One day after video emerged of the Republican presidential nominee vulgarly bragging about forcing himself on women and one day before a likely pivotal presidential debate, the Republican Party faced this critical question: What could they do about Donald Trump?

Amid wide condemnation of comments Trump made in 2005, which he now says that he regrets, Rep. Martha Roby – who represents a strongly Republican district in Alabama – said she could no longer vote for Trump and she urged him to step down.

“As disappointed as I’ve been with his antics throughout this campaign, I thought supporting the nominee was the best thing for our country and our party,” Roby said in a statement. “Now, it is abundantly clear that the best thing for our country and for our party is for Trump to step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket.”

Roby is one of at least eight Republican members of Congress to directly call for Trump to step aside, along with former presidential candidates George E. Pataki, Jon Huntsman Jr. and Carly Fiorina. Often in cutting off support for Trump these Republicans have rallied around Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., tweeted on Saturday morning that she would not vote for Trump and would instead write in Pence.

Pence said in a statement Saturday that he was “offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump” but that he was grateful Trump “expressed remorse and apologized to the American people.”

Trump told The Washington Post on Saturday that he would not drop out of the race under any circumstances.


“I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life,” Trump said Saturday morning in a phone call from his home in Trump Tower in New York. “No, I’m not quitting this race. I have tremendous support.”

“People are calling and saying, ‘Don’t even think about doing anything else but running,” Trump said when asked about GOP defections. “You have to see what’s going on. The real story is that people have no idea about the support. I don’t know how that’s going to boil down but people have no idea about the support.”

With just a month until Election Day, experts say it would be logistically nearly impossible for the Republican Party to replace its nominee, and many Republicans seem to be waiting to see what happens in the coming hours.

The Post reported Friday that a hot microphone captured a conversation Trump had in 2005 during the filming of an episode of “Access Hollywood.” The Post reported on these comments, posting video and audio of Trump bragging in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women. Trump’s comments were not just lewd but also seemed to promote sexual assault.

“And when you’re a star they let you do it,” Trump said at one point. “You can do anything. . . . Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”

At another point, Trump pops Tic Tacs in his mouth before meeting a soap opera star: “Just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”


Trump’s initial response to the tape was to call it “locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago” and to say that “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course.” At that point, Trump apologized “if anyone was offended.”

That prompted several prominent Republicans to demand that Trump fully apologize for the comments, often referencing their own wives, mothers, sisters and daughters in statements that stopped just short of retracting their endorsements of Trump.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin uninvited Trump to a campaign event in Wisconsin on Saturday and said in a statement that he was “sickened by what I heard,” and he hopes “Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that “Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape.” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that “there is absolutely no place for that sort of conduct or language in our society.”

Trump delivered an apology in a video statement released well after midnight. Trump took responsibility for the comments, said he was “wrong” and apologized. But he also called the remarks “a distraction” and launched a fresh attack on Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, whom he accused of saying or doing worse.

“We will discuss this more in the coming days,” Trump said at the end of the video. “See you at the debate on Sunday.”


On Saturday morning, it remained unclear whether that apology satisfied party leaders as the country waited to see what would happen next. Meanwhile, elected Republicans slowly started pulling their endorsements of Trump, and a few publicly called for him to step down.

On Friday night, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, retracted his endorsement of Trump after discussing the issue with his wife and deciding that Trump’s comments were “intolerable.” Utah Republican Gov. Gary R. Herbert, who is also up for reelection, announced Friday night on Twitter that he could no longer support the top of the ticket. Ayotte, of New Hampshire, tweeted Saturday morning that she would not vote for Trump.

“I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” Ayotte said in a statement, adding that she will write in Pence.

Republicans who have long fought Trump’s candidacy – or avoided taking a stance – erupted in anger, demanding that Trump finally step aside.

Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who unendorsed Trump in June and is running an uphill reelection race, called on Trump to drop out so that the party could “engage rules for emergency replacement.” Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, one of very few Republican senators who never endorsed Trump, called for the nominee to “step aside” and asked conservatives to find a new candidate.

