Racism and talk of religious war: Donald Trump staff’s online posts

Donald Trump‘s paid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for Secretary of State John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war, according to a review by The Associated Press of their postings.

The AP examined the social media feeds of more than 50 current and former campaign employees who helped propel Trump through the primary elections. The campaign has employed a mix of veteran political operatives and outsiders. Most come across as dedicated, enthusiastic partisans, but at least seven expressed views that were overtly racially charged, supportive of violent actions or broadly hostile to Muslims.

A graphic designer for Trump’s advance team approvingly posted video of a black man eating fried chicken and criticizing fellow blacks for ignorance, irresponsibility and having too many children. A Trump field organizer in Virginia declared that Muslims were seeking to impose Sharia law in America and that “those who understand Islam for what it is are gearing up for the fight.”

The AP’s findings come at a time when Trump is showing new interest in appealing to minority voters, insisting he will be fair in dealing with the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally and explicitly pitching himself to African-Americans, saying “what do you have to lose?”

Since Trump declared his candidacy last summer, he has paid about 120 people on his campaign, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Over the weekend, the campaign reported about 70 people drawing salaries, a number that did not include a few dozen more working as consultants. A slew of hires in early August were not yet reflected in Trump’s filings.

The AP was able to review the accounts of only a minority of Trump staffers: Others set their accounts to private, some could not be found or identified with confidence as Trump campaign employees.

The AP also reviewed the public social media accounts of more than three dozen employees of Hillary Clinton‘s far larger campaign staff and found nothing as inflammatory. One staffer said Trump’s style of speaking reminded him of a roommate who had taken too many hallucinogenic mushrooms. AP also reviewed images attached to more than 19,000 stolen internal emails from the Democratic National Committee for racially or religiously inflammatory memes, finding nothing of note.

The Clinton campaign declined to comment on its procedures for vetting staff. It employs more than 650 people, according to its FEC filings.

One month ago, the AP sent written questions to the Trump campaign with examples of the posts. The campaign has not commented, despite several requests since.

Veteran Republican campaign operatives said keeping an eye on staffers’ social media postings has long been a standard practice.

“In vetting a prospective staffer, I’m not sure where the line would be for not hiring someone or simply asking them to take something down from social media, but there is a line,” said Beth Myers, a former top Mitt Romney campaign aide.

During Myers’ work for Mitt Romney in the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, she said, social media was newer, so indiscrete or embarrassing photos were more often concerns than inflammatory views. Even outside social media, she stressed to the campaigns’ staffers that what they said and did would reflect on the candidate who employed them. “Don’t put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want on the front page of The New York Times,” she recalled telling staff. “The same thing I told my kids, I told my staffers.”

The AP found little questionable content in the ranks of Trump’s top officials. The campaign’s social media director, Dan Scavino, tweets prolifically but avoids discussing race and religion. Field organizers representing Trump’s campaign around the country, however, have had no such reservations, either before or during their employment with the campaign. Their judgment matters beyond the campaign because the paid staff of winning presidential candidates often receives jobs in the next administration.

Before being tapped as statewide director of coalitions, Craig Bachler of Bradenton, Florida, posted jokes in 2015 about Mexican accents superimposed over pictures of an overweight man wearing a sombrero. Bachler was named by the campaign as official staff in November, though there is no record he has been paid for his work. Bachler did not respond to a request for comment via Facebook or a message left at his office voicemail. After AP’s inquiries, Bachler blocked access to an AP reporter, and his Facebook account — which included a photo of Bachler with Trump — was scrubbed to remove the offensive post.

Teresa Unrue, a field organizer and graphic designer in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for Trump’s advance team, shared a video on her Facebook account July 11 — the week before the Republican National Convention — of a black man eating fried chicken while shaming fellow black people.

“Why are you mad about slavery?” the man asks. “Y’all weren’t no damn slaves.”

“Had me crack’n up!! Thank you!” Unrue wrote of the video. “Please share this with people.”

In a short phone conversation, Unrue said she tried to keep her personal social media comments positive and referred questions to the campaign.

Some posts fixated on stories of black-on-white violence with claims that news about such crimes was being suppressed.

“How about this little white boy being murdered by a black man,” grassroots organizer Annie Marie Delgado of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, wrote in December 2014 post, one of a number highlighting crimes against white people before Trump declared his candidacy. Delgado also shared a discredited, hoax photo of the State Department’s Kerry with Jane Fonda, and commented: “I say hang them!” She was paid $11,146 through April, according to campaign records.

Fear or dislike of Muslims was a recurring theme. Though Trump at one point proposed temporarily barring foreign Muslims from entering the country and scrutinizing the activities of mosques, he has sometimes distinguished Islamic extremists who pose a risk and those who don’t. “I love the Muslims,” Trump said in September, expressing willingness to appoint one to his Cabinet.

On Facebook, Mark Kevin Lloyd of Lynchburg, Virginia, who has been paid $36,000 as Trump’s field director in the state, shared a post June 30 calling Islam “a barbaric cult.” He shared a meme June 16, four days after the Orlando nightclub shooting by a heavily armed Muslim who professed allegiance to the Islamic State group. The meme said people should be forced to eat bacon before they can purchase firearms.

Lloyd declined to talk to the AP without the Trump campaign’s permission, citing his nondisclosure agreement with the campaign.

Other campaign staffers also singled out Muslims for special scrutiny.

Unrue shared the statement, “We need Islam control, not gun control.”

During her time with the campaign, Delgado deplored the appointment of a Muslim-American judge in New York.

“Step by step… this is how American culture will end,” she wrote Feb. 27, saying it was only reasonable to believe that the judge would implement Sharia law.

