Trump-GOP Feud Escalates After Rival Goes After Him

BLUFFTON, S.C. (AP) -
L-R: Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Republican presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and former Senator Joe Lieberman attend a campaign event in New York on Monday. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
L-R: Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Republican presidential candidate Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and former Senator Joe Lieberman attend a campaign event in New York on Monday. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks at his South Carolina campaign kickoff rally in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Donald Trump pushed back ever harder Tuesday against Republicans fed up with his provocations, disclosing one opponent’s cell number in a fiery speech and lowering flags to half-staff on his properties as part of an in-your-face escalation of the feud.

Fellow GOP presidential contender Sen. Lindsey Graham lashed out against him, only to see floods of Trump supporters jam his phone line after Trump read Graham’s number to an audience.

Trump is now at odds with much of the Republican establishment after a series of incendiary comments, topped by his weekend mocking of Arizona Sen. John McCain’s experience as a tortured prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Since then the real estate developer and media personality has intensified his criticism of McCain and his record on veterans’ issues in the Senate, even as politicians from both parties and veterans’ groups have rushed to McCain’s defense.

In a speech to hundreds of supporters in Bluffton, South Carolina, on Tuesday, Trump kept after McCain, accusing him of being soft on illegal immigration.

“He’s totally about open borders and all this stuff,” Trump said.

McCain sparked Trump’s temper last week when the senator said the businessman’s inflammatory remarks about Mexican immigrants had brought out the “crazies.” McCain said Tuesday he would no longer respond to Trump’s comments.

The back-and-forth is the latest in a series of showdowns between Trump and fellow GOP candidates frustrated by Trump’s brash campaign, which has often overshadowed their own in recent weeks.

In his speech, Trump brushed off the criticism he’s faced, both from political rivals and others angered by his comments. He said he’s had business success even with countries he’s criticized, such as China, and negativity doesn’t affect him. He also said his wealth insulates him because he’s not beholden to donors who might not like what he says.

“It turned out I’m much wealthier than people thought,” Trump said. “Nobody has to give to me.”

The storm over Trump is proving to be fodder for Democrats.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid noted that while Trump’s GOP White House rivals were nearly unanimous in denouncing his comments on McCain, they were more tentative in responding to his earlier criticisms of Mexican immigrants.

“There is an ugly truth behind that silence, and it is this: When it comes to immigration policy, there is no meaningful difference between the Republican Party and Donald Trump,” Reid said.