Was Trump Suggesting Violence Against Clinton?

10 August, 2016

On Monday, Donald Trump tried to reset his presidential campaign by offering a plan to cut taxes and renegotiate trade deals.

He read from a prepared speech. He was doing what some Republicans had been requesting for weeks -- that he provide details about how he would "make American great again."

But one day later, Trump's campaign was again responding to new controversy. It was over comments Trump made at a campaign rally on the issue of gun rights in America.

He said his opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, wants to take away the right of Americans to own guns -- something Clinton says is not true.

And if Clinton wins, Trump told his audience, she will appoint anti-gun judges to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"By the way, and if she gets to pick -- if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks, although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know. But I'll tell you what, that will be a horrible day," Trump said.

Debate over Trump's comments

Soon people were debating what Trump meant. To some, he was suggesting people who back the Second Amendment might shoot Clinton to stop her from appointing judges.

The Second Amendment refers to the right of people to "keep and bear arms."

But Trump, appearing later Tuesday on Fox News, said it was clear he meant that gun rights supporters are part of a "strong powerful political movement."

"And there can be no other interpretation," he said. "I mean, give me a break." His campaign blamed the "dishonest media," which it says largely backs Clinton, for even suggesting Trump might be backing violence.

But that is how many Democrats, and some Republicans, viewed his comments.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine speaks to Democratic activists and volunteers on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in East Austin, Texas. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine speaks to Democratic activists and volunteers on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, in East Austin, Texas. (Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP)

"I really, frankly couldn't believe he said it," said Tim Kaine, Clinton's vice presidential running mate. "Nobody who is seeking a leadership position, especially the presidency, the leadership of the country, should do anything to countenance violence, and that's what he was saying."

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was busy and had not watched Trump's gun comments. But he said, "It sounds like a joke gone bad. You should never joke about that. I hope he clears it up quickly."

Comments troubling to some

But some Republicans said Trump's statement was too troubling to forgive. Former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough of Florida now has a TV program on politics. He wrote this in a Washington Post column Wednesday:

"A bloody line has been crossed that cannot be ignored. At long last, Donald Trump has left the Republican Party few options but to act decisively and get this political train wreck off the tracks before something terrible happens."

Democrats are trying to take advantage. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said Trump's suggestion of "gun violence" is unacceptable.

"The only thing more appalling than Donald Trump are the Republican Senators and Senate candidates who continue to stand with him," the group said in a statement.

Trump's recent comments are raising new questions about whether he has the temperament - meaning character and personality -- to be president.

The same day that some Republicans were praising Trump's economic speech, 50 former Republican national security experts said he "would put at risk our country's national security and well-being."

And Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said she could not support Trump because of his "constant stream of cruel comments."

On Wednesday, Reuters released a poll reporting that 19 percent of Republican voters think Trump should drop out of the race. Reuters said that shows deep divisions in the Republican Party.

Trump's campaign said Tuesday that voters know Trump was talking about the "great political power" held by gun rights supporters, not violence.

"And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won't be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump," the Trump campaign said.

I'm Jill Robbins.

Chris Hannas and Jim Malone reported this story for VOA news. Bruce Alpert adapted the story for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in this Story

controversy -- n. strong disagreement about something among a large group of people

interpretation -- n. the way something is explained or understood

frankly -- adv. in an honest and direct way

stream -- n. a continuous flow of people or thing

poll -- n. an activity in which several or many people are asked a question or a series of questions in order to get information about what most people think about something

option -- n. the opportunity or ability to choose something or to choose between two or more things

tracks -- n. a pair of metal bars that a train, trolley, or subway car rides along

appalling -- adj. very bad in a way that causes fear, shock, or disgust