Delgado said in a telephone interview she stopped working for the campaign in April. She said she did not recall making some of the posts the AP asked her about and does not stand by others.

“If I read the whole thing, I probably wouldn’t have posted it,” she said of one post she shared, a short essay declaring that Muslims are inherently incapable of being good Americans.

Phillip Dann, a field organizer in Massachusetts who recently relocated to Florida, was paid $6,153 between January and March. He shared a meme mocking “Muslim sympathizers.” He also shared an article about Trump threatening to bring back waterboarding “or worse,” and added “where is the gasoline?” Dann told the AP in a phone interview he had no antipathy against Muslims in general.

Dann attributed inflammatory comments of other Trump staffers to the fact that the campaign had drawn on people inexperienced in politics. While he has been politically active for decades — originally as a leftist, he said — he described the field staff Trump acquired in the primary as unfamiliar with traditional campaign rules.

“We get hired because there was no one left,” Dann said. In a later email, he acknowledged some of his and other staff postings were “clearly over the top” — but said that criticism of the posts would amount to intimidation.

Scott Barrish, who earned $12,250 as Trump’s political director for the Tampa Bay, Florida, region, took his views beyond social media posts. In 2011, he drew local press coverage for writing to the head of the nonprofit Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group for Muslims in the U.S., saying he was wise to its plans to establish a totalitarian theocracy in the United states.

“This is us vs. you,” wrote Barrish. “In the great words of the late President Ronald Reagan, ‘I win, you lose!'”

Separately, Barrish tweeted in 2013 that he hoped America wasn’t headed for civil war, but “if our freedoms must be defended against a tyrannical government, so be it.”

“Those comments at that time were made by me and were my own personal view,” Barrish said in a brief interview with AP. He said he stopped working for Trump’s campaign after the Florida primary. “I don’t want to detract anything from the campaign.”

Barrish separately complained to editors at AP about its review of publicly accessible material on Trump employees’ social media accounts, saying “the liberal media, yellow journalists are really grasping at straws with their ad hominem circumstantial logical fallacies!”

Many accounts AP reviewed embraced conspiracy theories. Lloyd, the Virginia field director, said Obama is aiding the Iranian nuclear program as part of the president’s “‘final solution’ to the Israel problem,” a phrase evoking the Holocaust.

Delgado, the Florida organizer, circulated a theory that the company Edible Arrangements LLC is funneling money to Hamas, a claim that the Anti-Defamation League, a U.S. Jewish organization, has repeatedly dismissed as false.

Unrue posted a link to a website that alleged that the U.S. government assassinated Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died earlier this year after a history of heart trouble.

Racially charged social media posts from Trump campaign employees and associates have already been a repeated source of embarrassment. Trump fired one adviser who had used a racial slur to describe Obama’s children, and the campaign denounced Trump’s longtime Mar-a-Lago butler for saying he would support dragging Obama from the White House and hanging him.

Katie Packer, a 2012 Romney deputy campaign manager who opposes Trump, said the social media posts AP reviewed would have all been immediate disqualifiers for anyone who had applied for a campaign job — even if the postings weren’t visible to the public.

“A comfort level with people who think this is OK is indicative of what you think is OK,” Packer said. “Maybe the campaign just doesn’t know about this, but that’s malpractice.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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As Hillary Clinton asks for money, what she says remains a mystery

It was a very busy, very lucrative weekend for Hillary Clinton in the summer playground of the East Coast’s moneyed elite.

She brunched with wealthy backers at a seaside estate in Nantucket, snacking on shrimp dumplings and crab cakes. A few hours later, she and her husband dined with an intimate party of thirty at a secluded Martha’s Vineyard estate. And on Sunday afternoon, she joined the singer Cher at an “LGBT summer celebration” on the far reaches of Cape Cod.

By Sunday evening, Clinton had spoken to more than 2,200 campaign donors. But what she told the crowds remains a mystery.

Clinton has refused to open her fundraisers to journalists, reversing nearly a decade of greater transparency in presidential campaigns and leaving the public guessing at what she’s saying to some of her most powerful supporters.

It’s an approach that differs from the Democratic president she hopes to succeed. Since his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama has allowed reporters traveling with him into the backyards and homes of wealthy donors to witness his some of his remarks.

While reporters are escorted out of Obama’s events before the start of the juicier Q&A, the president’s approach offers at least a limited measure of accountability that some fear may disappear when Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump moves into the White House.

“Unfortunately these things have a tendency to ratchet down,” said Larry Noble, the general counsel of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center. “As the bar gets lower, it’s hard to raise it again.”

Clinton’s campaign does release limited details about her events, naming the hosts, how many people attended and how much they gave. That’s more than Trump, whose far fewer fundraisers are held entirely away from the media, with no details provided.

Even some Democrats privately acknowledge that Clinton’s penchant for secrecy is a liability, given voters continued doubts about her honesty.

While Clinton will occasionally take questions from reporters at campaign stops, she has not held a full-fledged news conference in more than 260 days. Trump has held several. She refuses to release the transcripts of dozens of closed-door speeches she delivered to companies and business associations after leaving the State Department, despite significant bipartisan criticism.

And since announcing her presidential bid in April 2015, Clinton has held around 300 fundraising events — only around five have been open to any kind of news coverage.

“It does feed this rap about being secretive and being suspicious,” said GOP strategist Whit Ayers.

Clinton’s aides have promised for weeks that greater access to her events will be coming soon. But Trump’s lack of disclosure has given her political cover to keep the doors closed, particularly as she conducts a period of intense fundraising before the final sprint to Election Day.

