Trump declares war on establishment Republicans

WASHINGTON — Ripping the band aid off deep divisions within the Republican Party, Donald Trump declared war Tuesday on GOP members who have turned against him and vowed to continue campaigning as he sees fit.

"It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to," Trump said during a tweet storm that targeted House Speaker Paul Ryan and other members of a skeptical Republican establishment.

Later, the Republican presidential nominee tweeted: "Disloyal R's are far more difficult than Crooked Hillary. They come at you from all sides. They don’t know how to win — I will teach them!"

Trump's newly aggressive attacks on other Republicans underscore a massive breach within the party, one that makes it even harder for the GOP to hold control of the Senate and perhaps the House, much less win the presidency.

"The GOP has a suicide bomber as their nominee," said Texas-based political consultant Matt Mackowiak.

Trump erupted a day after Ryan told House Republicans he would no longer defend or campaign with the GOP nominee in the wake of the fallout over a tape in which Trump is heard making vulgar comments about women.

"Our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan, had a bad conference call where his members went wild at his disloyalty," Trump tweeted Tuesday. During a later interview with Bill O'Reilly of Fox News, Trump said he didn't want Ryan's support anyway and suggested the speaker will be in a "different position" if he wins the presidency.

Ryan's office responded with a terse statement: "Paul Ryan is focusing the next month on defeating Democrats, and all Republicans running for office should probably do the same."

Trump did not mention his Republican critics during a night-time speech in Panama City, Fla., keeping the focus on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton ("she's a bad person") and journalists ("the media is rigged").

Since the Friday release of a 2005 recording showing Trump making lewd comments about women, a steady stream of Republicans who once bought into his candidacy have now called on him to exit the race. Meanwhile, new polls show Clinton building a steady lead over Trump, both nationally and in key battleground states.

In addition to Ryan, Trump lashed out Tuesday at a prominent Republican who pulled his endorsement, 2008 presidential nominee John McCain. Tweeted Trump: "The very foul mouthed Sen. John McCain begged for my support during his  primary (I gave, he won), then dropped me over locker room remarks!"

Trump has also responded to the political storm by stepping up his attacks on Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton. He has spotlighted women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment and assaults and claimed that Hillary Clinton tried to silence them.

Tuesday morning, though, Trump aimed most of his fire at his own party.

"Despite winning the second debate in a landslide (every poll), it is hard to do well when Paul Ryan and others give zero support!" Trump said as part of his Tuesday tweet storm.

Trump has also suggested that more tapes of him could still be coming, and that he is prepared to respond in kind.

"If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we'll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things," Trump said in Ambridge, Pa., Monday.

Some Republicans warn the growing civil war within the GOP will have ramifications well beyond the Nov. 8 election.

USA TODAY


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