NEWS BRIEF Donald Trump wants everyone to calm down. But he isn’t doing much to assuage worries that his campaign is in tumult. “I just want to tell you the campaign is doing really well,” the Republican nominee began Wednesday afternoon at a Daytona Beach, Florida, rally. “Right now it’s the best in terms of being united. … I think we’ve never been this united.”
Trump’s mission Wednesday should have been obvious: to make up for a week of gaffes and controversies that have reportedly generated disunity in his circle—and, while he’s at it, to reorient himself to focusing on the Democrats and their nominee. And he did some of that in his speech, criticizing President Obama’s record on taxes and jobs, the government’s transfer of money to Iran, and the Libya intervention. (“That was Clinton telling Obama what to do. I guarantee if he had his choice again for secretary of state that he’d love to have a do-over.” And on her email server: “What she did is lied so badly, and you have the FBI director [say] she lied.”)
But Trump couldn’t sustain it. In a long riff on the dishonesty of Clinton and the press, he rehashed some of the most indelible blunders of his campaign.
He began with his year-old comments on Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, whom he said had “blood coming out of her wherever” during a debate she moderated: “I meant her nose or her ears or her mouth, but these people are perverted,” and say it’s “another location.”
Then, Trump referenced his discredited allegation that New Jerseyans danced in celebration after the World Trade Center fell on September 11: “By the way” the terrorists involved “under the Trump policy wouldn’t have been here to knock down the World Trade Center.” This was presumably a reference to his Muslim ban, which he recently amended to exclude people “from any nation that has been compromised by terrorism.”
He soon mentioned the disabled New York Times reporter he mocked at an event: “I won’t make the motions because if I do they’ll say something.” Trump also pushed back on the idea he’s disrespectful toward people with disabilities. “I spend millions of dollars on ramps and all sorts of things on buildings.”
And he recalled a press conference he had at his Scottish golf course after the Brexit referendum, wherein he said the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union would benefit the location: Trump acknowledged he said “that’s a good thing for Turnberry,” but said he was asked how it would affect Turnberry. (Based on video and a transcript of the presser, that’s not true.)
Trump’s comments Wednesday aren’t likely to make his Republican allies feel any better after days of controversy and reported discord within his circle. The week started with Trump dragging out his now-days-long battle with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of an Army captain killed in Iraq in 2004. By Tuesday, Trump hit a crescendo: making less-than-reverent comments about accepting a Purple Heart from a supporter; asking a mother to remove her crying baby from one of his events; and refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan. (That’s just a partial rundown of what happened that day—NBC News has a more complete list.)
In response, allies within and beyond his campaign are allegedly reeling, though top campaign officials dispute recent stories. NBC News reports that an imminent “candidate intervention” is now in the works. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whom Trump vetted as a vice-presidential candidate and who’s part of that intervention, spoke freely with The Washington Post Wednesday about his concerns:
“The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable,” Gingrich said in a Wednesday morning telephone interview. “Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”
Gingrich said Trump has only a matter of weeks to reverse course. “Anybody who is horrified by Hillary should hope that Trump will take a deep breath and learn some new skills,” he said. “He cannot win the presidency operating the way he is now. She can’t be bad enough to elect him if he’s determined to make this many mistakes.”
Trump was clearly aware Wednesday of the rumors. So was General Michael Flynn, who introduced him, putting a spin on the alleged intervention: “This is an intervention,” he said, referring to the campaign and its supporters. “This is an intervention of the people of this country who care about the future” for future generations.
And despite his detour into past grievances, Trump did try to dispel one major allegation that’s been swirling around his campaign in recent hours: that he doesn’t really intend to win in November. “We’re going to get rid of Obama, we’re going to get rid of Hillary. … Wouldn’t that be embarrassing to lose to Crooked Hillary Clinton?” Trump said. He added a few moments later: “If we don’t make it all the way, it’d be a waste of time, wouldn’t it?”