While Clinton is expected to make only two public appearances before the end of August, she and her top backers will mingle with donors at no fewer than 54 events according to a fundraising schedule obtained by The Associated Press.

Reporters covering these events wait outside, in vans, parking lots and vacant guesthouses — even at homes they’ve entered with Obama at previous events. In Provincetown on Sunday, five reporters crowded into the corner of a parking lot, clinging to a chain-link fence as they tried to catch Clinton’s speech to a crowd of about 1,000 supporters.

None of her remarks seemed particularly remarkable: The candidate could faintly be heard running through her standard stump speech.

During a Saturday fundraiser at a stately Martha’s Vineyard estate, faint cheers could be heard as Clinton addressed 700 donors on a green lawn overlooking the water. Staffers instructed drivers to roll up the windows of the vans where reporters waited before being ushered into a nearby guesthouse.

What a candidate tells his or her rich donors has long been a subject of intense speculation in American politics, in part because the message can be different from what they offer to voters.

Obama is still haunted by a comment he made at a 2008 fundraiser in San Francisco, calling voters in small town Pennsylvania “bitter” and saying they cling to “guns or religion.” He learned a lesson: At events during his 2012 campaign, staffers set up a table where guests were expected to check their cellphones before entering. Clinton has tried to ban tweeting, Instagram and other forms of social media at some of her events.

Four years ago, a waiter recorded and leaked remarks GOP nominee Mitt Romney made about the “47 percent” of voters who are “dependent on government and would vote for Obama “no matter what” at a closed Florida fundraiser. After his convention, Romney started opening his fundraisers to the media to grab headlines, especially on days when he had no other public appearances.

His former aides say that’s not a problem for Clinton.

“Quite frankly, if I’m her, it may not be a bad thing to let Donald Trump be the only candidate making news on any given day,” said former Romney campaign aide Ryan Williams. “She can stay dark for five straight days and let Trump trip all over himself.”

___

Keep track of how much Clinton and Trump are spending on television advertising, and where they’re spending it, via AP’s interactive ad tracker http://elections.ap.org/content/ad-spending.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Donald Trump and new team have little time to execute new strategy

Donald Trump is on the clock.

He has about 80 days to reset and rally a presidential campaign that’s done little but stagger since the close of the Republican convention. The GOP nominee’s allies say the celebrity businessman and his new leadership team are “laser-focused” and ready to direct the billionaire’s venom against Democratic Hillary Clinton.

“This has been one of the best weeks the campaign has had,” said Sean Spicer, chief strategist at the Republican National Committee.

For much of the past year, Trump has ignored the tools of modern-day presidential campaigns. That’s a big reason why Trump’s Republican critics are skeptical their party’s nominee has the time or discipline to rescue his struggling White House bid.

“The Trump campaign is at a ludicrously high disadvantage,” said Dan Senor, a former adviser to 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “The Democrats have something that the Republicans don’t: They have a nominee that’s built a real campaign organization.”

While Trump did bring in a new set of advisers in the past week, it appears all but certain his comeback strategy cannot benefit from the proven building blocks of winning campaigns, especially when compared with the structure Clinton has assembled.

Trump has few loyal staffers devoted to his election working in the tightly contested states that will decide the election; little early investment in the data operation needed to help ensure his supporters vote; and no significant effort to take advantage of early voting, which begins next month in some states.

If not for the Republican National Committee’s staff, Trump would have a skeleton presence in the most competitive states.

Only in the past week did Trump place his first round of general election advertising — nearly $5 million for TV commercials in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

By contrast, Clinton’s campaign has spent more than $75 million on ads in the weeks since she effectively locked up the nomination in early June, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker.

Out of time to build a campaign to match Clinton’s, the team at Trump Tower will by necessity focus on a broad messaging effort to capture the attention of voters and try to highlight Clinton’s shortcomings. For now, Trump finds himself behind Clinton in preference polls in nearly every battleground state.

“This new team will be very, very aggressive. They understand the nature of taking on the left,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally. “They will be on the attack.”

That team includes Stephen Bannon, a combative conservative media executive with no presidential campaign experience, and pollster Kellyanne Conway, who has known Trump for years. The campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, resigned on Friday amid scrutiny of his past work for Ukraine’s former pro-Russian political leaders.

Bannon and Conway will have money to work with. In July, Trump raised more than $80 million for his campaign and allied Republican Party groups, his campaign has said. That’s just shy of the $90 million that Clinton’s aides said the nominee collected in July for her campaign and fellow Democratic committees.

The goal for the Trump campaign’s leaders is not to tame the candidate’s passion, according to Trump’s allies, but refocus his attacks on Clinton. The hope is that Trump can avoid the missteps that have defined his campaign since the end of the conventions, including a public feud with an American Muslim family whose son was killed while serving in the military in Iraq.

“Unfortunately, it took them two months to figure out that Donald Trump is Donald Trump,” former Trump adviser Barry Bennet said of Manafort and his team. “He’s the bulldozer candidate. What you need to do is aim him at an immovable object, not try to change him.”

That approach was evident Friday. Trump began with a visit to flood-wreaked Louisiana and ended with a measured, but pointed rally in Michigan. He took on Clinton and her strong support among African-Americans, and contended that his rival would rather give jobs to refugees than American citizens. Trump accused Democrats of taking advantage of black voters while failing to offer them new jobs, better schools and a way out of poverty.

“It’s time to hold Democratic politicians accountable for what they’ve done for these communities,” he said, adding: “What do you lose by trying something new like Trump?”

