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White House: Trump Appeals to Voters' 'Darker Impulses'

Spokesman blames GOP congressional leaders for candidate's rise

Attendees clash during a Trump rally at the International Exposition Center on Sunday in Cleveland. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

The White House stepped up its anti-Donald Trump message three days after violence forced him to cancel a campaign rally, blaming both the GOP presidential front-runner and Republican congressional leaders for his rise.  

Though Press Secretary Josh Earnest did not directly blame Trump for the clashes between his supporters and protesters Friday night in Chicago, he did say President Barack Obama is concerned the candidate is "appealing to people's darker impulses ... to provide energy to his campaign." Trump’s calls to eject demonstrators and, as the White House spokesman put it, “rounding up” Muslims and illegal immigrants fail to live up to the “values … that have defined our country,” Earnest said.  

“It’s pretty clear what Mr. Trump is up to,” he added.  

What is less clear, he said, is what the other Republican presidential candidates and the party’s congressional leaders are up to.  

Earnest criticized congressional Republican leaders for helping bring about the rise of Trump by conducting a strategy mostly aimed at "saying no" to Obama.  

"When you're a Republican leader and you don't believe in something, your voters will fall for anything," Earnest said.  

Trump in recent days has both condemned violence at his events and floated the notion of paying the legal fees of any arrested supporters.  

Contact Bennett at johnbennett@cqrollcall.com. Follow him on Twitter @BennettJohnT.

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