Trump Digs in Against Khan Backlash

Doubles down on criticism of Muslim family amid weekend of bad news

Despite a weekend of negative press, Donald Trump shows no sign of backtracking on his recent comments. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump on Monday doubled down on his criticism of an American Muslim family whose son was killed in Iraq, stating in an early morning tweet that Khizr Khan, the soldier's father was, "all over TV" spreading "vicious" attacks.  

The Republican nominee's remarks came as he stumbled out of the box as the candidates headed into the final 100 days of the presidential campaign with the conventions behind them. Trump's tweet Monday suggests that he will follow the same strategy he has used throughout his nontraditional campaign: Rather than acknowledge criticism, he will dig in and fire back.  

"Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over TV doing the same - Nice!" Trump tweeted Monday.

Khizr Khan, whose son Capt. Humayun Khan was killed by a car bomb in Iraq in 2004, spoke out against Trump at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last week. He said the real estate mogul "consistently smears the character of Muslims," and called on Americans to vote for the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton "and not the divider."  

The bad headlines for Trump started with a slight against the Khan family that drew backlash from many of the most prominent voices in the GOP . He was then challenged by the NFL and the Koch brothers for unrelated claims he made about correspondence with each group.  

[ Trump's Coronation Completes GOP's Transformation ]  

Trump later retreated from his claim that the NFL had sent him a letter complaining about the fall presidential debates that conflicted with prime-time games after the league said it had sent him no such letter. Critics used that as a sign he was considering trying to get out of the debates.  

And top officials with the Koch operation released a statement questioning Trump's "facts"   after the GOP standard-bearer bragged in a tweet that he had snubbed them.  

The streak continued after Trump's confused assertions during a interview  on ABC's "This Week" about the conflict between Russia and Ukraine that led to questions about whether he fully understood the situation there .  

The barrage of negative press showed no signs of stopping Monday morning, with Arizona Sen. John McCain issuing a statement that Trump had defamed the Khan family and did not represent the GOP.  

[ McCain Rebukes Trump for Comments About Soldier's Family ]  

"I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump's statement. I hope Americans understand that the remarks do not represent the views of our Republican Party, its officers, or candidates," McCain said. 

McCain, a decorated Vietnam veteran whose own reputation as a war hero was famously challenged by Trump because he was captured by the North Vietnamese, has previously stated that he supports his party's nominee.

Throughout the storm, Trump showed no indication of changing course on his Twitter feed, one of his campaign's main avenues of communicating with voters.  

Instead, he drew attention Sunday to media rankings that showed that the final night of the Republican National Convention attracted more viewers than the final night of the Democrats '.

He bragged about "big crowds" at his weekend campaign events in Colorado.

And he blamed any negative attention on liberal bias in the media.

He also attempted to clarify his statements about the Ukraine conflict.  

In an interview Sunday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Trump said that, if he were president, the Kremlin was not "going to go into" Ukraine. He then backpedaled when Stephanopoulos pointed out that Russian forces seized the country's Crimean peninsula two years ago.  

“He’s not going into Ukraine, OK, just so you understand,” Trump said. “He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.”

“Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?” Stephanopoulos said.

“OK, well, he’s there in a certain way,” Trump replied. “But I’m not there. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this. In the meantime, he’s going away. He take — takes Crimea.”  

In a series of tweets Monday morning, Trump said that his comments were misinterpreted, apparently arguing that he had been making a distinction between Crimea and the rest of the Ukraine. He said that, as president, he would not allow Putin's troops to advance.

He also argued that the Russian presence in Crimea was the fault of the Obama administration.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.