Clinton had no intention of letting Trump’s messages pass politely. Within hours of his speech, she tweeted: “This is so ignorant it’s staggering.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Hillary Clinton spends big on Olympic ads, with Donald Trump on sidelines

The Rio Olympics are in full swing: Michael Phelps is back to winning races in the pool, Simone Biles is running up the score in the gym and Hillary Clinton is advertising with eyes on doing just as well on Election Day.

Donald Trump isn’t even competing.

The Democratic presidential nominee is airing $13.6 million in campaign commercials during the Summer Games, seeking to reach the millions of television viewers who can’t skip past the commercials as they watch live coverage of the Olympics.

She has the audience to herself, as Trump has yet to air his first paid TV ad of the general election campaign.

It’s a striking change from four years ago, when then-cash-strapped Mitt Romney and his allies scrounged up the estimated $18 million needed to match what President Barack Obama was spending to advertise during the three weeks of the London Games, according to Kantar Media’s political advertising tracker.

While Trump’s campaign has requested advertising rates from stations in key states, including Florida, the Olympics are quickly slipping beyond his reach. The opening ceremony was Friday and this week features some of the most popular sports, including swimming and women’s gymnastics.

“I’d love to know what they’re waiting for,” said Will Ritter, a Republican ad maker and veteran of Romney’s presidential bids. Trump’s eschewal of political norms such as advertising “cannot survive the professionalized deconstruction that Hillary is doing every day,” he said.

As anyone watching the games can attest, Clinton’s advertising is as omnipresent as NBC’s commercial breaks. Her spots appear alongside those of corporate behemoths such as McDonald’s and Chevrolet.

Over the first three weeks of August, Clinton is spending $8 million on the national NBC network, which carries the games, and at least another $4.5 million on local NBC affiliates, an Associated Press analysis of Kantar Media data found. The campaign is also spending another $1.1 million on NBC’s cable channels Bravo, USA and MSNBC.

One Clinton ad in heavy rotation is an awkward clip from David Letterman‘s late-night talk show. In it, the host holds up Trump shirts and ties and points out that they were made in Bangladesh and China, not America. To that, Trump smiles sheepishly.

The commercial ends with the text: “He’s outsourced jobs to 12 countries.” And it digs at his campaign slogan: “Make America great again.”

Clinton is following Obama’s Olympics playbook. The president debuted several commercials during the games in 2012, including one during the ratings-heavy — and expensive — opening ceremony. His spots were a mix of positive messages about his presidency and his contrasts with Romney.

Romney and his allies also took advantage of the games. But the GOP nominating convention was still weeks away when the London Games began, putting money he raised for his general election campaign out of reach.

The pro-Romney super political action committee Restore Our Future aired an ad featuring Olympic athletes talking about Romney’s business sense. He was tapped to run the 2002 Salt Lake City winter games, the first after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We made the determination the Olympics offered a large, captive audience who weren’t channel surfing,” former Restore Our Future leader Carl Forti said. “And in the case of Mitt Romney, we had a candidate who turned around the Salt Lake Olympics and had a unique story to tell.”

Although neither Trump nor Clinton has as personal a connection to the Olympics, presidential candidates usually cannot resist the ratings bonanza, even if the ads come at a higher cost. Trump isn’t short on funds, having announced recently that he and his Republican allies raised more than $80 million last month.

Asked about Trump’s decision to stay off the air, Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the campaign was not yet ready to provide details about its TV advertising strategy.

There are a few pro-Trump groups doing a relatively minor amount of advertising.

Rebuilding America Now is spending about $2 million in the first three weeks of this month, but has nothing on the national NBC network. Its spending is concentrated on national cable and in four states: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, Kantar Media shows.

The NRA’s political arm also has $1.3 million in anti-Clinton spots up during the same time period — but again, not on the national NBC network.

Steve Duprey, a Republican national committeeman from New Hampshire, conceded that Trump is missing a chance to connect with millions of voters. He suggested it may not matter.

“While the decision not to have big ad buy during Olympics is unconventional,” he said, “I’m not sure conventional rules apply.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Sally Bradshaw’s bolt from GOP a sign of Donald Trump’s impact on party

Less than four years ago, the Republican Party tapped a few respected party officials to help the GOP find its way forward. This week, one of them says she’s leaving the party — driven out by Donald Trump.

While not a household name, Sally Bradshaw‘s decision to leave the GOP rocked those who make politics their profession. The longtime aide to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was one of the five senior Republican strategists tasked with identifying the party’s shortcomings and recommending ways it could win the White House after its losing 2012 presidential campaign.

Now, she says, she’ll vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton if the race in her home state of Florida appears close come Election Day.

“Sally is representative of an important segment of our party, and that is college-educated women, where Donald Trump is losing by disastrous margins,” said Ari Fleischer, who worked with Bradshaw on the GOP project and was a senior adviser to President George W. Bush. “Trump has moved in exactly the opposite direction from our recommendations on how to make the party more inclusive.”

Fleischer still supports Trump over Clinton. But Bradshaw is among a group of top Republican operatives, messengers, national committee members and donors who continue to decry Trump’s tactics, highlighting almost daily — with three months until Election Day — the rifts created by the billionaire and his takeover of the party.

This past weekend, the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch (coke) told hundreds of donors that make up his political network that Trump does not embrace, nor will he fight for, free market principles.

That’s one reason Koch‘s network, which has the deepest pockets in conservative politics, is ignoring the presidential contest this year and focusing its fundraising wealth on races for Congress. Donors and elected officials gathering at a Koch event in Colorado said they accepted the Koch brothers’ decision, even if it hurts the GOP’s White House chances.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, among the high-profile Republicans on hand, refused to endorse Trump and referenced now defunct political parties, such as the Whigs, when asked about the health of the modern-day GOP.

