Campaign manager KellyAnne Conway says she ‘can’t believe how easily Clinton campaign was baited’ as Hillary Clinton aide warns over bullying
Gennifer Flowers has not been “formally invited” by the Trump campaign to attend Monday’s first presidential debate, Trump campaign manager KellyAnne Conway said on Sunday, adding: “I can’t believe how easily the Clinton campaign was baited.”
In response, Clinton campaign manager Robbie Mook said the Flowers story was “a warning sign about [Trump’s] bullying tactics that make him unfit to be president”.
Trump appeared to invite Flowers, who had a sexual liaison with Bill Clinton, on Saturday, in an exchange of tweets with the billionaire Mark Cuban, a Clinton supporter and Trump antagonist who said he had been invited to attend the Hofstra University debate.
Flowers subsequently tweeted that she was in Trump’s “corner” and would “definitely be at the debate”. BuzzFeed News reported that her assistant said in an email Flowers would attend, and the New York Times reported that Flowers confirmed that in a text message, saying: “Yes I will be there.”
Conway appeared on Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. Asked if she could confirm Flowers’ attendance, as the Trump campaign had avoided doing on Saturday, she said: “No, I can’t confirm that and I can’t believe how easily the Clinton campaign was baited.”
Flowers, she said, “had not been formally invited. I don’t expect her to be there as a guest of the Trump campaign.”
“It seems odd,” she said, that the Clinton campaign would give the story “life and breath”.
Following Conway on the show, Mook said the Flowers story was indicative of Trump’s temperamental instability and unsuitability for the White House.
“Nobody knows which Donald Trump is going to show up to this debate,” he said, “and in fact his erratic temperament has been discussed a lot around the debate and I would argue that is why he is not fit and prepared to be president.”
Conway said Trump “had no plan” to attack Clinton in the debate about her husband’s infidelity, echoing remarks by the candidate himself earlier this week, and said: “Mr Trump will answer the questions as asked by moderator Lester Holt.”
She defended Trump’s attacks on other people as “counterpunches” to attacks on him, and said he did so as he had “a right to defend himself”.
Mook said: “I think the fact that Trump is spending the hours before the debate on this sort of thing is indicative of the kind of leader and the kind of president he would be. It’s a warning sign before the debate has even started about [Trump’s] bullying tactics that make him unfit to be president.”
Mook said Clinton would seek an “unfiltered opportunity” to address the American people, and repeated campaign claims that their candidate would not be treated fairly by moderators, saying he was “very concerned that Donald Trump will be graded on a curve” and allowed to “fly off the handle” rather than address specific plans and policies.
Conway refused to reveal what was said between Trump and the Texas senator Ted Cruz, who endorsed the nominee on Friday after having held out since a bruising primary campaign, in which Trump was fiercely critical of Cruz’s wife’s looks and linked his father to the assassination of John F Kennedy.
“I can tell you we are thrilled to have the endorsement of Senator Cruz,” she said. “Together [he and Trump] really do represent a large part of the Republican party.”
Speaking in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, Cruz explained his decision as rooted in the need to stop Clinton becoming president, but refused to say whether Trump was fit for the job.
Bill Clinton initially denied Flowers’ 1992 claim that they had had a long affair, but admitted in a 1998 deposition in a sexual harassment suit that he had a single sexual encounter with Flowers. In 1999, Flowers opened a defamation suitagainst Hillary Clinton and two Clinton aides, James Carville and George Stephanopoulos. It was eventually dismissed.
News of Flowers’ possible attendance at the first debate, meanwhile, came nine years after she told the Associated Press “I can’t help but want to support my own gender” and “I don’t have any interest whatsoever in getting back out there and bashing Hillary Clinton.”