Top Trump donor family urges him to go on the attack

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Washington (CNN)The few major financial supporters of Donald Trump on Saturday declined to follow the lead of many Republican elected officials and immediately rebuke their chosen candidate. And the top donor family -- the Mercers -- is doubling-down on attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton.

The most prominent donor families behind Trump -- the Mercers, Ricketts and Adelsons -- on Saturday gave no indication they would ditch the GOP nominee, despite the endless string of mass defections by senior Republicans caused by his latest scandal: the emergence of a decade-old video in which Trump callously spoke about a married woman with whom he had tried to have sex.
In a remarkable and lengthy statement, the generally reclusive Rebekah and Bob Mercer vociferously defended Trump, who they have dedicated millions to supporting through a super PAC and retain enormous influence.
    "Donald Trump's uncensored comments, both old and new, have been echoed and dissected in the media repeatedly in an effort to kindle among his supporters a conflagration of outrage commensurate with the media's own faux outrage," the two Mercers said in a statement, first reported by the Washington Post. "Can anyone really be surprised that Mr. Trump could have said to Mr. Bush such things as he has already admitted saying? No. We are completely indifferent to Mr. Trump's locker room braggadocio."
    And then they went after Bill Clinton -- and his long history of infidelity and alleged misconduct.
    "The same media that resolutely looked away when the most powerful man in the world, a sitting U.S. president with multiple violent sexual assaults to his credit, snared an impressionable young intern in his web and ruined her life, now expects us to gasp with revulsion at Mr. Trump's irreverent comments," they said. "Those among the politcal elite who quake before the boom-box of media blather do not appreciate the apocalyptic choice that America faces on November 8."
    That view was mirrored -- perhaps not as colorfully -- in an email late Friday night from Foster Friess, an evangelical megadonor, to his list of supporters. Friess did not specifically reference the new videotape, but sent his fans a list of policies where he found more alignment with Trump than Clinton.
    "The most relevant point is the importance of ceasing the distracting discussion of what she did and what he said and move instead to ask whose policies are in our personal best interest," he wrote. "We can remove the uncivil nastiness of emphasizing candidates' personal behavior which will not affect our lives compared to the policies implemented."
    A pair of other prominent GOP donor families, the Adelson and Ricketts families, made no moves Friday or Saturday to distance themselves from Trump, even as many of the politicians they support did exactly that. Adelson is directing at least $25 million to pro-Trump efforts organized by the Ricketts family, a recent infusion of cash that arrived when Trump was at a high point in the polls.
    Trump's roster of financial supporters was already weak, in part due to his previous comments on everything from immigrants to trade policy. But Trump has made significant progress in recent weeks as the presidential horse race narrowed -- only to risk that all with this weekend's lewd remarks.
    There has been no massive donor exodus so far, according to Republican fundraising sources, but new dialogue is unfolding. Republican sources say one option now under consideration is ending the joint fundraising agreement between the campaign and the Republican National Committee, part of a strategy to allow the RNC to focus its fundraising exclusively on downballot races. It would also give donors opposed to Trump a way to continue to support the party.
    But the Ricketts-led and Adelson-funded nonprofit, 45Committee, is not changing its plans or strategies going forward, according to a source familiar with its plans.
    Both the Adelson and Ricketts families were heartened by the addition of Mike Pence to the ticket, who carried deep relationships with Republican donors and has proven to be an effective fundraiser. But the initial fraying between Pence and Trump on Saturday could send a signal to donors to stay away.
    That signal is not being sent yet, though: On Saturday evening -- even as he scrapped public campaign events -- Pence arrived in Rhode Island for one event: a high-dollar fundraiser.
    Also Saturday, at least one Democratic donor said recent events had energized him to give more: Facebook titan Dustin Moskovitz, who said "the events of the past few weeks" encouraged him to invest $15 million more this cycle.