The comments immediately raised the stakes for Sunday's highly anticipated debate
The remarks prompted Trump -- for the first time in his nearly 16-month campaign -- to apologize
WARNING: This story contains graphic language.
Donald Trump apologized early Saturday for lewd and sexually aggressive remarks he made a decade ago – and then made it clear he is girding himself for a nasty political battle.
The GOP presidential nominee posted a defiant 90-second video just after midnight on social media, telling voters that he is not a “perfect person” and that the words captured by a hot mic in 2005 “don’t reflect who I am.”
“I said it, I was wrong and I apologize,” Trump said of footage from a previously unaired taping of “Access Hollywood” that surfaced Friday, in which Trump said he tried to “fuck” a married woman and bragged about being able to grope women because of his “star” status.
But Trump quickly pivoted back onto the attack, raising Bill Clinton’s sex scandals and Hillary Clinton’s role in discrediting women who had affairs with her husband.
“I’ve said some foolish things, but there’s a big difference between the words and actions of other people. Bill Clinton has actually abused women and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.”
And in closing, Trump added ominously: “We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Sunday.”
While Trump refuted the lewd terms in which he discussed women in the 2005 tape, the Republican nominee did not apologize for or address the behavior he said in that conversation that he engaged in toward women, including that he could “grab them by the pussy” and that he would sometimes “just start kissing them.”
He later tweeted Saturday morning: “Certainly has been an interesting 24 hours!”
Trump’s foreshadowing that he will raise Bill Clinton’s affairs and sex abuse allegations from the 1990s “in the coming days” suggest that the Republican nominee is switching gears after suggesting as recently as Thursday night that he would not raise those scandals in the debate on Sunday.
“I think we’re all better off if we can do that,” Trump said at a town hall event in New Hampshire on Thursday night.
But the bombshell 2005 recording has now put Trump on his heels – with Republicans warning of his demise – and the brash billionaire appears prepared to do what he does best: punch back.
Trump is heard discussing women in vulgar terms during off-camera banter during the taping of a segment for “Access Hollywood,” footage which was obtained by The Washington Post.
During the lewd conversation captured by a microphone Trump was wearing on his lapel, Trump recounts how he tried to “fuck” an unidentified married woman before bragging that he is “automatically attracted to beautiful (women)” and just starts “kissing them.”
“Access Hollywood” later identified the unidentified woman as Nancy O’Dell, who used to work for the show. CNN has attempted to contact O’Dell’s manager but has not heard back.
In the video, Trump uses the name “Nancy.”
The conversation came months after Trump married his third and current wife, Melania.
He also said: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
The jaw-dropping description of uninhibited sexual assault as a benefit of his celebrity poses a substantial setback to Trump’s attempts to overcome his deficit with female voters with just a month until Election Day. Clinton and her campaign have repeatedly sought to portray Trump as disrespectful and demeaning toward women, bringing up a slew of rude and vulgar comments Trump has made about women during and before his run for president.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, saying he was “sickened” by Trump’s comments, announced Friday night that the GOP presidential nominee would no longer attend a Republican event in Wisconsin at which the two were slated to appear on Saturday. Multiple sources told CNN that Trump was asked not to come by Ryan, and one source said the message was delivered via intermediaries.
Trump’s campaign said vice presidential nominee Mike Pence would represent him instead while the real estate magnate focuses on debate prep.
Trump campaign advisers were huddling together in Trump Tower Friday night trying to figure out how to react. Among the options being considered was whether Trump should make a public appearance Friday night.
Stakes raised for debate
The comments immediately raised the stakes for Sunday’s highly anticipated debate between Trump and Clinton, and the remarks could hand her – and viewers in the town hall audience – more evidence to make that point.
And the remarks prompted Trump – for the first time in his nearly 16-month campaign – to apologize.
“This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course - not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended,” Trump said in a statement released Friday.
Clinton’s campaign tweeted a link to the story and said simply, “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.”
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine, campaigning in Las Vegas, said Trump’s comments “makes me sick to my stomach.”
“I don’t like to say the words that he’s used in the past when he calls women, ‘pigs, dogs and slobs’ … but this is behavior that’s just outrageous and so that there would be a news story that would have more statements like this of this kind, I mean, gosh, I’m sad to say that I’m not surprised,” Kaine said. “I should be surprised and shocked. I’m sad to say that I’m not.”
A Clinton campaign source told CNN the campaign strategy in the wake of the tape will be to press Republicans to say if they still think Trump should be president.
“Not just condemn what he said – but that he should be POTUS,” the source said.
Two people close to the campaign told CNN the former secretary of state was unlikely to speak about the controversy Friday night. But it has become a new subject of her debate prep, and the campaign will pressure Ryan and other Republicans to disavow Trump throughout the weekend.
’You can do anything’
The hot mic conversation captured in 2005 begins with Trump recounting to “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush how he tried to have sex with a married woman.
“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump says in the newly-released audio. “I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump adds, after saying he took the woman – who is identified only by her first name – out furniture shopping.
“Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look,” Trump says of the woman.
The conversation took place as Trump arrived in a tour bus on the set of “Days of Our Lives,” the soap opera where he was set to make a cameo appearance.
Before Trump stepped off the bus, he and Bush appear to see an actress from the soap opera who greets Trump and Bush.
“Whoa!” Trump says. “I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”
“And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything,” Trump says.
“Whatever you want,” says another voice.
Priebus condemns remarks
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus condemned Trump’s remark in a briefly, tersely-worded statement.
“No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” Priebus wrote.
Journalists covering a Toledo, Ohio, campaign stop by Pence were ushered out of a restaurant soon after the story broke. The press was supposed to cover Pence looking at a wall of signed hot dogs, including one by Trump, but were later told they couldn’t record the moment.
A campaign staffer later told CNN the decision had “nothing to do with the news.”
Pence declined to answer a question about the matter when asked by a reporter following a campaign event in Rossford, Ohio.
Some of Trump’s old political foes rushed to slam the GOP nominee.
“As the grandfather of two precious girls, I find that no apology can excuse away Donald Trump’s reprehensible comments degrading women,” Jeb Bush tweeted.
“Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world,” Mitt Romney said on Twitter.
“Make no mistake the comments were wrong and offensive. They are indefensible,” John Kasich added.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican who recently said he would vote for Trump, called for Trump to drop out of the race.
Even Terry Gainer, a former US Senate sergeant at arms who rarely makes political comments, emailed CNN to say, “It is not just woman who should shun Trump. Any gentleman, every husband, each father of a daughter, bother of a sister and sons must be outraged.
“How do I explain this to my granddaughters? If only a Republican leader would stand and exhibit a profile in courage.”
Reactions from GOP staffers and advisers to Trump ranged from astonished to apoplectic.
A close adviser to Trump told CNN the story is “flat out appalling” and at this point, they can’t even b