Trump’s most tense exchange was with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has been vocal in his concerns about the business mogul’s candidacy, especially his rhetoric and policies on immigration that the senator argues alienate many Latino voters and others in Arizona.
When Flake stood up and introduced himself, Trump told him, “You’ve been very critical of me.”
“Yes, I’m the other senator from Arizona — the one who didn’t get captured — and I want to talk to you about statements like that,” Flake responded, according to two Republican officials.
Flake was referencing Trump’s comments last summer about the military service of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam conflict. Trump questioned whether McCain was a war hero because he was captured.
Flake told Trump that he wants to be able to support him — “I’m not part of the Never Trump movement,” the senator said — but that he remains uncomfortable backing his candidacy, the officials said.
Trump said at the meeting that he has yet to attack Flake hard but threatened to begin doing so. Flake stood up to Trump by urging him to stop attacking Mexicans. Trump predicted that Flake would lose his reelection, at which point Flake informed Trump that he was not on the ballot this year, the sources said.
Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) left the meeting worried about Trump’s grasp on the basics of the Constitution. At a lunch with reporters afterward, he recalled that the candidate did not seem to know what he was promising to defend.
“I wasn’t particularly impressed,” said Sanford. “It was the normal stream of consciousness that’s long on hyperbole and short on facts. At one point, somebody asked about Article I powers: What will you do to protect them? I think his response was, ‘I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,’ going down the list. There is no Article XII.”
And the lede in this morning's New York Times
story speaks for itself:
Donald J. Trump on Wednesday offered a defiant defense of his campaign’s decision to publish an image widely viewed as anti-Semitic — saying he regretted deleting it — and vigorously reaffirmed his praise of Saddam Hussein, the murderous Iraqi dictator.
In the span of 30 minutes, an often-shouting Mr. Trump breathed new life into a controversy that was sparked on Saturday by his posting of an image on his Twitter account of a six-pointed star next to a picture of Hillary Clinton, with money seeming to rain down in the background. The image was quickly, and broadly, criticized for invoking stereotypes of Jews. Mr. Trump deleted it two hours later, and replaced the star image with a circle.
“ ‘You shouldn’t have taken it down,’ ” Mr. Trump recalled telling one of his campaign workers. “I said, ‘Too bad, you should have left it up.’ I would have rather defended it.”
“That’s just a star,” Mr. Trump said repeatedly.
It was a striking display of self-sabotage from a presumptive presidential nominee and underscored the limitations of Mr. Trump’s scattershot approach during the Republican primaries — not to mention how difficult he often makes it for his campaign team to control him.