HILTON HEAD, SOUTH CAROLINA/COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA/NEW YORK – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sought to assail Democrat Hillary Clinton on Wednesday by calling her husband, former President Bill Clinton, “one of the great abusers of the world.”
Speaking to about 2,000 supporters at a rally, Trump again invoked the ex-president’s alleged extramarital affairs and accused Bill Clinton of engaging in “tremendous abuse” of women.
Dismissing Hillary Clinton’s accusation that Trump himself engaged in sexism, the real estate magnate and reality TV star said: “And she wants to accuse me of things. And the husband’s one of the great abusers of the world. Give me a break. Give me a break. Give me a break.”
References to Bill Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky have rarely come up in the lead-up to the 2016 election. But Trump, who has developed a pattern of attacking those who cross him in ways others won’t, said Wednesday that Hillary Clinton had forced his hand.
A spokesman for Clinton’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But deputy communications director Christina Reynolds said Monday that Clinton “won’t be bullied” by Trump and plans to “stand up to him, as she has from the beginning of his campaign” when he insults women and other groups.
Earlier this month Trump used a vulgar sexual term to describe how Hillary Clinton had been beaten by rival Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary. In response, she said that Trump displayed a “penchant for sexism.”
“When she said that, I had no choice,” Trump said Wednesday. “You can’t let people push you around,” he said, adding: “We view this as war.”
Bill Clinton was set to campaign on behalf of his wife in New Hampshire next week. While the front-runner among Democratic candidates in national polls, she trails rival candidate Bernie Sanders in some polls in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
The Clintons and the Trumps, two New York families, had been on friendly terms for years. The Clintons attended Trump’s wedding to his third wife, Melania, and the couples’ daughters, Ivanka and Chelsea, are friends. Trump came to Bill Clinton’s defense when the Lewinsky scandal was unfolding, calling efforts to impeach him “nonsense.”
The former president has been accused of having a string of sexual encounters — both consensual and unwanted — with women over the years.
In the spring of 2014, Hillary Clinton was asked about the Lewinsky affair after Lewinsky wrote a first-person account in Vanity Fair magazine in which she said the ex-president “took advantage of me” but that it was a consensual relationship.
Hillary Clinton said in interviews at the time that she wished Lewinsky “well” but had moved on from the episode.
Trump’s relationships, including an affair with Marla Maples, who later became his second wife, have also been tabloid fodder. He said Tuesday that his personal indiscretions are fair game for scrutiny in the campaign.
Billionaire Trump meanwhile says he plans to spend at least $2 million a week on television advertising in the first three voting states, a move that would mark a massive departure for a candidate who has so far relied on free media to fuel his insurgent campaign.
Despite Trump’s typically ironclad confidence, he told reporters invited aboard his private jet Tuesday that he didn’t want to take anything for granted.
“I don’t think I need to spend anything. And I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve spent the least and achieved the best result,” Trump told reporters before a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “I feel I should spend. And honestly I don’t want to take any chances.”
Trump, who leads in national Republican preference polls, has seen his lead dissolve in lead-off Iowa, where Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is surging on the backing of the state’s robust evangelical conservative voting bloc.
The front-runner has spent nothing on television advertising to date, and just over $300,000 on radio ad time, according to advertising tracker Kantar Media’s CMAG — far less than his rivals. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, for example, has spent more than $40 million, but trails Trump and several other candidates.
Trump has teased plans to advertise on television in the past, but ad buys have failed to materialize. While Trump has said he’s willing to spend whatever it takes to win the Republican nomination, he has proven a frugal campaigner, putting very little of his own money on the line.
While Trump likes to claim he’s self-funding his campaign, the vast majority of what he’s spent so far has come from donors across the country sending checks or purchasing merchandise from his website.
“I’ll be spending a minimum of $2 million a week and perhaps substantially more than that,” he told reporters, adding, “If somebody attacks me, I will attack them very much and very hard in terms of ads.”
Trump said he had screened the first two ads and says they touch on immigration, trade and national security policy.
When the real estate mogul announced his candidacy in June, he said he planned to spend $35 million by Jan. 1, 2016. Instead, his reliable tendency for combative language has resulted in a steady stream of media coverage, often stemming from comments made during the five Republican debates or during his meandering speeches at packed rallies.
Trump also said he believes the thousands who attend his rallies, like the more than 3,000 in Council Bluffs, will ultimately turn out to vote for him. Iowa’s caucuses begin the 2016 voting on Feb. 1, a little more than a month away.
In New York, a lawyer for a man accused in a terrorism case is arguing that Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration into the United States will make it difficult to find unbiased jurors.
Minh Quang Pham is expected to go on trial in federal court in February. The Vietnamese man has pleaded not guilty to supporting al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
A 2012 indictment accuses him of traveling from the United Kingdom to Yemen in 2010 and receiving training from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.
Pham’s lawyer argues in court papers Trump’s statements have become “a rallying cry inciting public fear of Muslims.”
Representatives for Trump and the U.S. attorney’s office haven’t responded to messages seeking comment.