“The party is not really what matters. It’s the principles,” Bevin told The Associated Press.

Another of those in attendance, House Speaker Paul Ryan, didn’t even mention his party’s presidential nominee during his speech to the group. Yet he referenced an election he called “personality contest” devoid of specific goals or principles.

Liberals and those on the political left are hardly fully united around Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, whose convention was interrupted on occasion by supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

But after beating Sanders in the primaries, Clinton took steps to win over Sanders and his supporters — including agreeing to changes to the party’s platform. Trump has shown little such inclination, pushing ahead instead with the approach and policy proposals that proved successful in the GOP primary.

Among the key recommendations of the post-2014 report that Bradshaw helped write was for the party to be more inclusive to racial and ethnic minorities, specifically Latino voters. One of Trump’s defining policies is his call to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, and forcibly deport the millions of people — many of whom are Hispanic — living in the country illegally.

Bradshaw told The Associated Press her decision to change her voter registration in her home state of Florida was “a personal decision,” with the tipping point being Trump’s criticism of the Muslim mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq in 2004. In an email to CNN, Bradshaw wrote that the GOP was “at a crossroads and have nominated a total narcissist — a misogynist — a bigot.”

Her decision to leave the party isn’t “a good sign, given the role she’s played at the national level with the RNC and the high esteem in which she’s held,” said Virginia Republican Chris Jankowski, among the nation’s leading GOP legislative campaign strategists.

Another member of the panel that examined Mitt Romney‘s 2012 loss is Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee member from Mississippi.

In a message to the AP, he joined the many Republicans who called on Trump to apologize to the family of the late Capt. Humayun Khan, a suggestion the billionaire has rejected to date.

Like Fleischer, he does not plan to follow Bradshaw out of the party, but insisted that Trump must work harder to unify it.

“If we are to gain anything by this, Donald Trump must show he wants to unite Americans so he can win in November and the best way to do this would be to apologize,” Barbour said. “There’s no excuse, particularly for his comments about Mrs. Khan.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Democrats find a Republican they can cheer for

The Latest on the Democratic National Convention and 2016 presidential campaign. (all times EDT):

8:50 p.m.

Doug Elmets is a Republican who Democrats can cheer for.

Elmets – who worked in the Reagan White House – earned a roar from the crowd at the Democratic convention Thursday night when he took the stage and said he was backing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Elmets says Clinton will be the first Democrat to get his vote – and he’s blaming Donald Trump for driving him away from the Republican Party.

He’s borrowing a line from the late Lloyd Bentsen – the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1988 – to tweak Trump for likening himself to Reagan.

Elmets says: “I knew Ronald Reagan. I worked for Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan!

8:25 p.m.

They held a political convention and the governor of the host state actually came. And spoke.

That was Tom Wolf on the stage Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and he was taking shots at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Wolf’s presence in the convention hall is a reminder that Republicans couldn’t feature a home-state governor at their convention in Cleveland last week.

That’s because Ohio Republican John Kasich is a former Trump primary rival and sharp critic. Kasich steered clear of the GOP convention

Wolf says, unlike Trump, Hillary Clinton will “reward companies that share profits with their employees.”

8:20 p.m.

Chants of “lock her up” are going up at a Mike Pence rally in suburban Detroit.

It’s the most raucous scene the GOP vice presidential nominee has faced since going out as a solo campaigner as Donald Trump’s running mate.

At times, Pence had to wait for the crowd’s jeers of Democrat Hillary Clinton or chants of “Trump! Trump! Trump!” to die down.

They cheered when Pence criticized Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attacks in Libya and when Pence praised Trump’s call to build a wall on the border with Mexico.

One of the biggest applause lines came when Pence said: “Hillary Clinton must never become president of the United States.”

8:10 p.m.

Democrats are targeting Donald Trump in their convention speeches, and the Republican presidential nominee is getting tired of it.

He says he wanted to “hit” some of them “so hard their heads would spin.”

Trump isn’t identifying any of them. But he tells a crowd in Iowa that one certain speaker – Trump describes him as “a little guy” who he used to work with – particularly bothered him.

Might that be former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg? He had some dealings with Trump – a New York real estate developer – as the city’s leader.

By the way, Bloomberg is listed as 5-foot-8 inches.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Hillary Clinton aide says Bernie Sanders backers to come around

The Latest on the Democratic National Convention and 2016 presidential campaign. (all times EDT):

7:10 p.m.

A Hillary Clinton campaign adviser says he’s not worried about winning over Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

“Most of them are going to come around.”

That’s what John Podesta thinks.

Podesta says he knows there are some in the Sanders camp who are still “emotional” and wish Clinton didn’t win more votes than the Vermont senator in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

But Podesta says most of Sanders’ supporters are looking at the election as a choice between Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

Podesta spoke after some Sanders delegates at the party’s convention wore neon yellow shirts to protest Clinton’s nomination.

6:50 p.m.

Some Bernie Sanders supporters are wearing glow-in-the-dark shirts on the final night of Democrats convention in Philadelphia.

They say it’s a way to remind presidential nominee Hillary Clinton that she hasn’t brought them all on board yet.

For Clinton, the silent protest probably is preferable to the heckling and booing from that marked the early days of the convention.

Sanders delegate Davena Norris says her bright shirt is meant to send a message that more needs to be done to curb the influence of money in politics.

6:45 p.m.

Donald Trump is campaigning in Iowa and largely avoiding the topic that earned him lots of criticism this week.

Only a day ago Trump encouraged Russia to find and make public missing emails deleted by his Democratic presidential opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s comments raised the question of whether he was condoning foreign government hacking of U.S. computers and the public release of information stolen from political adversaries.

