In Florida, Trump questions debates, GOP leadership and heightens ‘jail’ rhetoric

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attracts thousands of supporters at a campaign stop in Ocala on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attracts thousands of supporters at a campaign stop in Ocala on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. Bay News 9

Even while he touted his Sunday debate, saying he “annihilated the enemy,” Donald Trump hinted in an Ocala rally Wednesday afternoon that he’s frustrated with the Commission on Presidential Debates.

“I have no respect for that group, by the way. I’m done,” he said. “Aye, aye, aye, what a rigged deal this is.”

He and Hillary Clinton are supposed to debate again on Oct. 19.

At the Southeastern Livestock Pavillion in Ocala, Trump declared his disappointment in Congress, including Republican leadership after Speaker Paul Ryan said this week that he would stop campaigning for Trump. (“There’s a whole sinister deal going on,” Trump said.)

And he brought out old campaign favorites, like calls for a wall on the country’s southern border and decrying the private email server Clinton used as secretary of state.

“I have a feeling that the NSA has it,” he said of missing email files. “They don’t want to get it, I have a feeling.”

But in more than an hour on stage, Trump did not mention the leaked video of him making lewd comments about women and describing groping and sexually assaulting them.

Not once.

Before Trump took the stage, U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho did mention the comments.

“I do not make excuses about somebody that says something 11 years ago in a locker room, but let’s be realistic about this,” said Yoho, incorrectly placing Trump in a locker room instead of wearing a microphone to be on TV. “A true leader will take responsibility for that. Mr. Trump is a leader.”

Trump supporters at the rally were largely unfazed by the remarks.

Liana Lopez, a University of Florida student, said that “women have to tolerate” lewd comments on occasion.

“I’m a college student. I know what men are capable of saying when they’re together,” she said. “And I don’t condone what he said and I don’t think it was right, but that’s not going to stop me from agreeing with his policies.”

Following news that a federal judge delayed Florida’s voter registration deadline to Oct. 18, Trump called on attendees to register and request mail ballots.

“Is there anybody in here not registered?” he asked. “If you’re not registered, get the hell out of here, OK?”

On climate change and a Tuesday Clinton rally in Miami that featured former Vice President Al Gore, Trump said he supports conservation efforts but downplayed the role of climate change, which he has previously called a hoax.

“I want immaculately clean water and I want immaculately clean air,” he said. “That’s what I want.”

And Trump doubled down on remarks that caused a stir earlier this summer, when he said President Barack Obama “essentially founded” ISIS.

“I’m kidding,” Trump said Wednesday. “But really not that kidding.”

Trump escalates ‘jail’ rhetoric

During a late afternoon stop Wednesday in Lakeland, Trump sharpened his rhetoric from calling for Clinton’s defeat to declaring “she has to go to jail” for using a homebrew email server and other charges of corruption while she was secretary of state.

Trump told supporters that the Justice Department’s handling of the probe into Clinton’s email server let her off the hook and suggested that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress went along with it. The Justice Department declined to prosecute Clinton, but FBI Director James Comey criticized her and her aides for being “extremely careless” with classified information.

“Did they make a deal where everybody protects each other in Washington?” Trump asked Wednesday. The Republican nominee went on to call it “one of the great miscarriages of justice” in United States history and declared that Clinton “would be the most dishonest and the most corrupt person ever elected to high office and I don’t think it would be close.”

“This corruption and collusion is just one more reason why I will ask my attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor,” to investigate Clinton and the fact that she apparently deleted thousands of emails that were never recovered, Trump said.

He later made clear: “She deleted the emails. She has to go to jail.”

It was a dramatic escalation of rhetoric by the Republican presidential nominee.

The difference from just a few months ago was stark. Just after the Republican National Convention, Trump responded to his supporters’ chants of “lock her up” by suggesting “Let’s just beat her in November.”

At Sunday’s debate in St. Louis, the nominee himself made that very threat – an unprecedented break with U.S. political decorum. It came after Clinton had said it is “awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.”

Trump blasted back, “Because you’d be in jail.”