NEWS BRIEF An uncharacteristically quiet Donald Trump didn’t confront his campaign’s latest controversy during a rally Wednesday—his recent off-the-cuff remarks suggesting gun-rights advocates could prevent Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices.
But he danced around it. The political press “can take a little story that isn’t a story and make it into a big deal. Happens so much,” Trump said at the Abingdon, Virginia, event, calling the media part of the “rigged system” he’s fighting against. “And speaking of that, remember this: We have so many things that we have to protect in this country—we have to protect our Second Amendment, which is under siege.” The crowd broke into applause, Trump paused, then moved on to discussing Republican party unity.
It seemed like a clear reference to his statements on Clinton, for which he’s received criticism in the press and condemnation from the political class, including from Clinton herself. My colleague David Graham reported on Trump’s remarks on Tuesday:
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially, the Second Amendment,” he said. “By the way, and if she gets the pick—if she gets the pick of her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I dunno.”
The suggestion that the assassination of a presidential candidate—or the killing of Supreme Court justices, or an armed insurrection, depending on interpretation—could solve a policy dispute is a shocking new low for a campaign that has continually reset expectations. Trump’s defenders often scold the media for being humorless, or taking Trump’s comments too seriously. So let’s preemptively dismiss that counterargument: This aside was clearly intended to be a joke. It is also entirely shocking and appalling, even in that context.
CNN reported on Wednesday that the Secret Service had spoken with Trump’s campaign more than once about his comment, but Reuters reports there was no formal discussion between the two. For his part, Trump denies the claim.