Trump was condemned by Clinton and even some of his fellow Republicans. Running mate Mike Pence warned of “serious consequences” if Russia interfered in the election.

Trump has since insisted he was being sarcastic.

At the Iowa rally, he did say he wanted better relations with Russia and joked that writing letters was more secure than “putting something on a computer.”

5:40 p.m.

Donald Trump says “a lot of lies are being told” about him in the speeches at the Democratic National Convention this week.

The Republican presidential nominee is joking about it during a campaign rally in Davenport, Iowa.

“Boy, I’m getting hit” by Democrats – he says. “I guess they have to do their thing.”

Trump is criticizing Democrats for not talking about terrorism or laying out a plan to aid the economy.

4:25 p.m.

Die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters from Oregon’s delegation say they’re demanding a nationally televised apology at the Democratic National Convention before Hillary Clinton takes the stage Thursday night to accept the presidential nomination.

The matter involves leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee that indicated party officials were biased against the Vermont senator.

The DNC has apologized and the party’s leader, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is resigning her post.

But Melissa Pancurak tells The Associated Press that those steps don’t go far enough. She says the Oregon delegates are part of a coalition of Sanders supporters working to get their demand to appropriate DNC officials before Clinton’s speech.

4:20 p.m.

Donald Trump’s stand on abortion has been inconsistent, but his running says Trump would be a “pro-life president.”

Mike Pence is campaigning in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and he makes clear he opposes abortion. And the Indiana governor tells a town hall rally, “I don’t apologize for it.”

Pence drew the ire of abortion rights advocates in March after he signed a law banning abortions that were being sought because of fetal genetic defects. That law has since been blocked pending the outcome of a court challenge.

Pence says Trump would appoint conservatives to the Supreme Court who would send the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling to the “ash heap of history.”

4 p.m.

“Disrespectful.”

That’s what Elijah Cummings thinks of liberal supporters of Bernie Sanders who chanted an anti-trade slogan during the Maryland congressman’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.

But Cummings says he’s not upset about it because he’s a veteran of civil rights protests and understands the passion that drove the mostly young delegates to shout over his speech Monday.

Cummings says in an interview that most of those who were shouting probably didn’t know he worked with Sanders to draft the Democratic platform and he’s “never voted for a trade bill in 20 years in Congress.”

He says more than 100 people have apologized to him for the outbursts.

2:37 p.m.

President Barack Obama‘s mention of “fascists” and “homegrown demagogues” in his convention speech wasn’t aimed at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

That’s what White House press secretary Josh Earnest is telling reporters the day after Obama argued for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s election over Trump.

Obama said “anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end.”

Obama had criticized Trump several times before arriving at that particular line in the speech, including saying that American power “doesn’t come from a self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order as long as we do things his way.”

Trump said in his acceptance speech at last week’s GOP convention that “I alone can fix” a political system he says is rigged.

2:19 p.m.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is giving Hillary Clinton credit for her work on behalf of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Giuliani was asked at a Republican Party briefing Thursday in Philadelphia whether he took issue with the Democratic convention speakers who’d been praising Clinton. Giuliani said she was “enormously supportive and helpful.” Clinton was a U.S. senator from New York at the time.

He says Clinton “has a right to tell people that she worked hard on behalf of the 9/11 families.” He adds that, “She did.”

But Giuliani adds that “on all other aspects she fails the test.” Clinton and Democrats, he says, have “not done anything to prevent another attack.”

1:50 p.m.

This time, Bill Clinton will be the adoring spouse, rapt and smiling when the cameras cut away from the candidate in the spotlight.

He’ll be the He in the VIP box watching as She accepts the presidential nomination at the Democratic convention on Thursday.

It’s one small step in the role reversal Americans will need to get used to if Hillary Clinton wins the White House in November.

Already, satires and spoofs are circulating, taking note of Bill’s fashion choices, accessories and hair style. How about that fetching pantsuit! And that nice head of hair! Whose shoes is he wearing?

After all, that’s what political wives have come to expect.

Bill Clinton, utterly comfortable in his own skin, seems to be just fine with trading places with his wife, the former first lady.

10:28 a.m.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid says the CIA should give Donald Trump “fake intelligence briefings” because he can’t be trusted.

The Nevada lawmaker tells reporters in Philadelphia that “they shouldn’t give him anything that means anything because you can’t trust him.”

Reid was responding to Trump’s call for Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.

He says he’s sure the agency is aware of his suggestion.

He also says Trump may have violated the Logan Act that bars unauthorized U.S. citizens from negotiating with foreign governments.

9:56 a.m.

The North Carolina Republican Party has removed a tweet criticizing Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine for wearing a pin honoring his son’s military service.

The tweet posted during Kaine’s Democratic National Convention speech Wednesday night said Kaine “wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag. Shameful.”

The pin in question has a single blue star against a white background outlined in red. It’s the same design as the Service Flag, which is reserved for families who have members serving in the military during wartime. The flag of Honduras has five stars against a blue and white striped background. Kaine’s son is a Marine set to be deployed to Europe.

The party hasn’t responded to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Democratic donors, allies offer reward for Donald Trump tax returns

The wealthy Democratic donors, many of them executives who run complex businesses, know firsthand how revealing tax returns can be. Perhaps that’s why they can’t stop talking about Republican nominee Donald Trump‘s refusal to release his.

In their suites at the Ritz Carlton hotel, where many are staying during this week’s Democratic convention, and at its auxiliary swanky parties, the supporters of Hillary Clinton are sounding the alarm about Trump’s break with decades of presidential campaign tradition.

