Hillary Clinton accused Donald Trump of giving “aid and comfort” to Islamic terrorists Monday, declaring his anti-Muslim rhetoric helps the Islamic State group and other militants such as ISIS recruit new fighters.
But Trump hit back, saying his Democratic rival and the Obama administration hadn’t done enough to quell the group’s rise.
“Her attacks on me are all meant to deflect from her record of unleashing this monster of evil on us and on the world,” said Trump at a packed Florida rally, referring to Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
He also insisted the U.S. should “use whatever lawful methods are available” to get information from the Afghan immigrant arrested in this weekend’s bombings.
As several Trump supporters shouted “Hang him!” the Republican presidential candidate bemoaned the fact that Ahmad Khan Rahami, a 28-year-old U.S. citizen originally from Afghanistan, would receive quality medical care and legal representation.
“We must deliver a just and very harsh punishment to these people,” he said. “These are enemies, these are combatants and we have to be tough, we have to be strong.”
Both candidates moved swiftly to capitalize on investigations into a weekend of violent attacks — bombings in New York and New Jersey and stabbings at a Minnesota mall — casting themselves as most qualified to combat terrorism at home and abroad.
Clinton touted her national security credentials at a hastily arranged news conference outside her campaign plane, accusing Trump of using the incidents to make “some kind of demagogic point.”
“I’m the only candidate in this race who’s been part of the hard decisions to take terrorists off the battlefield,” Clinton, a former secretary of state, told reporters. “I know how to do this.”
The possibility of a home-grown terrorist plot cast a new shadow over the presidential race, diverting both candidates’ attention from the daily controversies of the campaign and giving them a high-profile opportunity to make their case to undecided voters.
Clinton and her team see her experience and what they say is her steady judgment as key selling points for her candidacy. On the campaign trail, she frequently invokes her role in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, describing to voters the tense atmosphere in the White House alongside President Barack Obama at that moment.
But while much of the foreign policy establishment has rallied around Clinton, Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, promises to close U.S. borders and vows to aggressively profile potential terrorists have fueled his presidential bid.
On Monday, he called for tougher policing, including profiling foreigners who look like they could have connections to terrorism or certain Middle Eastern nations.
“This isn’t just a matter of terrorism, this is also really a question of quality of life,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re only admitting people into our country who love our country.”
Trump has called for a new “extreme vetting” system that would apply an ideological screening test to potential immigrants, asking whether they support concepts like women’s and gay rights.
Pointing to her Monday morning comment that Trump’s words give “aid and comfort” to Islamic extremists, his campaign said Clinton was accusing him of treason, going beyond the bounds of acceptable campaigning and trying to change the subject from her own failures.
She insinuated that Islamic militants, particularly those affiliated with ISIS, are rooting for Trump to win the White House. She said, “We’re going after the bad guys and we’re going to get them, but we’re not going to go after an entire religion.”
Trump agreed terrorists have a preference: They “want her so badly to be our president.”
Clinton briefly turned her focus from national security on Monday, wooing younger voters at a midday rally in Philadelphia. At Temple University, she acknowledged she needs to do more to get millennials on board.
“Even if you are totally opposed to Donald Trump, you may still have some questions about me. I get that. And I want to do my best to answer those questions,” she told several hundred students gathered in an ornate, wood-paneled lecture hall.
This election marks the first presidential campaign where millennials make up the single largest generation among U.S. adults, having surpassed baby boomers during the past four years. The group helped anchor Obama’s support, but Clinton has failed to attract them in the same numbers.
Both Trump and Clinton ended their days in New York City, where they met with leaders gathered for the United Nations General Assembly.
Both met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, while Clinton also met with the leaders of Ukraine and Japan.
New York officials said Monday the bombings in a Manhattan neighborhood and a New Jersey shore town were looking increasingly like acts of terrorism with a foreign connection. Authorities were also investigating the stabbings of nine people at a Minnesota mall as a possible act of terrorism.