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Trump And Clinton Mudslinging Ensues, As Trump Sends Mixed Messages On Immigration


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer in for Rachel Martin. This past week, more ugly accusations flew between the presidential campaigns. Hillary Clinton gave a speech accusing Donald Trump of helping hate groups become mainstream while he accused his rival of being a bigot. Trump may have softened his stance on immigration in a confusing round-about from his previous position, and he continued to shock and dismay some on Twitter with an odd appeal to African-American voters. Here to sort it all out is NPR's political editor, Domenico Montanaro. Good morning.


WERTHEIMER: So, Domenico, Donald Trump made an appeal, as I said, to black voters on Twitter, but he did it by citing the fatal shooting of the cousin of the Chicago Bulls' Dwayne Wade. So how did that work for him?

MONTANARO: Well, that is a very difficult thing to do in 140 characters, first of all, and he wound up trying to say that, you know, Dwayne Wade's cousin being shot means that African-Americans should vote for Trump. And, you know, there's not a lot of context you can throw in there. And it really was a cynical ploy to try to say, look, you've got cities run by Democrats, and Chicago in particular is someplace that he's been talking about quite a lot to say that there's been lots of violence and that black voters in inner cities should vote for Trump. Lots of criticism after that - the actor Don Cheadle, for one, going after him. A couple of hours later, Trump wound up putting up a new tweet expressing condolences and thoughts and prayers. But I think we can say this outreach is not going so well.

WERTHEIMER: And it comes in a week where allegations of racial bias on both sides were rampant. Donald Trump outright called Mrs. Clinton a bigot. He questioned her record on race issues, and Mrs. Clinton gave a very careful speech in which she made the argument that Trump's campaign has given voice and cover to hate groups. But there was also kind of an off-ramp to establishment GOPers (ph) like Ryan and McConnell in that speech, right?

MONTANARO: Yeah. I mean, she really tried to separate the GOP from Trump, you know, and praised other Republicans. She quoted, of course, Paul Ryan, who had said that Trump's comments on the judge who was presiding over the Trump University case of Mexican heritage, he said that that comment was racist. You know - but both Ryan and McConnell, not surprisingly, their aides said that they didn't see the speech, and you don't see Republicans exactly jumping to Trump's defense on this. And that's because they don't really want to be tied to perceptions of racism, especially with the Senate in jeopardy. You know, maybe this is something that Hillary Clinton can use as an olive branch to try to govern. But she really can't get out ahead of herself at this point.

WERTHEIMER: Do you - you don't get the feeling, then, that this is a way of reaching out to these guys, to Ryan and McConnell, preparing to govern.

MONTANARO: It may be, in a sense. I think that it's more toward Republicans in - you know, who would normally vote Republican, white suburban voters, to not be tied to him. But, you know, politicians fight the battle that's in front of them, and winning a presidential election is very hard. And they don't want to look beyond that.

WERTHEIMER: In the week ahead, Donald Trump had planned to give a speech in Phoenix clarifying his stand on immigration. Then, he said he'll be talking about party unity. Party officials in Arizona say the event is up in the air. What's happening?

MONTANARO: (Laughter) I mean, it's certainly very confusing where he's - where he's standing on this. I mean, the fact is Donald Trump has a brand problem. You know, like any legacy brand, you have to try to find a new audience without alienating old ones and loyal ones. And, you know, that's part of the problem. When a Republican sticks their toe in the waters of trying to moderate on immigration, often they find backlash from the base. And I think that's some of what he'd seen this week and the vacillations on immigration are all over the place. At this point, he's not in favor of a path to legalization.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's political editor Domenico Montanaro, thank you.

MONTANARO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.