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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019

McCain, Rice and Schwarzenegger add their names to list of senior Republicans abandoning Trump

“Enough! Donald Trump should not be President,” former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

A DEFIANT DONALD Trump has insisted he will “never” abandon his White House bid, rejecting a growing backlash from Republican leaders who have disavowed the GOP’s presidential nominee after he was caught on tape bragging about predatory advances on women.

Trump’s own running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, declared he could neither condone nor defend Trump’s remarks in a 2005 videotape that sparked panic inside Trump Tower and throughout the Republican Party with early voting already underway exactly one month before Election Day.

“We pray for his family,” Pence said in a statement after cancelling a Wisconsin appearance scheduled with House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, both of whom condemned Trump’s remarks but stopped short of withdrawing support altogether.

The controversy places enormous pressure on Trump to try to tamp down a crisis sure to spill into tonight’s presidential debate.

Campaign 2016 Trump Source: Evan Vucci

Ryan and Priebus did not join a chorus of GOP officeholders from Utah to Alabama to New Hampshire who decided the former reality television star’s bombshell was too much to take.

More than a dozen Republicans — senators, congressmen and sitting governors — have now announced they will not vote for Trump.

Among them was the party’s 2008 nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, who had stood by Trump even after the billionaire questioned whether the former POW should be considered a war hero because he got “captured”.

“He was not my choice, but as a past nominee, I thought it important I respect the fact that Donald Trump won a majority of the delegates by the rules our party set,” McCain said in a statement.

But given Trump’s “behavior this week,” McCain said, it is “impossible to continue to offer even conditional support for his candidacy”.

Many went farther and called on Trump to quit the race altogether.

“I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party,” Alabama Rep. Martha Roby said in a statement.

Now, it is abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and our party is for Trump to step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket.

Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State under George W Bush, added her name to the list of high profile GOP members now opposed to Donald Trump overnight.

“Enough! Donald Trump should not be President,” she said in a Facebook post. “He should withdraw.”

As a Republican, I hope to support someone who has the dignity and stature to run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.

Former California Governor and Trump’s replacement as host of NBC’s The Apprentice Arnold Schwarzenegger has also said he will not vote for the businessman.

Republican leaders have scheduled a Monday morning conference call for House GOP lawmakers, who are out of town for Congress’ election recess.

The email obtained by The Associated Press doesn’t specify the topic for the call, but rank-and-file lawmakers believe it’s about Trump. Such calls are rare and usually held to discuss important matters.

His party in chaos, Trump spent yesterday with a close circle of advisers in his campaign’s midtown Manhattan headquarters. Among them: former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said calls for Trump to bow out are simply the “wishful thinking of the Clinton campaign and those people who have opposed him for a long time.”

Most of Trump’s staff and network of supporters were left in the dark about the fast-moving developments. Conference calls were cancelled and prominent supporters were given no guidance about how to respond to the explosive development, according to a person close to the Trump operation. The person insisted on anonymity, lacking the authority to discuss internal campaign matters publicly.

Trump addressed the dire situation yesterday with a light-hearted tweet: “Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!”

He later tweeted he would not yield the GOP nomination under any circumstances:

The political firestorm was sparked by a 2005 video obtained and released on by The Washington Post and NBC News.

In the video, Trump, who was married to his current wife at the time, is heard describing attempts to have sex with a married woman. He also brags about women letting him kiss them and grab their genitals because he is famous.

“When you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump says in the video.

He adds seconds later: “Grab them by the p—-. You can do anything.”

He said of his impulse to kiss beautiful women:

I don’t even wait.

In a video statement released by his campaign after midnight early yesterday morning, Trump said, “I was wrong and I apologise.”

But he also dismissed the revelations as “nothing more than a distraction” from a decade ago. Foreshadowing a likely attack in tonight’s debate, he also suggested that rival Hillary Clinton has committed greater sins against women.

“I’ve said some foolish things,” Trump said.

But there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.

While still publicly backing Trump, the Republican National Committee is considering how to move forward.

One possibility: re-directing its expansive political operation away from Trump and toward helping vulnerable Senate and House candidates. Such a move would leave Trump with virtually no political infrastructure in swing states to identify his supporters and ensure they vote.

“We are working to evaluate the appropriate messaging going forward,” said RNC chief strategist Sean Spicer.

Election law experts suggest it would be logistically impossible to replace Trump on the ballot altogether, with early voting underway in some states and overseas ballots already distributed to military servicemen and others.

Ryan fundraising chief Spencer Zwick, however, said he’s been fielding calls from donors who “want help putting money together to fund a new person to be the GOP nominee.”

Zwick told The Associated Press that a write-in or “sticker campaign” relying on social media could “actually work.” While there has never been a winning write-in campaign in a US presidential contest, such an effort could make it harder for Trump to win.

- with reporting from Daragh Brophy 

Read: How Trump or Clinton can win tonight: Force their rival to make a mistake they can’t recover from >

Read: The HSE spent nearly €200 million on agency staff in seven months >

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