Clinton put out eight years of recent tax filings last summer, and they lament that voters don’t seem to understand why Trump’s refusal to do the same matters.

Democratic talk of the taxes spilled onto the convention stage Wednesday night. Vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, mocking Trump, said, “Believe me, there’s nothing suspicious in my tax returns. Believe me!” The crowd laughed.

There’s even a literally a bounty for the Trump documents.

Moishe Mana, a top fundraiser for Clinton, has offered to give $1 million to the charity of Trump’s choice if he makes them public. He joins an unnamed Republican donor working with Clinton ally David Brock who has made a similar offer of $5 million.

“Through his financial documents, we are trying to break into the image that he’s portraying to the American people,” said Mana, a real estate developer in Miami. “He says he’s a successful businessman who wants to do for the country what he did for his company. Well, go ahead, show me the money.”

Trump is unmoved. The billionaire owner of the Trump Organization, an international development company, says the Internal Revenue Service is reviewing his most recent returns and that he’ll release them once that audit is complete.

He reiterated that plan at a news conference Wednesday in Doral, Florida. Asked when he would put out the documents, he said: “I don’t know. Depends on the audit.”

There’s no telling whether that would happen before Election Day, but the IRS says there’s no legal reason Trump can’t make the tax returns public even as they are under review.

The issue has flared up in recent days, in the wake of the hack of emails at the Democratic National Committee that the Obama administration said Wednesday was almost certainly the work of Russia. The group WikiLeaks released the emails on the eve of the convention, a leak its leader Julian Assange has said was timed to inflict political damage on Clinton.

Trump said Wednesday that he has no ties to Russia whatsoever, but that hasn’t stopped Democratic donors in Philadelphia from saying that in the absence of Trump’s tax returns, voters are left to wonder whether there are undisclosed financial ties between Trump and foreign entities.

“Think of what’s gone on just this week and connect the dotted lines,” said top Clinton donor J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire venture capitalist in Chicago. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but it sure doesn’t look good. The question is who his investors are, and whether there are any in China or Russia that are affecting his personal income.”

Mana also wants that answered. If Trump’s elected president, he said, “how much in debt would we be to other countries? This is about the security of the United States. We have the right to make sure he’s not in debt to other countries.”

While information about Trump’s debts has been made public in personal financial disclosures filed with federal election regulators, the Democratic donors say access to his taxes might shed light on previously unknown business arrangements. The returns would also detail for the first time how much he pays in income tax and how much he gives to charity.

“He is obfuscating in order to avoid being discovered as a liar,” Pritzker said.

The 2012 GOP nominee, Mitt Romney, resisted putting out his 2011 tax return until the September just before the election, after being pressed for months about doing so. The documents showed he paid an effective tax rate of 14.1 percent, far lower than the average person, spawning days of bad headlines.

Other presidential candidates, including Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have been dinged for not giving much to charity.

Bill and Hillary Clinton paid an overall federal tax rate of 31.6 percent between 2007 and 2014, her returns showed. In 2014, they donated almost 11 percent of their income to charity.

In addition to blaming the IRS audit, Trump has said in interviews that it might not make political sense for him to put out his returns.

Romney’s returns were “a tiny peanut compared to mine,” Trump said on “Meet the Press” in an interview that aired last Sunday. There was little controversial in the Romney documents, he said.

Yet the media “made him look bad,” Trump said. “In fact, I think he lost his election because of that.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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For “blue-collar billionaire” Donald Trump, money’s an asset

A handful of vacation homes. A car elevator for his four-car garage. A wife whose hobbies included show horses.

When Mitt Romney ran for president four years ago, his estimated $250 million fortune was quickly turned into a liability by Democrats, who painted the former Bain Capital chief as out of touch with Americans still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.

Four years later, Donald Trump‘s much-bigger pile of money is a central character of his campaign. And far from seeing it as a liability, the candidate flaunts it.

“I’m the most successful person ever to run for president,” the billionaire businessman has bragged, noting that he’s “really rich.” On the stump, he vows to “make our country rich again.”

Trump will officially become his party’s nominee at this week’s Republican convention, powered by white, working-class voters drawn to his populist message.

The billionaire lives an opulent life on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, worlds away from the day-to-day reality of most supporters. Yet many nonetheless believe he understands their problems in ways other politicians do not. Some dub him the “blue-collar billionaire.”

“You might say because he lives in the ivory tower he doesn’t see what people are doing down below. He honestly does,” said Claude Thompson, 59, a Trump supporter who lives in Fresno, Calif.

Thompson, who runs a property maintenance business, cited Trump’s employment of people through his companies as proof of his working class connections. “He knows that these people are blue-collar people, they’re middle income. … So he understands America,” he said.

The difference between the perception of Trump’s and Romney’s money, Trump supporters say, comes down to attitude.

While some felt that Romney tried to downplay his wealth, Trump has embraced it — even mocking, at times, Romney’s smaller net worth.

The candidate jets around the country on his private plane, adorned with plush leather seats and gold-plated seatbelts. He sometimes holds rallies in open airplane hangars, landing triumphantly in front of screaming crowds. His campaign has doubled as a tour of his gilded properties, from Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan to the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.

“Trump’s like, screw it, you know? I’m rich, I don’t care,” said Aspen Trevino of Carrollton, Texas. “He flaunts it. He makes it known.”

Trevino, 25, said he views Trump as someone to look up to. “He makes it the America Dream, so people will say, ‘I can do that.’ I want to follow a president that I can look up to.”

As the campaign moves toward the general election, Democrats have begun to paint Trump as an out-of-touch billionaire who has trampled the little guy to build his fortune. Among Democrats’ evidence: contractors and vendors who suffered during company bankruptcies when Trump emerged just fine.

