Trump Supporters Try to Change Story Ahead of Debate

Giuliani seems to agree that Trump's words constitute sexual assault

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is to face Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton Sunday night in the second of three debates. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is to face Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton Sunday night in the second of three debates. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Posted October 9, 2016 at 11:32am

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said the leaked hot mic video that shows Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump making lewd comments about women is not a “disqualifying event.”

Trump surrogates spent a second day trying to turn the story from what Trump said to what Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did as others in the GOP turned away from their party’s standard-bearer.

Sessions, among Trump’s inner circle, told “Fox and Friends” on Sunday that reports of his advising Trump to get out of the race are not true.

[Trump Unloads on GOP Abandoning Him]

“Somebody reported that I advised him to pull out. That is not so,” Sessions said. “What is to me being overlooked is the power of the WikiLeaks on Hillary Clinton.”

Sessions and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani were two lonely surrogates trying to minimize the damage from the video, which was recorded in 2005, ahead of Sunday night’s town hall-style presidential debate, the second of three face-to-face encounters between Trump and Clinton.

Giuliani was filling in for Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and transition team leader New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie after they cancelled their appearances. He condemned Trump’s remarks, but the former prosecutor seemed to acknowledge that the actions Trump referenced constituted sexual assault.

Asked by ABC’s “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos to address whether what Trump talks about in the tape is sexual assault, Giuliani responded: “That’s what he’s talking about. You know, whether it happened or not, I don’t know.”

The line that was emerging among Trump surrogates is that the billionaire is a different man now than he was in 2005, having heard voters’ concerns as he campaigned across the country.

“That was then and this is now. And he’s gone through 14 months of running for president. And, as you know, running for president does something to you. It changes a lot of the way you look at things, it changes a lot of the way in which you behave,” Giuliani told ABC.

“And it puts a heavy responsibility on your shoulder — in this case, for roughly half the American people, who believe that he’s the one who can change America and his opponent is the person who will keep it the same or make it worse.”

Giuliani and Sessions both tried to remind viewers of the latest dump by WikiLeaks, which showed Clinton telling bankers of her vision for open borders and open trade. That story has been largely overshadowed by the Trump tape.

“I mean, if this hadn’t happened, the whole story you would be asking me about is the WikiLeaks and the fact that Hillary Clinton makes it clear to the bankers that she says one thing to them, which is she’s on their side and she’s with them and they’re paying her a lot of money but then she’s got to say something else, you know, publicly,” Giuliani said.

“Had that come out during the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders would now be the candidate.”

Asked about the excerpts, Democratic National Committee interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile refused to speculate on whether they were authentic or not.

“George, when you see something postmarked from Russia, you should be afraid to open up the document,” she told Stephanopoulos. Democrats have charged Russia with being behind hacks into Democratic groups and the Clinton campaign. On Friday, the White House condemned Russia for trying to manipulate the election.

“I refuse to open these documents,” Brazile said. “I refuse to allow a foreign government to interfere and meddle and manipulate information. So I don’t know if it’s true or not true … They have been, as you know, selectively leaking and manipulating documents.”

Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, also said he didn’t know if the leaks were authentic.

“Anybody who hacks in to get documents is completely capable of manipulating them,” Kaine told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”

Kaine said Clinton’s criteria for trade policy is “Do they increase American jobs, do they increase American wages, and are they good for national security?”