“It’s occurred to me on countless occasions today that if anyone spoke to my wife, my daughter, my mother or any of my five sisters the way Mr. Trump has spoken to women, I wouldn’t hire that person. I wouldn’t hire that person, wouldn’t want to be associated with that person,” Lee said in a video filmed at his home in Utah. “And, I certainly don’t think I would feel comfortable hiring that person to be the leader of the Free World.”


Fiorina, a former technology company chief executive who unsuccessfully ran for president, said Saturday morning, “Trump does not represent me or my party.” She called on Trump to “step aside” and for the party to replace him with Pence.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in a statement that “the appropriate next step may be for him to reexamine his candidacy.”

Trump said in a statement that he planned to spend Saturday preparing for Sunday’s presidential debate with the help of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Republican chairman Reince Priebus, who said Friday that no one should ever talk about women the way that Trump did in 2005.

On Saturday morning, Trump broke his public silence and tweeted: “Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!”

Meanwhile, Trump’s 2005 comments played again and again on cable news Friday night and Saturday morning, upstaging even a dangerous hurricane. Trump’s surrogates followed his lead on Twitter and in cable news interviews and quickly faced an angry backlash. After Trump’s apology aired early Saturday morning on CNN, a panel of pro- and anti-Trump commentators erupted in a yelling match centered on Trump having said that women let him do anything: “Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything,” he said.

“This is a man consistently disgusted me from the first day of the campaign, and I think that every single Republican is going to have to answer the question: What did you do the day you saw the tape about this man boasting about grabbing a woman’s p—y?” said Ana Navarro, a conservative commentator who has long opposed Trump.


Trump supporter Scottie Nell Hughes jumped in: “Would you stop saying that word? My daughter is listening.”

“You know what Scottie?” Navarro said. “Don’t tell me you’re offended when I say p—y, but you’re not offended when Donald Trump says it. I’m not running for president; he is. Don’t act outraged and offended when I say the word when you’re not offended by the man you’re supporting. That’s absurd.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the party leadership who is facing a tough reelection battle, said Saturday that Trump’s comments were “absolutely unacceptable” and that the nominee needed to apologize “in a way that people believe he’s sorry.” Blunt said he had not seen Trump’s midnight apology video and dismissed the idea that Trump could step aside 30 days before the election to make way for another nominee.

“I think that’s an unrealistic solution,” Blunt said. “The devastation of Obamacare, the out-of-control regulators, the foreign policy that our friends don’t trust us, make a third Obama term an unacceptable alternative.”

Asked whether he would vote for Trump, Blunt asked: “Didn’t I just say that?”

“She is an unacceptable way forward,” he explained about Clinton. “We don’t need to make this harder than it is. We’ve got to change things.”


Top fundraisers and major money players exchanged outraged texts and emails. Some announced to their friends that they were done backing Trump while others took a wait-and-see approach, uncertain of the effect that the latest revelations would have in a campaign that has already seen previous standards of decorum repeatedly breached. Many spoke wistfully of Pence, pondering whether there could be a scenario in which he replaced Trump as the nominee.

Others dismissed the episode as a manufactured media story.

“It’s just CNN and the press making a big deal out of nothing,” said Dallas investor Doug Deason. “Anybody who is surprised about that or appalled or shocked is disingenuous. People knew that Trump was like that in those days. There’s probably more of it out there. He’s not like that anymore. He is a changed guy. We are a nation that believes in redemption and second changes, right? I don’t think he’s been that way for a very long time.”

Trump allies dismissed the notion that he would bow out of the race

“I would be astounded if Trump would ever give up the fight at this point in time,” said Ed Rollins, senior strategist for the pro-Trump Great America PAC. But Rollins said that Trump needed offer a more full-throated apology – and that Rollins’ team needs to quickly assess how to handle further comments that could now surface.

In the immediate aftermath, however, the controversy could freeze a final tranche of big donations that were set to flow to super PACs such as Great America PAC.

“We are in a very precarious place when it comes to raising money,” said Rollins, who has been counting on a contributions that have been pledged but have yet to materialize.

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