WHITE PLAINS, NY (AP) — Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of giving “aid and comfort” to Islamic terrorists Monday, declaring after a weekend of violent attacks in three states that his anti-Muslim rhetoric helps groups like the Islamic State recruit new fighters. Trump showed no sign of changing, casting “many” foreigners coming to the US as a “cancer within.”
The Democratic presidential candidate touted her own national security credentials at a hastily arranged news conference outside her campaign plane, saying she was the most qualified to combat terrorism and accusing Republican Trump for using the incidents to make “some kind of demagogic point.”
“I’m the only candidate in this race who’s been part of the hard decisions to take terrorists off the battlefield,” Clinton, a former secretary of state, told reporters. “I have sat at that table in the Situation Room.”
She added: “I know how to do this.”
The possibility of a home-grown terrorist plot cast a long shadow over the presidential race, diverting both candidates’ attention from the daily controversies of the presidential race and giving them a high-profile opportunity to make their case to undecided voters.
New York officials said Monday that the bombings in a Manhattan neighborhood and a New Jersey shore town were looking increasingly like acts of terrorism with a foreign connection. Authorities were also investigating the stabbings of nine people at a Minnesota mall as a possible act of terrorism.
An Afghan immigrant wanted for questioning in the bombings was captured in New Jersey Monday after being wounded in a gun battle with police, authorities said. He was identified as Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28.
Clinton and her team see her experience and what they say is her steady judgment as key selling points for her candidacy. On the campaign trail, she frequently invokes her role in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, describing to voters the tense atmosphere in the White House alongside President Barack Obama.
But while much of the foreign policy establishment has rallied around Clinton, Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, promises to close US borders and vows to aggressively profile potential terrorists have fueled his presidential bid.
On Monday, he hit hard on those points, calling for tougher policing, including profiling foreigners who look like they could have connections to terrorism or certain Mideastern nations.
“Knock the hell out of ’em,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends” in a telephone interview.
“We don’t want to do any profiling,” he said of current US policy. “If somebody looks like he has a massive bomb on his back, we won’t go up to that person and say I’m sorry because if he looks like he comes from that part of the world we’re not allowed to profile. … Give me a break.”
Pointing to her “aid and comfort” remark and others, Trump’s campaign said Clinton was accusing him of treason, going beyond the bounds of acceptable campaigning and trying to change the subject from her own failures. Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon responded: “The Trump campaign can call it whatever they want; Hillary Clinton will continue to call it out.”
Clinton urged voters not to “get diverted and distracted by the kind of campaign rhetoric we hear from the other side.” She insinuated that Islamic militants, particularly those affiliated with the Islamic State, are rooting for Trump to win the White House. The Republican nominee has said he would bar immigration from nations with ties to terrorism.
“We’re going after the bad guys and we’re going to get them, but we’re not going to go after an entire religion,” Clinton said.
Clinton briefly turned her focus from national security on Monday, wooing younger voters at a midday rally in Philadelphia.
At an invitation-only event at Temple University, she acknowledged that she needs to do more to get millennials on board.
“Even if you are totally opposed to Donald Trump, you may still have some questions about me. I get that. And I want to do my best to answer those questions,” she told several hundred students gathered in an ornate, wood-paneled lecture hall.
This election marks the first presidential campaign where millennials make up the single largest generation among US adults, having surpassed baby boomers during the past four years. The group helped anchor Obama’s support, but Clinton has failed to attract them in the same numbers.
She was to meet with the leaders of Egypt, Ukraine and Japan late in the day in New York City. The leaders are in New York for the UN General Assembly. Trump announced plans to meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi on Monday.
Trump has tried to appear more statesmanlike as the November election approaches. Still, he suggested that it’s a positive trait that some world leaders feel uneasy about him.
“Well, maybe that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Right now the world has no respect for our country, they have no respect for our president, whatsoever.”