Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton on Sunday escalated her criticism of Donald Trump, accusing him of inciting violence to get votes and asserting that the only way to stop him is to vote against him.
“Donald Trump is running a cynical campaign of hate and fear for one reason: to get votes,” she said at the Ohio Democratic Party Legacy Dinner in Columbus. “He’s encouraging violence and chaos to get votes. He’s pitting Americans against each other to get votes.”
Clinton hasn’t been shy about calling out Trump, for months challenging his views on immigration and subverting his “Make America Great Again” slogan by saying “America is great already.” Responding to the violence at his canceled Chicago rally on Friday, she accused him of committing “political arson.” She was even more assertive on Sunday.
“Donald Trump is not who we are,” she said. “We can criticize and protest Mr. Trump all we want. But none of that matters if we don’t show up at the polls. If you want to shut him down, then let’s vote him down. And then let’s raise up a better future for ourselves and our children.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton's rival for the Democratic nomination, has also been engaged in a back-and-forth with Trump since Friday’s melee in Chicago. Sanders denied that he encouraged the protest, calling Trump a “pathological liar” and blaming Trump’s rhetoric for the protests.
“Our campaign does not believe in and never will encourage anybody to disrupt anything,” Sanders said at the town hall. “I happen not to believe that people should disrupt anybody’s meetings.”
Trump has blamed both Democratic presidential candidates for the violence at his events and protests against him, and argues it’s their supporters who are behind the activity. But Clinton said at a CNN/TV One town hall at Ohio State University just after the dinner that “Donald Trump is responsible for what happens at his events … not just inciting violence but applauding violence.” At both events, she expressed disgust for Trump’s offer to pay the legal fees of a white man who sucker-punched a black man at a recent rally.
Sanders was asked whether he was the best Democratic candidate to beat Trump and what his plan would be in the general election. Sanders pointed to polls showing him beating Trump by wider margins than Clinton and said the enthusiasm at his rallies would lead to high voter turnout. The key to beating Trump, he said, was to expose him.
“The American people are not going to elect a president who is insulting Mexicans, Muslims, women, veterans, insulting virtually everybody who is not quite like Donald Trump,” he said. “Thank God, most people are not quite like Donald Trump.”
Clinton got a similar question when she took the stage after Sanders and suggested that it would start with big turnout against him and in support of her. “I'm the only candidate who's gotten more votes than Trump. I have 600,000 more votes than Trump,” she said.
Clinton wouldn't “spill the beans right now” on her general-election approach to Trump, “but suffice it to say there are many arguments we can use against him,” she said with a smile. One hint: as a former secretary of state, she would be “uniquely qualified” to warn about the foreign policy dangers of a Trump presidency.
Already, she said, foreign leaders are asking her “if they can endorse me to stop Donald Trump, and I am like, no, this is up to Americans, thank you very much.”
Pressed on who those leaders are, Clinton mentioned Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who said last month that he is “rooting for” her. She wouldn't share the names of leaders who have reached out privately. “We are holding that in reserve,” she said.