FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Wednesday tried to raise ethical questions about Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and criticized her for letting the father of the Orlando nightclub shooter sit behind her at a rally.
At campaign events in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and earlier in Abingdon, Virginia, Trump sought to rally his campaign after a setback on Tuesday when he appeared to suggest gun rights activists should take action against Clinton.
On Wednesday he drew attention to the emergence of emails from Clinton’s use of a private server when she was secretary of state during President Barack Obama’s first term, from 2009-2013.
A conservative watchdog group, Judicial Watch, obtained the release through court order of 44 email exchanges that it said were not previously turned over to the State Department.
Among them was a 2009 email in which Doug Band, a former official at the Clinton Foundation charity run by former President Bill Clinton, directed two Hillary Clinton aides to put Lebanese-Nigerian billionaire and Clinton Foundation donor Gilbert Chagoury in touch with a State Department official dealing with Lebanon.
The Clinton campaign has dismissed the new emails as having nothing to do with Clinton or the foundation’s work.
Trump, who is trailing in many polls with three months to go until the Nov. 8 election, said the new batch of emails suggested a “pay for play” scheme.
“You’re not allowed to do it,” he said. “It’s illegal.”
Trump also called Obama “the founder of ISIS” for not leaving U.S. forces in Iraq and said that made Clinton “the co-founder.”
In addition, he had sharp comments about the seating of Seddique Mateen, the father of Omar Mateen, who shot to death 49 people at an Orlando nightclub in June, behind Clinton at a rally in Kissimee, Florida.
“Wasn’t it terrible when the father of the animal who killed the wonderful people was sitting with a big smile on his face right behind Hillary Clinton?” he said.
Trump said he believed that people who sit behind the candidate at rallies are close to the campaign.
Reporters noticed that sitting behind Trump at the event in Fort Lauderdale was former U.S. Representative Mark Foley, who resigned from Congress in 2006 after allegations surfaced that he had sent suggestive emails and sexually explicit instant messages to teenage boys who had been congressional pages.
Foley told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel he has been a long-time friend of Trump’s and has found him to be “a different breed of leader and a different breed of candidate.”
Trump sharply criticized the news media for the way it handled a comment he made in Wilmington, North Carolina, on Tuesday suggesting gun rights supporters could take action against Clinton.
“I would actually say that the media is almost as crooked as crooked Hillary Clinton,” Trump said.
He drew harsh criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike because some took his remarks on Tuesday to mean he was inciting violence despite Trump’s insistence he was only urging more people to rally votes against Clinton.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)