So, what did he mean by that?
During a North Carolina speech denouncing Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump warned again that if elected, she could “essentially abolish” the Second Amendment (which no president can unilaterally do).
“And if she gets to pick her judges,” Trump said — prompting his fans to boo the thought of it — there would be “nothing you could do, folks.”
A couple of people in the audience shouted remarks that were inaudible on a video recording. Trump then added: “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know.”
That drew cheers and whistling. “But I’ll tell you what,” he said. “That will be a horrible day.”
Trump detractors leapt to interpret the remarks as a threat. “This is simple,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement. “A person seeking to be president of the United States should not suggest violence in any way.”
But Trump spokesman Jason Miller responded that the candidate was only referring to “the power of unification” and that gun-rights advocates “have amazing spirit, and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power.”
Trump on Fox News Tuesday night said his comments were misinterpreted and that he was speaking about the political power held by gun-rights activists.
“Nobody in that room thought anything other than [that],” Trump said. “This is a political movement. This is a strong powerful movement, the Second Amendment.”
Reaction to Trump’s remarks
Trump’s call to action against Clinton with his Second Amendment remarks, spurred both support and condemnation for the real estate mogul turned television personality.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), in a Wednesday morning interview on MSNBC, urged Trump to “take back” his comments, adding that he didn’t believe Trump was calling for violence against Clinton.
“I think it was just a dumb remark. It was as simple as that,” King said.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is no stranger to feuding with Trump on Twitter, had a different take than King, shooting off a post accusing Trump of making “death threats because he’s a pathetic coward who can’t handle the fact that he’s losing to a girl.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, said Trump’s remarks sounded like “a joke gone bad.” Ryan added: “You should never joke about that. I hope he clears it up quickly.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence, on the campaign trail, said the controversy was stirred up by the national media who “latches on to some other issue about my running mate, just each and every day of the week.”
The National Rifle Association also came to Trump’s defense on Twitter, urging its members to vote against Clinton to “defend” the Second Amendment.
So, what’s wrong with this picture?
Hours before those Trump remarks, the father of Orlando, Florida, mass shooter Omar Mateen showed up at a campaign rally for Clinton, and was photographed standing behind her, holding up a “Stronger Together” sign.
The rally in Kissimmee, Florida, just 20 miles south of Orlando, was covered by local television station WPTV, which spotted Seddique Mateen, whose son killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub, in June before being killed himself.
Early in her remarks at the gathering, Clinton had acknowledged those still grieving and praised police who responded.
The elder Mateen, a naturalized citizen, has been controversial before, with an odd blend of political declarations related to his native Afghanistan that have been widely covered.
He said in the wake of the carnage that his son’s actions were unrelated to Islam and posted on Facebook that “God himself will punish those involved in homosexuality.”
Clinton’s camp scrambled for distance, saying in a statement, “The rally was a 3,000-person, open-door event for the public” and “This individual wasn’t invited as a guest and the campaign was unaware of his attendance until after the event.”
Reaction and speculation from Clinton critics was plentiful, with radio talker Rush Limbaugh saying he sensed a “trap” had somehow been laid for Trump with this appearance.
Turning against Trump, continued
By itself, Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ declaration that Trump is too divisive and impulsive to win her support adds one more big name from her party who’s rejecting the New York billionaire. On Tuesday, she added to her previous remarks: “I’m waiting to see what name he eventually calls me.”
Collins, of Maine, and several other Trump disdainers stopped short of endorsing Clinton.
But to try to keep the GOP-versus-Trump ball rolling, the Clinton camp contacted Democratic leaders in Arizona and Georgia to say they were expanding operations in those states, where the Republicans have dominated presidential races since the 1990s. Polls issued Tuesday showed Clinton leading by 11 points in Pennsylvania, but running more closely in Ohio and Iowa.
New State Department emails released Tuesday show overlapping agendas between the Clinton Foundation and State Department while Clinton was secretary of state. For example, they show how an aide to Bill Clinton asked her assistant to set up a meeting between the department and a foundation donor, which apparently prompted discussion and action by department officials.
The documents were obtained by the conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch, which has been suing under the Freedom of Information Act. So far, the candidate has not specified what, if any, wall would exist between her administration and the foundation if she is elected. More discussion and reaction is expected Wednesday.
Debate watch: Moderators in the mix
ABC’s Martha Raddatz, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and PBS’ Gwen Ifill are some of the journalists in the running to moderate the three fall presidential debates, including the Sept. 26 debate at Hofstra University, and one vice-presidential debate, according to Politico’s Playbook.
Other names being floated include CBS’ John Dickerson, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, NBC’s Chuck Todd and Lester Holt, and CNN’s Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper.
What else is happening
- Clinton urged the GOP-run Congress to take action on the Zika virus at an appearance in Florida’s “hot zone” Tuesday.
- Billionaire Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, is seen as a figure similar to Trump, the Times reports.
- Keeping that third chair open for Libertarian Gary Johnson at the debates causes a dynamic all its own, Politico reports.
- Trump wants to “see the conditions” for debates before committing, he said Tuesday.
- Green Party candidate Jill Stein has spent more than Trump on TV ads in the election, The Washington Post reports.
- Bloomfield, New Jersey, police say a 62-year-old man was struck with a crowbar by someone who disliked his Trump T-shirt.
- Speculation is swirling that former GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina is looking to head the national party.
- Trump’s words often lead to a similar sequence of events — The Washington Post reports on the life-cycle of Trump’s controversial remarks.
- Clinton leads Trump by six-points in the latest Bloomberg News poll.
- Trump’s support among Republican women is sinking, according to a New York Times piece citing declining poll numbers and the increasing list of prominent GOP women backing Clinton.
- “Walmart Moms” weigh-in — the retail giant organized a focus group of female voters in Ohio and Arizona to share their thoughts on the presidential race. Many of the moms were not sold on this year’s candidates, Politico reports.