A defensive Donald Trump gave Hillary Clinton plenty of fresh material for the next phase of her presidential campaign on Tuesday, choosing to publicly reopen and relitigate some her most damaging attacks.
The day after his first general election debate, Trump blamed the moderator, a bad microphone and said was holding back to avoid embarrassing Clinton. Next time, he threatened, he might get more personal and make a bigger political issue of former President Bill Clinton's marital infidelities.
Things are already getting plenty personal. On Monday night, Trump brushed off Clinton's debate claim that he'd once shamed a former Miss Universe winner for her weight. But then he dug deeper the next day — extending the controversy over what was one of his most negative debate night moments.
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"She gained a massive amount of weight. It was a real problem. We had a real problem," Trump told "Fox and Friends" about Alicia Machado, the 1996 winner of the pageant he once owned.
The comments were reminiscent of previous times when Trump has attacked private citizens in deeply personal terms. Earlier this month, he was interrupted by the pastor of a traditionally African-American church in Flint, Michigan, after breaking his agreement not to be political in his remarks. Though Trump abided by her wishes, he went after her the next morning on TV saying she was "a nervous mess" and that he thought "something was up."
In July, Trump assailed the parents of Humayun Khan, a Muslim U.S. soldier who was killed in Iraq in 2004, after the young man's father spoke out against the Republican at the Democratic National Convention.
"I watched her very carefully and I was also holding back," Trump said of Clinton, reflecting on the debate at an evening rally Tuesday in Melbourne, Florida. "I didn't want to do anything to embarrass her."
It's unclear whether a Trump attack on Bill Clinton's infidelities may help or hurt his appeal.
But Trump's latest comments about Machado were striking in that they came just as he was working to broaden his appeal among minority voters and women — key demographic groups he's struggling to win.
Clinton aides on Tuesday acknowledged they'd laid a trap for Trump.
"He seemed unable to handle that big stage," said Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. "By the end, with kind of snorting and the water gulping and leaning on the lectern that he just seemed really out of gas."
Clinton interrupted a discussion of foreign policy in the final moments of the debate to remind viewers that Trump had called Machado "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping." A video featuring Machado, a Clinton supporter, was released less than two hours after the debate finished.
Aiming to capitalize on Trump's renewed focus on a woman's weight, Clinton's campaign also dispatched Machado to tell reporters how she spent years struggling with eating disorders after being humiliated publicly by Trump.
"I never imagined then, 20 years later I would be in this position, I would be in this moment, like, watching this guy again doing stupid things and stupid comments," Machado said. "It's really a bad dream for me."
Both campaigns knew the first debate, watched by some 80 million people, could mark a turning point six weeks before Election Day with Trump and Clinton locked in an exceedingly close race.
Clinton moved quickly to capitalize on her performance, launching new attacks on Trump's failure to release his tax returns and profiting from the subprime mortgage crisis.
As Trump courted Hispanic voters in Miami, Clinton hammered on an allegation she'd leveled the night before: that he is refusing to release his returns because he goes years without paying any federal taxes. "That makes me smart," was Trump's coy response in the debate, but on Tuesday, Clinton insisted it was nothing to brag about.
"If not paying taxes makes him smart, what does that make all the rest of us?"
Trump's campaign aides had worked hard in recent weeks to keep him on message — and away from personal attacks — persuading him to use teleprompters and reach out to minority audiences.
Their moderate success in scripting Trump came to a halt on Tuesday. Though he insisted he'd done "very well," Trump accused moderator Lester Holt of going harder on him than Clinton. He insisted he had "no sniffles" and no allergies despite the #snifflegate speculation that had exploded on social media. He suggested he'd been given a microphone with lower volume than Clinton's.
Her cheerful reaction: "Anybody who complained about the microphone is not having a good night."
The Trump campaign plans to spend $100 million on television advertising before Election Day, spokesman Jason Miller told The Associated Press. Of the $20 million in TV airtime his campaign had already scheduled, $13 million is aimed at Florida voters, according to Kantar Media's political ad tracker.
In other debate reaction:
Vice Presidential Candidates React:
Democrat Tim Kaine said Trump "looked like he was running out of gas" and Republican Mike Pence accused Clinton of launching "an avalanche of insults" at Trump.
On NBC's "Today" show, Kaine said he thought Trump offered few specifics on policies, adding, "I don't think he was prepared."
