By Stephanie Akin, CQ-Roll Call
WASHINGTON — As criticism mounted against Donald Trump on Monday for his treatment of an American Muslim couple whose son died in the Iraq war, his campaign sent an appeal to Republicans in Congress to back him up, according to media reports. No one responded.
Trump’s campaign circulated talking points for GOP supporters to spread via press releases, social media and cable news appearances, according to Reuters and CNN.
“We want to get several member statements out today on this, and would really appreciate your help,” Rob Wasinger, a onetime congressional candidate who has been working for the Trump camp on congressional outreach, wrote in an email to senior Senate aides, according to Reuters. A similar request was reportedly circulated in the House of Representatives.
The Trump script suggested shifting the focus from Trump’s comments disparaging Khizr and Ghazala Khan after their emotional takedown of his proposed ban on Muslim immigration at the Democratic National Convention the week before.
It was circulated shortly after statements from Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former prisoner of war, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars condemned Trump. The episode drew renewed attention to the deep rift in the Republican Party over Trump’s nomination, though few mentioned Trump by name and no one went so far as to revoke their endorsement.
The Trump campaign asked Republicans to turn the conversion to “radical Islamic terrorism” and to blame Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan’s 2004 death — which happened while George W. Bush was president and before Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.
Instead of repeating Trump’s suggested arguments, several Republicans issued statements denouncing him and thanking the Khans for their sacrifice. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who had led the way with a similar statement Sunday, circulated a “must-see” photograph of himself holding up a pocket copy of the constitution, as Khizr Khan had done at the Democratic National Convention the week before.
Several GOP aides told CNN they were, “mystified that Trump continued the feed the storyline.”
Trump drew widespread condemnation over the weekend after he said that Ghazala Khan, who stood silently next to her husband during his convention speech, probably wasn’t allowed to speak because of her Muslim faith. Rather than back down, Trump continued to escalate the dispute, tweeting on Monday morning that Khizr Khan had “viciously attacked” him.