Whether that reputation will stick remains to be seen.

But there’s no question that Trump’s regular Joe habits — including his penchant for fast food — have helped him connect. His campaign has actively worked to cultivate the image, tweeting out photos of him digging into a Big Mac on his plane and publicizing his campaign stays at Holiday Inn Express hotels.

Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. has recalled expecting a stuffy ride with “champagne and caviar” ahead of his first ride on Trump’s plane. Instead, Trump treated the group to Wendy’s cheeseburgers and fries.

Conservative radio host Howie Carr, another Trump backer, shared a similar story: Trump, he said, ordered lunch for the crew: “McDonald’s all the way. … He travels in an easy chair in front of a large TV screen turned to Fox.”

“He’s one of us,” said Diane Priolo, 65, a social worker who lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “I don’t care if he’s in a plane with 24 karat gold. He talks like us. He gets us. He’s a guy from Queens who’s not too big for his britches.”

Indeed, Trump’s supporters often credit his upbringing in Queens despite the fact that he was raised in a mansion by a millionaire real estate developer father who helped him get started with a $1 million loan.

Trump himself credits the summers he spent working on his father’s construction sites for his ability to connect with blue-collar voters.

“I know them better than anybody will ever know them,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I grew up on construction sites. … I got to know the construction workers, the sheet rockers and the plumbers and the electrician and all of ’em. I worked with them. They were friends of mine.”

“And frankly,” Trump added, “I like them better than the rich people.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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In Florida, a slow start for Donald Trump operation

Trump office closedFestooned with Donald Trump‘s name and his “Make America Great Again” motto, the awnings at the three-story commercial property advertise a famous tenant.

It’s vintage style for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee: a top-floor campaign office suite in an upscale shopping district, across the street from an automobile showroom of Bentleys and Aston Martins. But there’s a catch.

“Our office is TEMPORARILY CLOSED to the public, while our office works to prep for the National Convention in Cleveland,” reads a notice posted around the lobby. A call to the posted phone number gets an automated message: “Memory is full.” This is Trump’s Florida headquarters.

Just three months before the earliest voting begins in this state that awards 29 electoral votes — more than 10 percent of the 270 necessary to claim the White House — it appears Trump’s Florida campaign is not running on all cylinders.

In nearby Tampa in contrast, the Florida headquarters for Hillary Clinton buzzes with several dozen 20-somethings — paid campaign employees — manning phones and laptops, surrounded by maps and whiteboards covered in notes, names and numbers. Soon the Clinton team will move into a bigger space with room for volunteers, too.

“We’re running the race of our lives,” said Simone Ward, Clinton’s state director, whose staff includes veterans of the primary season, previous presidential campaigns and the Obama White House.

Certainly, disparate office scenes in July do not predict a November result in a state that is a perennial battleground. President Barack Obama won here by fewer than 75,000 votes out of more than 8.4 million in 2012. Overall, out of 41 million total presidential ballots here since 1992, fewer than 131,000 separate the combined totals of the Democratic and Republican nominees.

Yet more than a few Republicans wonder whether Trump will put up an effective campaign in the state.

Orange County Republican Chairman Lew Oliver, whose county includes Orlando, says he’s not “alarmed or terrified” about Trump’s prospects. “But I am concerned.”

Trump trounced his Republican rivals the March 15 primary, delivering the final blow to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio‘s already flagging White House bid. Republicans praise Karen Giorno, Trump’s lead Florida aide, for her work on the primary campaign and describe her as a skilled operator with all the right instincts and connections. She did not respond to requests for comment about his Florida operation.

“He has a message of security — economic security and keeping your family safe,” said Deborah Tamargo, who leads the Republican Party in Hillsborough County, a key swing county that is home to Tampa. “That’s an appeal for every community.”

Florida pollster Fernand Amandi argued such optimism isn’t justified yet. All of Trump’s national shortfalls are on display here: Polls suggest he is failing to rebuild even Mitt Romney‘s losing 2012 coalition as he lags badly among white women, and his struggle among nonwhites is acute in a state that is less white than the nation overall.

Amandi said Trump’s rhetoric on immigration hurts him specifically among Cuban-Americans, typically a GOP-friendly group. “The Cuban electorate is not immune to the Trump backlash,” he said.

Trump gave a nod to that reality recently, scheduling a speech in Miami and planning a private session with Cuban-American leaders. He canceled both after the sniper attack that killed five Dallas police officers.

Florida airwaves, meanwhile, tilt heavily to Clinton, with her campaign and Democratic allies already sinking more money into Florida ads than anywhere else.

Priorities USA, a super political action committee dedicated to electing Clinton, plans to spend at least $30 million in Florida by Election Day, Kantar Media’s campaign advertising tracker shows.

Also at issue for Trump is the GOP field operation — the “ground game” that uses data, employees and volunteers to identify supporters and get them to vote. The state Republican Party has about 75 paid field workers around the state, paid for mostly by the national party.

Florida GOP spokesman Wadi Gaitan said “there’s no county in the state” that’s not the responsibility of a paid field director, with many of them still training volunteers for fall campaign work. Gaitan also notes gains in GOP voter registration.

Trump has said he will lean on this operation, but the national party and the Trump campaign have yet to work out operating details.

“I’d like there to be some concrete, established offices,” said Michael Barnett, GOP chairman in Palm Beach County, a trove of Republican donors and voters. “We usually see that no later than July, and we’re in July.”

Barnett said he hopes movement will follow the convention, which ends Thursday. “I’m not nervous,” he said. “Not yet.”

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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