Pence countered that Trump was "focused on the issues that the American people care about." Pence also said he thought Trump came off as an agent for change while Clinton epitomized the Washington "status quo."
Speaking at an organizing event in Orlando, Florida, later on Monday morning Kaine said the debate showed Clinton has Trump beat when it comes to stamina.
Trump doubled down at the end of Monday's debate on his frequent criticism that Clinton lacks the "stamina" to be commander in chief. She shot back by ticking off the busy schedule she kept as secretary of state.
Kaine said Clinton looked like she could have debated for 11 more hours. But he said Trump looked "rattled" and like a boxer leaning on the ropes waiting for a knockout.
Trump insisted Tuesday that he didn't have the sniffles during the debate. The Republican presidential nominee sounded like he was sniffling — and loudly — through much of the debate, eliciting comments and jokes on social media. The hashtag #sniffle became popular on Twitter.
But asked about that in a phone interview Tuesday morning on "Fox & Friends," Trump denied there was any sniffling, said he doesn't have a cold or allergies, and blamed the microphone.
He said the microphone was very bad, "but maybe it was good enough to hear breathing. But there was no sniffles."
Trump also floated the theory that debate moderators gave him a bad microphone on purpose. The microphone was going on and off and that his volume was lower than Clinton's, he said.
Trump said he wondered "whether that wasn't set up that way on purpose."
He said, "I don't want to believe in conspiracy theories, but it was much lower than hers."
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told CNN that she heard from audience members that his mic sounded off. She said that from where she sat backstage, the mic sounded fine.
Clinton said Tuesday, "Anyone who complains about microphone problems is not having a good night."
Meanwhile, former Democratic presidential candidate and DNC chairman Howard Dean suggested without evidence that Trump's nasal troubles could be due to drug use.
"Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?" Dean tweeted Monday night.
Questions About the Next Debate:
Former New York City mayor and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani said he would pull out of the next debate if he were running for president.
"If I were Donald Trump I wouldn't participate in another debate unless I was promised that a journalist would act like a journalist and not an incorrect, ignorant fact checker," Rudy Giuliani said Monday.
NBC News' Hallie Jackson reported that Trump had told her he was committed to taking part in the second of three planned debates. The second debate is scheduled for Oct. 9.
Asked if she was concerned whether Trump will show up for the second debate, Clinton told reporters Tuesday: "I'm gonna show up. He gets to decide what he's gonna do, but I will be there at Washington University in St. Louis and then after that in Las Vegas. If I'm the only person on stage, well, you know, I'm the only person on stage."
NATO's Response to Trump's Comments:
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commented on Trump's call for the alliance to do more to fight terrorism. He said it has long made fighting terrorism a top priority.
Stoltenberg told reporters in Slovakia Tuesday that "NATO has been focused on the fight against terrorism for many, many years and it's not a result of the U.S. election campaign."
He recalled that NATO activated its collective defense clause known as Article 5 for the first and only time to come to the aid of the United States after the 9/11 attacks.
He said: "Thousands of soldiers from European allies and Canada have been in Afghanistan as a direct result of the attacks on the United States."
NATO took command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2003.
Biden Goes on Attack:
Campaigning for Clinton in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden blasted Trump's debate lines, saying the candidate is "painfully uninformed and his policies are not very helpful for the country."
Trump has said can't release his tax returns because he is being audited, though tax experts have said an audit is no barrier to making the information public. When Clinton suggested at the debate his refusal might be because he possibly paid nothing in federal taxes, he interrupted to say, "That makes me smart."
Biden mocked Trump's line in a speech at Drexel University Tuesday, "Tell that to the janitor in here who's paying taxes. Tell him my dad who when he was alive busted his neck working 60 hours a week, paid all his taxes. Tell that to your mothers and fathers who are breaking their neck to send you here, they're paying their taxes. No, I really mean it. It angers me, it angers me."
Then he brought up Trump's comments on the collapse of the housing market.
Clinton said at the debate that “Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said, back in 2006, ‘Gee, I hope it does collapse because then I can go in and buy some and make some money.’”
“That’s called business, by the way,” Trump interjected.
Biden, sounding forceful, told the rally Tuesday: "What in the hell is he talking about? No, no, no, no, really, I, look, I've been there for eight Presidents, Democrat and Republican, I've disagreed and I've agreed. But every President I have served with including the Republicans has had a moral center about what it was to be an American, about what we're supposed to do, about what basic fundamental rights are."