Donald Trump taunts senior Republicans as party split widens

Donald Trump has attacked many in his own party. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Donald Trump has attacked many in his own party. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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US presidential nominee Donald Trump says there’s “great unity” in his campaign despite growing dissent and turmoil among his fellow Republicans.

Mr Trump tweeted that the campaign unity is “perhaps greater than ever before”.

Trump defamed those who are the best among us

John McCain

This comes as he continues to face criticism from Republicans for attacking the Muslim-American parents of a US army captain killed in Iraq. The soldier’s father had criticised Trump at last week’s Democratic convention.

On Tuesday, Meg Whitman, a prominent Republican fundraiser and former Hewlett-Packard executive, said she would back Democrat Hillary Clinton. Also, Representative Richard Hanna of New York became the first Republican member of Congress to say he will vote for Clinton.

Mr Trump has openly taunted the leaders of his own party by refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator John McCain of Arizona in their GOP primaries. Yet thus far, McCain, Ryan and other Republicans, who’ve reluctantly declared that they plan to back Trump for president, appear to be sticking with him.

His stunning slap at two of the nation’s most prominent Republicans dramatically escalated GOP turmoil barely a week after a convention intended to promote party unity. With the general election campaign now squarely under way, Republicans found themselves once again forced to answer questions about the latest boundary-defying pronouncement from Trump at a moment when most would rather be talking about Hillary Clinton’s record.

Trump made his declarations in an interview with the Washington Post in which he also hit out at New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte. All three lawmakers are facing primary challenges from the right in coming weeks, though all are expected to prevail, and each had criticised Trump’s attacks on the Muslim American parents of army captain Humayun Khan killed in Iraq.

Trump’s rebuke to Ryan carried particular derision.

“I’m just not there yet,” Trump said, closely echoing Ryan’s own demurral before eventually endorsing Trump, when he told CNN on 6 May, “I’m not there right now.”

Trump also claimed Ryan had asked for his support, something Ryan’s aides denied. “Neither Speaker Ryan nor anyone on his team has ever asked for Donald Trump’s endorsement,” said Zack Roday, Ryan’s campaign spokesman. “And we are confident in a victory next week, regardless.”

Of McCain, whom he’d previously criticised for being taken captive in Vietnam, Trump said: “I’ve never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should have done a much better job for the vets.”

Trump’s comments appeared to represent the most dramatic break yet with a Republican establishment whose support for their presidential nominee has been reluctant at best. It came as President Barack Obama questioned why McCain, Ryan and other GOP leaders continued to support him, especially in light of Trump’s attacks on a pair of bereaved Army parents who took the stage at the Democratic National Convention to oppose him.

McCain had been particularly incensed over Trump’s insults against the parents of Capt. Khan, chiding Trump’s decision to “defame those who are the best among us”.