PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – Donald Trump suggested without evidence Saturday that Democrat Hillary Clinton might have been on drugs at their most recent debate and that the election is “rigged” against him, adding a new round of unsubstantiated assertions to an increasingly scathing campaign.
Trump’s campaign also announced fundraising numbers that showed he was at a 2-to-1 cash disadvantage against Clinton heading into October. And the nominee severed ties with the Republican Party chairman of Ohio, according to Trump’s Ohio state director, highlighting the intraparty discord in a key swing state as the election nears.
The GOP presidential nominee’s unsubstantiated claims about a corrupted election, which have become more frequent in recent days amid a growing list of women who allege he has made unwanted sexual advances, drew pushback from the office of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who has distanced himself from Trump’s campaign. In a statement, Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said, “Our democracy relies on confidence in election results, and the speaker is fully confident the states will carry out this election with integrity.”
At a rally here in Portsmouth, Trump said he and Clinton should be required to take drug tests before the third presidential debate Wednesday, insinuating that something “is going on with her.”
“Athletes, they make them take a drug test, right?” Trump said. “I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate. I do. I think we should, why don’t we do that? We should take a drug test prior, because I don’t know what’s going on with her. But at the beginning of her last debate she was all pumped up at the beginning and at the end it was like, ‘Oh, take me down.’ She could barely reach her car.”
Trump’s “car” comment appeared to be aimed at reviving Clinton’s health scare last month, when her knees buckled as she was escorted to her vehicle at an event commemorating 9/11 victims. Clinton revealed later that she had pneumonia.
Trump initially avoided commenting on the 9/11 incident, but as his poll numbers have dropped, he has regularly mocked Clinton for stumbling.
The real estate developer’s comments about the last debate echoed unfounded allegations his longtime ally, Roger Stone, made last week during an interview with “InfoWars,” a conservative media platform known to circulate conspiracy theories.
“Look, of course she was jacked up on something. I assume some kind of methamphetamine,” Stone said, without offering proof, about the day of the second presidential debate.
Correct the Record, a pro-Clinton group, criticized Trump and accused him of peddling “more conspiracy theories about his opponent’s health.”At the first two debates, Trump’s repeated sniffling attracted more scrutiny than any health-related behaviors by Clinton.
Trump on Saturday continued to deny mounting allegations that he groped or kissed women without their consent, dismissing them as part of a larger scheme against him. The list of allegations has grown in the past week since The Washington Post reported a 2005 video in which Trump used vulgar language to describe forcing himself on women sexually. During the most recent debate, he denied ever engaging in the behavior he described on the video.
“The election is being rigged by corrupt media pushing false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect Hillary Clinton president. But we are going to stop it. We are not going to back down,” Trump said at a second rally in Bangor, Maine. “False stories, all made up. Lies, lies. No witnesses, no nothing. All big lies. It’s a rigged system, and they take these lies and put them on front pages. This is a rigged system, folks, but we’re not going to let it happen.”
Clinton held no campaign events Saturday. Her campaign manager, Robby Mook, issued a statement rejecting Trump’s allegations of a “rigged” election.
“Campaigns should be hard-fought and elections hard-won, but what is fundamental about the American electoral system is that it is free, fair and open to the people. Participation in the system – and particularly voting – should be encouraged, not dismissed or undermined because a candidate is afraid he’s going to lose,” Mook said.
Heading into October, Clinton and the Democratic Party had twice as much money in the bank as Trump and his joint fundraising committees with the Republican Party, giving her vastly more ammunition for the final stretch of the 2016 presidential contest.
Trump’s campaign announced Saturday that he raised $100 million in conjunction with the Republican National Committee last month, up slightly from the $90 million he collected in August. Together with two joint fundraising committees, the Trump campaign began October with about $75 million in cash.
For her part, Clinton and her joint party fundraising committees raised $154 million in September, ending the month with $150 million in the bank.
In Ohio, a remarkably public dispute broke out between Trump’s state chairman, Robert Paduchik, and state Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges. In a letter to state GOP officials, Paduchik said Borges “does not represent or speak for the candidate and he no longer has any affiliation with the Trump-Pence campaign.”
The Columbus Dispatch first reported the letter, which appears under Trump campaign letterhead and was confirmed by Seth Unger, an Ohio spokesman for Trump.
In it, Paduchik wrote that Trump is “very disappointed” with Borges’s “duplicity,” according to a conversation they had last week. Paduchik accuses Borges of embarking on a “self-promotional media tour with state and national outlets to criticize our party’s nominee.” He attached a list of recent news reports in which Borges is noncommittal about supporting the GOP nominee.
“Mr. Trump told me, ‘This is why people have lost faith in the establishment and party leaders.’ I have to agree with him. Too often some leaders of our party have been quick to bail on candidates and principles; it’s why our nation is on the wrong track,” Paduchik wrote in the letter.
In response, Borges sent a letter to state party officials defending the state party’s efforts on behalf of Trump. He said the party will continue to support the nominee.
“I speak and meet with Bob Paduchik and Trump team members regularly. Interestingly, none of Bob’s concerns were voiced until he shared them publicly today,” Borges wrote.
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Sullivan reported from Washington. Matea Gold and Abby Phillip in Washington contributed to this report.