backing Trump closed amid scrutiny about its relationship to the campaign itself. Although Trump attended at least two Make America Great Again Super PAC fundraising events, including one at the home of his daughter Ivanka's in-laws, he later said he never gave his endorsement to the super PAC or any of the other eight super PACs supporting his run. In addition to a $100,000 donation from Ivanka Trump's mother-in-law, the Make America Great Again super PAC accepted $1 million in seed money from casino mogul and longtime Trump business partner Phil Ruffin who, according to FEC filings, gave the money just two weeks after the super PAC was established; the super PAC spent about $500,000 on polling, consulting, and legal expenses before shutting down in the wake of The Washington Post's coverage.
General election campaign
After becoming the presumptive nominee in early May, the Trump campaign announced that it would be seeking large donations for the general election, and that Trump would not be self-funding his campaign in the general election. By end of May Trump was reported to have $1.3 million available for his campaign, while Clinton could rely on $42 million.
Wall Street banker Steven Mnuchin was named finance chair of the Trump campaign in May 2016. In May 2016, the campaign established the Trump Victory Committee to enable joint fundraising with the Republican National Committee and eleven state parties; longtime Republican financiers Diane Hendricks, Woody Johnson, Mel Sembler, Ray Washburne, and Ron Weiser (all of whom backed other candidates during the Republican primary) agreed to serve as vice chairs of the committee.
In May 2016, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson announced that he would spend $100 million in support of Trump's election. As of late August 2016, the Federal Election Commission had not reported any donations to the Trump campaign by Mr. Adelson. While a number of large-dollar donors who previously backed other candidates and were once mocked by Trump have joined his campaign, other prominent Republican megadonors oppose Trump and have opted to "sit out" the election, withholding their support and financial backing. These include Norman Braman, Paul Singer, Seth Klarman, and the Koch Brothers
Several Super PACs were founded in support of Trump's campaign in the general election, including Great America PAC, Committee for American Sovereignty, and Rebuilding America Now. Vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort have both endorsed Rebuilding America Now, and Trump has agreed to headline fundraising events for the organization.
Comment about Second Amendment and Hillary Clinton
At a campaign stop in Wilmington, North Carolina, on August 9, Donald Trump said that Hillary Clinton wants to "essentially abolish the Second Amendment." He said if she nominates judges to the Supreme Court, there would be nothing that could be done about it, and then added, "Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don't know."
Trump's comment sparked condemnation from various Democrats and Republicans for being perceived as suggesting violence against Clinton or liberal jurists, instead of suggesting political action. Clinton Campaign spokesman Robby Mook released a statement that said, "... what Trump is saying is dangerous," and that a person seeking the presidency "should not suggest violence in any way." General Michael Hayden, who is the former head of the CIA, stated that "If someone else had said that outside the hall, he'd be in the back of a police wagon now with the Secret Service questioning him." Secret Service spokesperson Cathy Milhoan said in a statement that the U.S. Secret Service was aware of Trump's comments. The New York Times opinion writer Thomas Friedman condemned Trump's comment, saying "And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated."
Politifact noted that some people saw it as a joke about assassination or a reference to political action, while others took it as a threat. Politifact also noted that the premise behind Trump's remark—that Clinton wants to "abolish the Second Amendment"—was factually false. The Trump campaign responded with a statement that attributed the comment to the great political power that Second Amendment people have. House Speaker Paul Ryan said Trump should clarify what seemed to him a joke gone wrong. Hillary Clinton responded to Trump's comments by saying, "words matter," and that Trump's comments were part of a long line of casual comments from Trump that had "crossed a line."
Khizr and Ghazala Khan
During the 2016 Democratic National Convention, one of the speakers was Khizr Khan, a Muslim U.S. citizen who immigrated from Pakistan in 1980. Khan is the father of Captain Humayun Khan, a U.S. soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004 by a suicide bomber, and later awarded the Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart. Khan spoke about his son and criticized Trump for his Muslim ban proposals, asking if Trump had ever read the U.S. Constitution, and offering to give him a copy. He stated that Trump had "sacrificed nothing and no one."
The following Sunday on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Trump was asked about Khan. Trump replied that Khan was, "you know, very emotional and probably looked like a nice guy to me." Trump went on to wonder why Khizr Khan's wife Ghazala, who stood silently by her husband's side during his speech, did not speak and speculated that she might not have been allowed to speak. (Ghazala later responded by stating that at the time she was too emotional to speak.) When Trump was asked what he has sacrificed for his country, he told Stephanopoulos, "I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've had tremendous success. I think I've done a lot." Trump also cited his work on behalf of veterans, including helping build a Vietnam War memorial in Manhattan and raising "millions of dollars" for veterans.
