A government official and Donald Trump both denied reports Wednesday that the Secret Service had spoken to the Republican presidential candidate’s campaign team about comments he made that appeared to suggest violent action against his rival, Hillary Clinton.
The denials came after CNN reported that the Secret Service had approached Trump about the remarks made during a rally on Tuesday in which he suggested gun rights advocates could stop Clinton, sparking outrage.
On Twitter, Trump said the story had been “made up” by CNN to boost ratings.
Reuters also reported that a “government official” said the Secret Service had never spoken to Trump’s team about the issue.
The brief report did not name the official.
No such meeting or conversation ever happened – a made up story by "low ratings" @CNN.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2016
Trump’s remarks on Tuesday caused a firestorm, including among some Republicans, when he suggested that “Second Amendment people” — those who support gun rights — could take action to stop Clinton from appointing US Supreme Court justices as president.
Trump’s intended message was not immediately clear, but lawmakers, former national security officials and other critics expressed concern that Trump had advocated, possibly in jest, that Clinton or her Supreme Court nominees could be shot.
“Hillary wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment,” Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, referring to the US Constitution’s clause that enshrines the right to bear arms.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said. “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
On Wednesday, CNN reported that a Secret Service official said “there has been more than one conversation” between the agency — tasked with protecting presidential candidates in the run-up to November’s election — and the Trump camp.
In response, the campaign insisted that the candidate had no intention of inciting violence in comments about the right to bear arms during a speech he made the day before.
Trump claimed he was referring to the power of the gun rights movement when he said that Second Amendment advocates could take action to stop Clinton. He said there’s “no other interpretation.”
Responding to the comments Wednesday, Clinton accused her rival of going too far.
“Yesterday we witnessed the latest in a long line of casual comments by Donald Trump that crossed the line,” Clinton told supporters in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Words matter, my friends. And if you are running to be president, or you are president of the United States, words can have tremendous consequences.”
The Secret Service response to the CNN report, communicated via Twitter, gave weight to suggestions the comments may constitute incitement to violence but did not say whether they merited an investigation, which some Democratic lawmakers have called for.
The Secret Service is aware of the comments made earlier this afternoon.
— U.S. Secret Service (@SecretService) August 9, 2016
Defending the comments on Fox News, Trump insisted no one at his rally thought he was saying anything other than that the gun rights movement is effective.
But some supporters at his rally, including one seated behind Trump on camera, seemed to react with surprise to his remark, suggesting they realized it could be taken another way.
Clinton’s campaign decried Trump’s “dangerous” language and demanded in a statement that presidential hopefuls “not suggest violence in any way.”
Democratic lawmakers also expressed shock about Trump’s comments.
“In this clip, Trump’s either calling for an armed revolt or the assassination of his opponent. Despicable,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) posted on Twitter along with footage of Trump’s remarks.
Trump’s team fired back to say the Manhattan billionaire simply meant that gun rights advocates were a powerful voting force.
“Second Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power,” senior Trump communications adviser Jason Miller said.
While Trump himself tweeted that he was simply saying pro-Second Amendment advocates “must organize and get out vote to save our Constitution,” it is unclear what effort he could be referring to, given that he was talking about a scenario in which Clinton had already successfully appointed a Supreme Court justice.
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