Critics and supporters debate what Trump meant
Clinton's campaign is fundraising off the comments
A US Secret Service official confirms to CNN that the USSS has spoken to the Trump campaign regarding his Second Amendment comments.
“There has been more than one conversation” on the topic, the official told CNN. But it’s unclear at what level in the campaign structure the conversations occurred.
The campaign told the USSS that Donald Trump did not intend to incite violence, according to the official.
“No such meeting or conversation ever happened,” Trump tweeted in response to CNN’s report.
The controversy erupted on Tuesday afternoon when Trump said at a rally that Second Amendment defenders might be able to stop Clinton from appointing justices to the Supreme Court who could weaken gun rights.
“Hillary wants to abolish – essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” Trump said. “But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day, if Hillary gets to put her judges in, right now we’re tied.”
The Secret Service’s communications director Cathy Milhoan has not confirmed the conversations between the campaign and the Secret Service, but said in a statement Tuesday that “the U.S. Secret Service is aware of Mr. Trump’s comments.”
Trump said Tuesday evening that he was simply trying to unify gun owners against Clinton in the voting booth.
“This is a political movement. This is a strong political movement, the Second Amendment,” Trump said to Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “And there can be no other interpretation … I mean, give me a break.”
Clinton responded Wednesday to Trump’s suggestion at an Iowa rally, saying, “words matter.”
“Words matter my friends, and if you are running to be president or you are president of the United States, words can have tremendous consequences,” Clinton said. “Yesterday we witnessed the latest in a long line of casual comments from Donald Trump that cross the line.”
Supporters downplay remarks
The Republican presidential nominee’s supporters Wednesday attempted to quell the controversy, saying either that Trump was joking or that Democrats and the media were spinning it into something bigger than it was. Many interpreted Trump’s comments as a threat to rival Hillary Clinton.
Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, said the billionaire businessman was trying to unite Second Amendment supporters to turn out to defeat Clinton.
“This was a joke … He wasn’t inciting violence,” Lewandowski told Chris Cuomo on CNN’s New Day.
Ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that the Clinton campaign and the press were misconstruing Trump’s words.
“What he intended is very, very simple – that (gun owners) should vote against her,” Giuliani said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “He had no idea that anybody would interpret his words that way. It was so obvious to all of us what he meant.”
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who said she won’t vote for either party’s candidate, said on CNN’s “New Day” Wednesday that she did not think Trump was inciting violence, but that he has only himself to blame for people leaping to that conclusion because of his consistent “stream of inappropriate and reckless comments.”
Clinton supports slam comments
But Clinton supporters continued to slam Trump on Wednesday, saying that violence is never a joking matter.
“Words matter, particularly from those folks who want to be president of the United States,” Clinton surrogate Christine Quinn, a former New York City Council speaker, said on “New Day.” “To think that joking about any kind of violence could be funny … simply reflects a disregard for the impact of violence.”
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm agreed, telling Cuomo that joking about assassinating a candidate is not presidential.
“It is, in fact, dangerous for the country,” she said.
Bernice King, the daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., took to Twitter to voice her concerns.
“As the daughter of a leader who was assassinated, I find #Trump’s comments distasteful, disturbing, dangerous,” she tweeted.
And former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather posted on Facebook that Trump “crossed a line with dangerous potential.”
“By any objective analysis, this is a new low and unprecedented in the history of American presidential politics,” he wrote. “This is no longer about policy, civility, decency or even temperament. This is a direct threat of violence against a political rival. It is not just against the norms of American politics, it raises a serious question of whether it is against the law.”
Green Party candidate Jill Stein also weighed in, calling for Trump to be disarmed.
And the daughter of Sandy Hook School Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who died in the school shooting there along with 20 children and five other staffers, sent a message to Trump via Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is using Trump’s words to fundraise, sending out his comments in an email to supporters Wednesday morning.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Dan Merica contributed to this report.