Trump and allies digging into attacks on beauty queen – Politico

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The 1996 reigning Miss Universe, Alicia Machado of Venezuela, joins in the opening number during the 1997 Miss Universe Pageant. Trump allies have attacked Machado after Trump doubled-down on past statements about her weight gain. | AP Photo

The Republican nominee’s sustained assault on the former Miss Universe has given Clinton’s camp a rich target.

Donald Trump and his allies are refusing to let up on their attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, with Newt Gingrich shaming her for gaining weight during her reign and Corey Lewandowski suggesting she’s an attempted murderer.

The sustained assault has provided a wide opening for Hillary Clinton’s campaign to drive home the narrative that Trump is a misogynist and a horrible role model for voters’ children.

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It also represents another self-inflicted wound for Trump, who went into Monday night’s debate having almost closed the gap with Clinton in many crucial battleground states.

But Clinton sprung a trap on the debate stage, bringing up Trump’s past public shaming of Machado as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” and Trump has since been struggling to break free.

Even after receiving blowback for doubling down on Tuesday morning, when Trump said Machado had “gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” the Republican presidential nominee again stepped in it Wednesday night, claiming to have spared Machado when others wanted to fire her as Miss Universe.

“I saved her job because they wanted to fire her for putting on so much weight,” Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in a pre-taped interview broadcast Wednesday evening. “And it is a beauty contest. You know, I mean, say what you want, Bill, I mean, they know what they’re getting into. It’s a beauty contest.”

Gingrich, a former House speaker and top Trump surrogate, echoed Trump’s attack line during a dinner address to the Log Cabin Republicans in Washington on Wednesday.

“You’re not supposed to gain 60 pounds during the year that you’re Miss Universe,” Gingrich said, eliciting laughter from the room of Republicans.

“You got to be kidding me,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri tweeted in response to Gingrich’s comment. “I am sorry, I can’t get past this. Newt Gingrich is criticizing someone for their weight.”

The attacks didn’t stop at the dinner table, though. Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager who still has ties to the campaign and contributes regularly to CNN, launched a new attack during the breakfast hour Thursday, resurfacing a decades-old allegation that Machado was involved in an attempted murder in Venezuela.

“The Clinton campaign took a person and brought her into a debate who has been part of a murder,” he said on CNN. “We know that. True.”

Machado was accused of being an accomplice in an attempted murder in 1997 for allegedly driving the getaway car after her boyfriend wounded his brother-in-law in a shooting. While her boyfriend was indicted, the charges against her were dropped over lack of evidence.

The Trump campaign’s broadside, reminiscent of his unwinnable brawl with the Gold Star Khan family, plays into the narrative the Clinton campaign has hammered for months: that Trump, a man who insults women, minorities and disabled people while never apologizing, is temperamentally unfit for the Oval Office.

In an ad this week, the Clinton campaign enlisted the services of Michelle Obama, who praises Clinton in the 30-second spot as “a president our kids can look up to” — a sharp contrast from Trump, a man who President Barack Obama warned Wednesday is “not somebody I want in the Oval Office that my daughters are listening to and that sons are listening to.”

Trump has also threatened to attack Clinton by broaching her husband’s past infidelities, suggesting that he refrained from doing so during Monday’s debate because it was “inappropriate,” “not nice” and he just couldn’t do it in front of their daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

Clinton’s campaign has already prepared itself, all but inviting Trump to launch such an ill-advised attack they say would have an adverse effect, propelling Clinton, not Trump, to the White House.

“After his disastrous debate performance and his sexist attack on a former Miss Universe over her weight, Donald Trump is now trying to deflect by going after Hillary Clinton about her marriage,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement on Thursday. “While Trump and his lieutenants like Roger Stone and David Bossie may want to dredge up failed attacks from the 1990s, as many Republicans have warned, this is a mistake that is going to backfire.”

Under Kellyanne Conway’s leadership, Trump’s campaign righted the ship after two failed iterations and a rough stretch in which Clinton dominated in most national and swing state polls coming out of the nominating conventions.

But since Monday’s debate, the GOP nominee and his campaign have been focused on much more than just his opponent. While Trump has gone after debate moderator Lester Holt for unfair questioning, floated a conspiracy about his microphone having been tampered with, relentlessly attacked Machado and accused Google of “suppressing” negative stories about Clinton, his campaign has played offense and defense for him.

In a feisty faceoff with Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Wednesday, Conway claimed Trump has only made “a couple of comments” in the past “25 years or so with respect to women,” while deputy campaign manager David Bossie told Fox News earlier Wednesday that Clinton is an “enabler.”

In an interview Thursday, Conway told “The View” that she doesn’t “discuss people’s weights and their looks,” but as her segment concluded, she fired a parting shot at the former Miss Universe in the way Trump did at Clinton by raising Bill Clinton’s infidelities in his thinly-veiled remarks Monday.

“She obviously has a troubled past that I won’t get into,” she said.

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