WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Trailing with time running out, Donald Trump denounced both Hillary and Bill Clinton Thursday as creatures of a corrupt political system who would use another pass at the Oval Office to enrich themselves at the expense of American families. Clinton turned to popular first lady Michelle Obama to rally voters in North Carolina, a state that could deliver a knockout blow to Trump.
Trump seized on newly public emails in which longtime Bill Clinton aide Doug Band describes overlapping relationships of the Clintons’ global philanthropy and the family’s private enrichment. The emails were among thousands stolen from the private account of a top Clinton aide, part of a hacking the Democratic campaign has blamed on the Russians.
“Mr. Band called the arrangement `unorthodox.’ The rest of us call it outright corrupt,” Trump declared during a rally in Springfield, Ohio. “If the Clintons were willing to play this fast and loose with their enterprise when they weren’t in the White House, just imagine what they’ll do in the Oval Office.”
Band wrote the 2011 memo to defend his firm, Teneo, describing how he encouraged his clients to contribute to the foundation and provide consulting and speaking gigs for Bill Clinton. Some of his work included obtaining “in-kind services for the president and his family — for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like.”
Clinton made no mention of the revelations as she campaigned alongside Mrs. Obama, their first joint appearance of the campaign. The first lady has emerged as one of Clinton’s most powerful surrogates, passionately touting her experience and denouncing Trump as too divisive and thin-skinned for the White House.
“We want someone who is a unifying force in this country, someone who sees our differences not as a threat but as a blessing,” Mrs. Obama said as she addressed an enthusiastic, 11,000-person crowd, one of Clinton’s biggest of the campaign. Trump often points out that his crowds are generally larger than his rival’s.
Mrs. Obama also accused Trump’s campaign of trying to depress voter turnout and panned his provocative assertion that the results of the Nov. 8 contest may be rigged.
“Just for the record, in this country, the United States of America, the voters decide elections,” the first lady said. “They’ve always decided.”
With a lead in the race for weeks, Clinton’s campaign is concerned that her advantage could prompt some of her backers to stay home on Election Day or cast protest votes for a third-party candidate. Nearly all of her recent events have been in states where early voting is already underway, aimed at using the rallies to prompt supporters to bank their votes now.
Following her rally with Mrs. Obama, Clinton greeted students at an early voting site at University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She then dropped in on a homecoming pep rally at nearby North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, where she was greeted by a DJ blasting hip-hop, a dance troupe, a marching band and deafening cheers at the surprise stop.
Another troublesome sign for Trump: The Republicans’ congressional campaign committee has released a new TV ad that praises a GOP House member who has said Trump has “disqualified himself” to be president. The ad for Rep. Robert Dold of Illinois calls him an “independent voice” who has “stood up” to Trump, the first time the committee, which is devoted to electing Republicans to the House, has used a message openly critical of the party’s presidential nominee.
Still, the hacked emails and recent news of an “Obamacare” premium hike have appeared to hand Trump a pair of potent gifts in the campaign’s final fortnight.
The Republican charged Thursday that the rate hikes were “making it impossible for parents to pay their bills and support their families.”
But to the frustration of many in his party, Trump has struggled to stay on message. While campaigning in Ohio, he criticized Clinton for being too tough on Vladimir Putin, another surprisingly favorable comment from Trump about the Russian leader.
“She speaks very badly of Putin, and I don’t think that’s smart,” he said.
Trump has been repeatedly criticized, by Republicans as well as Democrats, for failing to denounce Putin. He’s also refused to say whether he believes Russia is behind the hacking of Democratic groups, although intelligence agencies have pinned the blame on Moscow.
Earlier Thursday, he also repeated his insistence that Captain Humayun Khan, a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq, would be alive if Trump he had been president during the war. Khan’s family is supporting Clinton and has harshly criticized Trump’s calls for temporarily banning Muslims from the United States.
Clinton leapt on Trump’s comments Thursday, declaring: “I don’t understand how anyone would want to rub salt in the wounds of a grieving family.”
Lemire reported from Springfield, Ohio. AP writers Lisa Lerer, Kathleen Hennessey and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.
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