Trump's comments touched off a firestorm of controversy by appearing to belittle the Khans, with public officials and commentators from all sides of the political spectrum arguing that he should show more respect to the parents of a fallen soldier. A Fox News poll found that 69% of respondents who were familiar with Trump's comments, including 41% of Republicans, felt that Trump's response was "out of bounds". The Khan controversy, along with Trump's initial refusal to endorse Majority Leader Paul Ryan for re-election, contributed to significant drops in Trump's poll numbers that week.
Trump responded to the criticism on Twitter, stating that Khazir Khan "viciously attacked me" and tweeting: "This story is not about Mr. Khan, who is all over the place doing interviews, but rather RADICAL ISLAMIC TERRORISM and the U.S. Get smart!" Later, Trump released a written statement saying "Captain Humayun Khan was a hero to our country and we should honor all who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep our country safe," adding "While I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan, who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution (which is false), and say many other inaccurate things."
In December 2015, Politifact named "the many campaign misstatements of Donald Trump" as its "2015 Lie of the Year", noting at the time that 76 percent of Trump statements rated by the factchecking website were rated "Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire," more than any other politician. Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, has said that "Trump came into an environment that was ripe for bombastic, inflammatory, outrageous statements without having to suffer the consequences", citing the rise of partisan media, popular desensitization to inflammatory rhetoric, and "the assault on science and expertise" as contributing factors.
In March 2016, Politico Magazine analyzed 4.6 hours of Trump stump speeches and press conferences over a five-day period and found "more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false." Trump's penchant for exaggerating to voters has roots in the world of New York real estate where he made his fortune, and where hyperbole is a way of life. According to Lucas Graves, a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication, Trump often speaks in a suggestive way that makes it unclear what exactly he meant, and Graves says that fact-checkers "have to be really careful when you pick claims to check to pick things that can be factually investigated and that reflect what the speaker was clearly trying to communicate."
Praise for authoritarian foreign leaders
Trump's frequent praise for foreign dictators and other authoritarian leaders has prompted significant criticism from members of both major political parties.
Trump has frequently praised Russia's Vladimir Putin, calling him a strong leader, "unlike what we have in this country", and "a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond." In January 2016, Trump appeared to praise North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, saying he's a "maniac", but "you gotta give him credit" for the "incredible" way he eliminated his opponents to take charge of the country.
During the Republican debate on March 10, 2016, Trump stirred controversy by saying that the Chinese government's 1989 massacre of unarmed civilians in Tiananmen Square was "horrible" and "vicious" but also "shows you the power of strength." When challenged, he claimed he was not endorsing the massacre and proceeded to characterize the protest as a riot: "I was not endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn't mean at all I was endorsing it."
At a July 5 campaign rally, Trump again raised controversy by praising Saddam Hussein for being good at killing terrorists, saying Hussein was "a really bad guy" but "you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn't read them the rights. They didn't talk. They were terrorists. It was over." The New York Times said Trump's descriptions "are not grounded in fact", noting that Hussein's Iraq had been listed as a state sponsor of terrorism. In October Trump had said that both Iraq and Libya would be better off if their deposed dictators, Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, were still in power, and in December he had described Hussein's use of poison gas against civilians as "throwing a little gas". His July 5 comments were widely criticized; Speaker of the House Paul Ryan dissociated himself from the remarks, and a spokesman for Clinton said “Donald Trump's praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds."
Comments about fringe or conspiracy theories
During his campaign, Trump has frequently given voice to fringe or conspiracy theories. Professor Joseph E. Uscinski, the co-author of American Conspiracy Theories, writes that Trump has made "unabashed" and "deft and almost daily use of … conspiracy narratives" on the campaign trail.
Trump has, for example, promoted the discredited belief that vaccines can cause autism unless administered according to a lengthened schedule. He has also alluded to the unfounded notion that President Obama is secretly a Muslim, for example stating that Obama might have attended a particular funeral "if it were held in a Mosque" and saying that "some people" think a Muslim has already been elected president. Trump also speculated that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's death by natural causes, was in truth caused by murder. Additionally, Trump has "suggested a cover-up at San Bernardino, flirted with 9/11 conspiracy theories, [and] proposed conspiracy theories about Syrian refugees."
