Trump pledges to ‘heal divisions’ and sue his accusers

New York Times News Service

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Donald Trump came to this historic battlefield town Saturday to offer his vision for America’s future, saying he hoped to “heal the divisions” of the country as President Abraham Lincoln tried to do here seven score and 13 years ago.

Yet in his own Gettysburg address, Trump, who has been sliding in the polls less than three weeks before Election Day, did not offer much in the way of race-changing oratory and did not seem to embrace Lincoln’s unifying ambition.

Instead, the Republican nominee used the first third of what had been promoted as a “closing argument” speech to nurse personal grievances, grumbling about “the rigging of this election” and “the dishonest mainstream media,” and threatening to sue the women who have come forward — an 11th woman did Saturday — to accuse him of aggressive sexual advances.

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign — total fabrication,” Trump said. “The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Donald Trump speaks with Caitlin Kostic, a park ranger, during a campaign stop at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Gettysburg, Pa., Oct. 22, 2016. The Trump campaign has said that it plans to increase the candidateÕs schedule in the final weeks, potentially holding as many as six rallies a day. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

And the more substantive part of the speech, intended to outline his first 100 days in office if he is elected president, did not quite live up to its billing by campaign aides, who had promised a major policy address not unlike Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America.” Instead, a subdued Trump — who Friday acknowledged the possibility of electoral defeat — largely repeated his existing campaign promises, from renegotiating trade deals to enforcing tougher immigration laws.

The speech: Trump’s carefully scripted presentation Saturday was meant to project a new level of forethought and seriousness from a man not usually associated with either. His proposals had legislative titles like the “Affordable Child Care and Elder Care Act” and the “Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act.”

The speech, before a small, hand-picked crowd, was also a recognition that Trump needs to establish himself as someone with the discipline and temperament to lead the nation.

“Hillary Clinton is not running against me, she’s running against change,” he said. “And she’s running against all of the American people and all of the American voters.”

Trump did offer specific immigration proposals, including an “End Illegal Immigration Act” that would establish mandatory minimum prison sentences for unauthorized immigrants caught illegally re-entering the country after deportation. He also said he would stop issuing visas to any country that refused to take in citizens ordered deported from the United States, a policy that would almost certainly disrupt immigration and commerce with China, which is one such country.

Donald Trump delivers a policy speech at the Eisenhower Complex in Gettysburg, Pa., Oct. 22, 2016. The Trump campaign has said that it plans to increase the candidateÕs schedule in the final weeks, potentially holding as many as six rallies a day. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

Trump also reiterated his promise to build a border wall with Mexico and have Mexico pay for it, although he hedged a bit, saying, “the country of Mexico will be reimbursing the United States for the full cost of such a wall.” (At a rally in Cleveland later Saturday, his most energetic of the day, Trump was back to leading his crowd in chants calling for Mexico to pay for the wall.)

Repeating earlier pledges to “drain the swamp” in Washington, Trump promised to push through a series of new ethics laws as well as term limits for both the House and Senate. And he called for “a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce the federal workforce through attrition, exempting military, public safety and public health.”

Accusers: Trump has a long history of threatening and occasionally following though on litigation, and in raising the possibility of suing his female accusers, he might have simply been trying to stop more from coming forward.

At a news conference Saturday in Los Angeles, Jessica Drake, an adult film actress, claimed that, after meeting Trump at a 2006 charity golf event in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, she had accepted an invitation to meet in his hotel room. Not wanting to go alone, Drake said she was accompanied by a couple of female friends.

Drake, who appeared Saturday with women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred, said Trump had hugged and kissed her and the other women without permission.

After returning to her room, Drake said, Trump or a man phoning on his behalf offered her $10,000 to return to his room, which she declined.

In a statement, the Trump campaign called the accusation “another example of the Clinton campaign trying to rig the election.”

“Mr. Trump does not know this person, does not remember this person and would have no interest in ever knowing her,” it said.

Clinton: Aboard her campaign plane, Clinton said: “I saw where our opponent, Donald Trump, went to Gettysburg, one of the most extraordinary places in American history, and basically said if he’s president he’ll spend his time suing women who have made charges against him based on his behavior.”

She added, “I’m going to keep talking about what we want to do, what we think the country deserves from the next president and vice president, and when it comes right down to it, I think that’s what people are going to vote on.”

At her rally Saturday in Pennsylvania, Clinton devoted much of her speech to the state’s contentious Senate race, giving an extended plug to the Democratic candidate, Katie McGinty, and attacking the Republican incumbent, Sen. Patrick Toomey, for not denouncing Trump for his vulgar remarks about women captured in a recording.

A Bloomberg News poll conducted this month after the release of the tape showed Clinton with a 9 percentage point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania. On Saturday, she tried to offer an olive branch to the white working-class voters there who have gravitated to Trump.

“You probably know people who are thinking about voting for Donald Trump,” she told the crowd of 1,800 gathered in a high school gymnasium. “Here’s what I want you to tell them: Tell them that I understand they need a president who cares about them, will listen to them, and I want to be their president, too.”

A crowd of supporters look on as Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at the Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pa., Oct. 21, 2016. (Damon Winter/The New York Times)

After his appearance in Gettysburg, Trump reverted to his trusted stump speech in back-to-back rallies in Virginia Beach and Cleveland, exciting large crowds by attacking Clinton and promising to bring back jobs.

“You’re going to look back at this rally, and you’re going to remember it for the rest of your life because this will be the beginning,” he said in Virginia. “You’re going to remember Nov. 8 because your country is going to be a country that starts winning again.”