PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — Donald Trump’s latest unsubstantiated salvo against rival Hillary Clinton charges she might have been on drugs during their last debate and challenges her to join him in undergoing a pre-debate drug test ahead of their third and final clash.
The unfounded claim that the Democratic nominee needed pharmaceutical help took some attention away from whether voters would believe the women who claim that Trump sexually assaulted them or instead accept the Republican’s flat denials.
Also overshadowed by Trump’s accusation was the release Saturday of yet more emails hacked from accounts of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
The latest batch showed the campaign worrying whether Sen. Elizabeth Warren might endorse Bernie Sanders and wrestling with how to respond to revelations about her private email use. Another subject: lining up materials to respond to fresh accusations from Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of raping her decades ago. He denied the rape accusation, which was never adjudicated by a criminal court.
After surmising that Clinton was getting “pumped up” ahead of Wednesday’s debate rather than preparing for it, Trump told supporters: “I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate, ’cause I don’t know what’s going on with her.” He added: “But at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning. And at the end, it was like … she could barely even reach her car.”
Trump also returned to familiar ground, reiterating his claims that the presidential contest is rigged against him and vowing anew to jail Clinton if he’s elected.
“The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president,” Trump said, referring to the several women who have come forward in recent days to say that Trump had sexually assaulted them. He has called the women liars.
In a country with a history of peaceful political transition, Trump’s challenge to the election’s legitimacy — as a way to explain a loss in November, should that happen — was a striking rupture of faith in American democracy. He has repeatedly claimed without offering evidence that election fraud is a serious problem and encouraged his largely white supporters to “go and watch” polling places in certain areas to make sure things are “on the up and up.”
Peter Kostruba, a Trump supporter who traveled to his Portsmouth rally from Barnet, Vermont, with his 10-year-old son, said he’s not expecting riots to break out if Clinton wins, but he sees sharper divisions in the country.
“It definitely feels like the odds are stacked, whether it’s the legal system or the voter system,” Kostruba said. “I don’t think you’re going to see all of this group here arm themselves and mobilize, but, you know, we’re probably not too many years away from that if things keep going the way we’re going.”
On a similar theme, a prominent Trump supporter who spoke at the GOP convention last summer, Sheriff David Clarke Jr. of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee County, tweeted Saturday: “It’s incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch. Pitchforks and torches time.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, whose decision not to campaign for Trump angered the GOP nominee, made clear he does not share the candidate’s concern about the election’s legitimacy.
“Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity,” said AshLee Strong, speaking for him.
The idea the election is unfairly tilted against Trump has become a resurgent theme for the New York billionaire and many of his supporters in the past several days as he’s slipped in preference polls and faced allegations of sexual misconduct.
Campaign money is tight, too, at least in comparison with Clinton’s resources. Trump began October with $75 million in his campaign and joint party accounts, he said Saturday in a statement. That’s exactly half of what the Clinton team said it had on hand — a worrisome financial disadvantage for the Republican side.
There was trouble in Ohio, too, where Trump severed ties with the state’s Republican Party chairman, Matt Borges, who had become openly critical of the nominee at times. That crack in unity comes in a critical battleground state, where Republican Gov. John Kasich is also not behind Trump.
Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz and Josh Lederman in Washington contributed to this report.