Veterans for a Strong America event
The Veterans for a Strong America organized an event for Trump on September 15, 2015. According to the Associated Press, the IRS had revoked the nonprofit status of the organization, and its endorsement of Trump raised campaign finance questions as corporations are restricted to donating up to $2,700 to a campaign, but the event exceeded that amount. Other concerns raised include reports that the Veterans for a Strong America does not appear to have any members or relation with veterans. According to CNN, the group "sounds like a charity" and "touted having more than a half-million supporters" but is in fact a political action group; CNN "found scant evidence" of the number of supporters claimed by the group. The group's tax-exempt status had been revoked before the event; the group is appealing.
Trump has not released his personal income tax returns, as nominees traditionally do, and has said he does not plan to do so before the November election. Historians say he would be the first major party nominee since 1976 not to make his tax returns public. Before declaring for president he said he would "absolutely" release them if he decided to run for office. Early in the 2016 primary process he promised to put out "very big, very beautiful" returns. But since then he has offered various reasons for not giving out the information. He says his lawyers told him not to release the returns because they are being audited. He contends that voters are not interested and "there's nothing to learn from them". He told one interviewer that his tax rate is "none of your business".
Trump has been criticized for his refusal to release tax information. Experts say being audited is no bar to releasing the information. However, tax attorneys are generally sympathetic to wanting tax returns kept private until an audit is completed. The current top IRS official, Commissioner John Koskinen, has said that it would be fine for Trump to release his returns during an audit. The IRS Commissioner during the George W. Bush administration, Mark Everson, has said that there is no legitimate reason for Trump to withhold his tax returns.
2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that, "It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters." Romney speculated, "There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them." John Fund of the National Review said that Republican convention delegates should abstain from voting for Trump if he does not release the information, fearing that the returns could contain an electoral "time bomb". Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett challenged Trump to compare tax returns "any time, any place".
Donald Trump's prolific use of Twitter has created millions of followers. His almost daily use of social media as a vehicle for connecting to his audience is unprecedented as a campaign tool. On November 22, 2015, Trump retweeted an image containing racially charged and inaccurate crime data between blacks and whites, cited to a non-existent group. According to Newsweek, the image appeared to originate with a neo-Nazi Twitter account. When later asked by Bill O'Reilly about his sharing of the image, Trump confirmed that he had personally retweeted the image and said that it came from "sources that are very credible." The Annenberg Public Policy Center's FactCheck.org reported that the image was a "bogus graphic."
On February 28, Trump re-tweeted a Mussolini quote that had been posted from a parody bot created by Gawker: "It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep". When informed that the source of the quote was 20th century Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, Trump responded that the origin of the quote made no difference because it is a good and interesting quote.
On July 2, 2016 Trump tweeted a picture originally created as a meme by white supremacists. The tweet featured a photo of Clinton next to a star-shaped badge saying "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!" with a background of $100 bills. The six-pointed star was interpreted as a Star of David and the tweet denounced as "blatantly anti-semitic" by many observers, ranging from the Hillary Clinton campaign to the Anti-Defamation League to House Speaker Paul Ryan. However, Trump's former campaign director Corey Lewandowski dismissed the attacks as "political correctness run amok" and compared the star to a sheriff's badge. The Trump campaign took down the image, then re-uploaded it with a circle replacing the star.
Endorsements by white nationalists and white supremacists
From the outset of his campaign, Trump has been endorsed by various white nationalist and white supremacist movements and leaders. On February 24, 2016, David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon, expressed vocal support for Trump's campaign on his radio show. At a press conference on February 26, when questioned, Trump tersely disavowed himself of Duke's support. Two days later in an interview with Jake Tapper, Trump repeatedly claimed to be ignorant of Duke and his support. Republican presidential rivals were quick to respond on his wavering, and Senator Marco Rubio stated the Duke endorsement made Trump un-electable. Others questioned his professed ignorance of Duke by pointing out that in 2000 Trump called him a "Klansman". Trump later blamed the incident on a poor earpiece he was given by CNN. Later the same day Trump highlighted his previous terse disavowal of Duke in a tweet posted with a video on his Twitter account. On March 3, 2016, Trump stated: "David Duke is a bad person, who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years. I disavowed him. I disavowed the KKK."
On July 22, 2016 (the day after Trump's nomination), Duke announced that he will be a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana. He commented, "I'm overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I've championed for years." A spokesperson for the Trump campaign said Trump "has disavowed David Duke and will continue to do so."
