One Championship

As woes mount for Trump, Clinton seizes offensive


Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a presidential campaign event at Coral Spring Gymnasium in Coral Springs, Florida, USA, 30 September 2016. Photo: Cristobal Herrera/EPA

Donald Trump's presidential hopes suffered a punishing new setback Monday as authorities clamped down on his charitable foundation, while Hillary Clinton seized the offensive to brand the Republican an unscrupulous businessman.

With just five weeks to go before the November 8 election, the billionaire Trump is struggling to regain his footing against a surging Clinton and climb out of one of the darkest periods of his White House campaign.

Already weakened by damaging revelations about his taxes, Trump was hit with an order by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that the Donald J. Trump foundation must "cease and desist from soliciting contributions" in New York.

The notice informed the charity that it had engaged in fundraising activities that were not permitted under the law because it had not been registered with state authorities.

With Team Trump on the defensive after leaked documents suggested he may have paid no income tax for two decades, Democrat Clinton rounded on him as a real estate bully who cares little for his fellow countrymen.

"While millions of American families, including mine and yours, were working hard paying our fair share, it seems he was contributing nothing to our nation. Imagine that," a fired up Clinton said in Toledo, Ohio.

"He has been 'dissing' America in this whole campaign," she charged, riding high on a surge in polling carried out after the bruising first presidential debate.

The pair face off in their second showdown on Sunday. 

Vice presidential nominees Mike Pence, the Republican governor of Indiana, and Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia take the stage Tuesday for their only debate of the campaign cycle.

Personal attacks

Trump used an appearance before military veterans in Virginia to pound the former secretary of state once more for handling classified information via a "basement" private email server.

But he appeared to stumble when he addressed the mental problems facing military personnel and suggested some were returning from battle ill-equipped to cope with debilitating conditions.

"When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you're strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can't handle it," Trump said.

Retired lieutenant-general Michael Flynn, a Trump advisor, said the candidate was merely "highlighting the challenges veterans face when returning home after serving their country."

In recent days, Trump's strongest line of attack has been personal, and of a rare brutality even for this bare-knuckles campaign: he mocked Clinton over the weekend for coming down with pneumonia and even questioned her fidelity to her husband.

"Hillary Clinton's only loyalty is to her financial contributors and to herself," he said.

"I don't even think she's loyal to Bill, if you want to know the truth. And really, folks, really, why should she be, right?" said the Manhattan billionaire, who revived talk of Bill Clinton's past infidelities following his lackluster debate performance.

'Poster boy' for bullying 

A defiant Trump meanwhile dodged swirling questions about his tax record.

Trump's top allies praised their candidate's business acumen following the bombshell revelation by The New York Times that he declared a loss of $916 million on his 1995 tax return, enabling him to legally avoid paying taxes for up to 18 years.

If true, the report based on documents leaked to the Times is proof of the tycoon's "absolute genius," said former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump surrogate.

Trump reportedly took massive, though legal, tax breaks on failing businesses, earning millions while shareholders and investors swallowed the losses and contractors went unpaid.

Clinton seized on the Times report to blast her rival -- not just for refusing to pay his share, but as a business failure.

"How anybody can lose a dollar, let alone a billion dollars, in the casino industry is kind of beyond me," she said. "Here's my question: What kind of 'genius' loses a billion dollars in a single year?"

Trump parried the accusations during a rally in Pueblo, Colorado saying he has long railed against "unfairness" of US tax laws.

"Honestly, I have brilliantly used those laws," he said.

"As a businessman and real estate developer, I have legally used the tax laws to my benefit, and to the benefit of my company, my investors and my employees," he said.

Polls released by Politico/Morning Consult and CNN/ORC showed Clinton with a six-point and five-point lead, respectively.

A fresh Quinnipiac battlegrounds poll showed Clinton leading in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, but trailing Trump in Ohio.

Clinton, visiting the crucial swing state, trumpeted her endorsement by one of Ohio's favorite sons, basketball superstar LeBron James.

"I could not be prouder to have LeBron joining our team as we head into the home stretch," she said.

(AFP)

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