On August 25, 2016, Clinton gave a speech saying that Trump, by making racist comments and promoting racist conspiracy theories, is "taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party." She identified this radical fringe with the "Alt-right", a largely online variation of American conservatism that embraces white nationalism and isolationism, and noted that Trump's campaign chief executive Stephen Bannon has described his Breitbart News Network as "the platform for the alt-right." On September 9, 2016, several leaders of the alt-right community held a press conference, described by one reporter as the "coming-out party" of the little-known movement, to explain their goals. They confirmed their racialist beliefs, stating "Race is real, race matters, and race is the foundation of identity." Speakers called for a "White Homeland" and expounded on racial differences in intelligence. They also confirmed their strong support of Trump, saying "This is what a leader looks like."
Opposition from Republicans
An open letter from 120 conservative foreign-policy and national-security leaders, released in March 2016, condemned Trump as "fundamentally dishonest" and unfit to be president. Signatories to the letter included a number of former high-level George W. Bush administration figures, and others, including Eliot A. Cohen, Max Boot, and Daniel W. Drezner. Critics noted that the signers of the letter are "the exact type of establishment Republicans against whom Trump has been railing."
Also in March 2016, another group of foreign policy experts published a letter in Foreign Policy magazine, entitled "Defending the Honor of the U.S. Military from Donald Trump," against Trump's statements that he would direct the military to torture suspected terrorists and their families and target the families of terrorists and other civilians, stating that "every reputable legal expert we know has deemed [these activities] illegal." The letter was signed by both neoconservatives and prominent realists, such as Andrew J. Bacevich and Richard K. Betts.
Several incumbent Republican members of Congress have announced they will not vote for Trump. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham says he will not vote for either Trump or Clinton in the fall and has urged other Republicans to "un-endorse" Trump. Illinois Senator Mark Kirk plans to write in a name, possibly David Petraeus or Colin Powell. New York Rep. Richard Hanna, who is retiring at the end of this term, was the first Republican to say he will vote for Hillary Clinton. Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Trump "for me is beginning to cross a lot of red lines in the unforgivable on politics" and he will vote for a write-in candidate or not vote. Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent said Trump has crossed "a bridge too far"; he plans to vote for a write-in candidate. Virginia Rep. Scott Rigell, also retiring at the end of this term, said he will vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
A letter from 50 Republican national security officials was published on August 8. The senior officials, who included former White House officials and Cabinet secretaries, said Trump "lacks the character, values, and experience" to be President. Trump responded the same day, saying "The names on this letter are the ones the American people should look to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in this country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place."
Trump University, and Trump himself, are involved in three ongoing lawsuits. The lawsuits were invoked by Trump's rivals in Republican primary debates and Hillary Clinton has used the Trump University allegations against Trump in speeches and campaign ads. Trump has repeatedly criticized Gonzalo P. Curiel, the presiding judge in two of the cases, stating that his Mexican heritage serves as a conflict of interest. During a June 3, 2016, interview with Jake Tapper of CNN, Tapper asked Trump what Curiel’s rulings have to do with his heritage. Trump answered, "I've been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall." Trump also claimed that Curiel is a friend of a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, to which the lawyer responded that they had not been friends in any "social" setting.
Legal experts criticized Trump's comments, and Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump for president, disavowed the comments, saying that they were racist. Meanwhile, Governor Chris Christie defended Trump's comments, saying that Trump was not a "pre-programmed robotic politician".
Trump has accused Curiel of bias because of his membership in La Raza Lawyers of California, a professional association of Hispanic attorneys. Former United States Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wrote on June 4 that some of Trump's aides alleged a link between the La Raza Lawyers of California and an advocacy organization called the National Council of La Raza, which has organized protests at Trump rallies: "The two groups are unaffiliated, and Curiel is not a member of NCLR. But Trump may be concerned that the lawyers’ association or its members represent or support the other advocacy organization".
On June 7, 2016, Trump said that his criticism of the judge had been "misconstrued" and that his concerns about Curiel's impartiality were not based on ethnicity alone, but rather on rulings in the case. He said that he was not categorically attacking people of Mexican heritage. In late July, Judge Curiel declined a request to dismiss one of the three lawsuits regarding Trump University.
In 2013 Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is claimed to have made a $25,000 political donation request to the Trump Foundation while "currently reviewing the allegations" in a New York class action suit. Despite many Florida consumer complaints about Trump University, her office decided not to pursue action. The foundation was fined $2,500 by the IRS for using the funds to make a political contribution to Bondi's PAC.