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Clinton targets Trump on race

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWatchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US Republicans cancel airtime in swing Vegas district The Democratic Donald Trump is coming MORE will tie Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US MORE to far-right groups embraced by white supremacists in a speech on Thursday about the “alt-right” movement.

The speech comes at the end of a tense summer for race relations in the United States, where a series of shootings involving police and black men have left communities on edge.

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Those tensions have been swept into an election season in which Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, has offended some minority groups and struggled to attract black and Hispanic voters.

Those struggles have contributed to the Democrat's lead in national and battleground state polls and provoked a shift in strategy from the Trump campaign.

Trump has begun reaching out to black voters in recent weeks, arguing that they have not been well-served by Democratic officeholders. He has also suggested changes to his hard-line immigration proposals that could help him reach out to Hispanic voters.

Clinton’s speech in Reno, Nev., is expected to tie Trump to racial extremists within the GOP by highlighting his elevation of former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon to CEO of his campaign.

Bannon and Breitbart are viewed as leaders of the alt-right, which breaks with traditional Republican politics on several points, including its opposition to international trade deals as well as its embrace of anti-immigration positions and its fierce nationalism.

Bannon and other prominent alt-right advocates have downplayed enthusiasm for their cause from white nationalists, calling them uninvited extremists who have glommed on to the movement.

But Democratic lawmakers have picked up on the line of attack, with top members of the Congressional Black Caucus this week citing Trump’s ties to Bannon as evidence the GOP nominee is a racist who is explicitly courting white supremacists.

“He’s trying to appeal to David Duke and the racists of the world,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said on a conference call convened by the Clinton campaign. “He’s trying to appeal to the worst of the white supremacists and others he’s been catering to in the campaign to try and help them with turnout.”

Clinton is unlikely to use such strong language in her remarks in Nevada. But by bringing the term “alt-right” into the mainstream and linking Trump to it, she hopes to run up the score with minority voters and maintain her support among suburban whites.

Clinton campaign manager John Podesta in an email to The Hill criticized what he said was Trump's "newly installed brain trust" of Bannon, former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and longtime Trump associate Roger Stone.

"We intend to call out this 'alt-right' shift and the divisive and dystopian vision of America they put forth because it tells voters everything they need to know about Donald Trump himself," Podesta wrote in the email. 

Clinton has long been working to win over Republican voters who are uncomfortable with Trump. Tying Trump to the alt-right could be an effective way of doing that, considering some of Breitbart’s past targets have included popular GOP leaders.

"Republicans up and down the ticket are going to have to choose whether they want to be complicit in this lurch toward extremism or stand with the voters who can’t stomach it," Podesta wrote. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThe Memo: Saudi storm darkens for Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns MORE (R-Wis.) faced a Breitbart-backed primary challenge earlier this month. At the time, Ryan condemned the alt-right as a “nasty and virulent strain of something” that “isn’t what [conservatives] believe in.”

Tony Fratto, a Trump critic who served as deputy White House press secretary under former President George W. Bush, associates the alt-right with “white supremacists and borderline neo-Nazi groups.” 

He said the GOP must cut ties with the movement immediately.

“It’s morally wrong to embrace this group,” Fratto said. “Donald Trump is doing permanent damage to the Republican Party, and it’s troubling that officials in the party aren’t doing enough to rein him in.”

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee (RNC), and representatives at Breitbart News did not respond to emailed questions or requests for comment.

Prominent members of the alt-right say the attacks from mainstream Republicans are expected because the movement has run up against the GOP establishment at every turn.

In an interview with liberal magazine Mother Jones last month, Bannon disputed the notion that there is a racial element to the alt-right’s brand of nationalism, instead arguing that it is pushing for a “nation-state” identity that preserves American culture.

And Milo Yiannopoulos, a Breitbart editor who has been one of the movement’s most vocal supporters, says the alt-right was forced to break with the GOP because of the party’s obsession with tax cuts, free trade, deregulation, and its kowtowing to powerful conservative business leaders and donors.

Yiannopoulos argues that sliming the alt-right as racist is straight from the Democratic playbook, and he accuses party leaders of supporting liberal policies including “open borders,” and a commitment to multiculturalism and globalism at the cost of safety.

Trump has adopted some of those arguments.

“Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” Trump said at a rally Tuesday night in Austin, Texas.
 
Yiannopoulos insists that the alt-right is where the conservative grassroots energy is and that the movement is inclusive.

“Aside from a tiny constituency, the alt-right aren’t white supremacists,” Yiannopoulos writes. “They would be better labeled as American supremacists, and count blacks, Asians, and yes even Hispanics among them.”

But the alt-right isn’t getting any help in making that case from the white supremacists who have embraced it.

“I believe the values of the alt-right, my values, your values, are winning right now in the Republican Party,” former KKK leader David Duke said Tuesday on his radio show. ”But we’ve got to carry it forward. We’ve got to get Donald Trump elected.”

Trump came under fire earlier in the election cycle for initially refusing to disavow Duke’s endorsement.

The alt-right has also attracted criticism for its aggressive online tactics. Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter after inciting a wave of harsh and racially themed attacks against “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones, who is black.

Others, like Andrew Weinstein, a former spokesman for then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) who is spearheading an effort to convince the RNC to abandon Trump, have reported being the subject of racist online attacks.

Weinstein shared with The Hill anti-Semitic and threatening tweets and voicemails he has reported to the FBI.

“I strongly believe that Trump has not taken sufficient steps to repudiate the hate groups that speak in his name, and — in fact — has explicitly refused the opportunity to tell them to stop their hateful actions, thus tacitly encouraged greater threats and the potential for violence,” Weinstein said in an email.

It’s that sentiment that Clinton and Democrats want to expand upon as they seek to solidify her lead in the polls and guard against a Trump comeback.

The Democratic National Committee released a video this week tying Trump to a slew of controversial headlines run at Breitbart, calling it further evidence that Trump is “doubling down on the bigoted, divisive rhetoric that has defined his candidacy.”

Among the headlines they highlighted was an attack on Weekly Standard editor and Never Trump Republican Bill Kristol — “Republican spoiler, renegade Jew.” A post by Yiannopoulos, who is gay, was titled “Dear straight people: I’m officially giving you permission to say gay, faggot and queer.”

Republicans say it will be difficult for Trump to deflect attacks that he has hitched himself to a racist movement because of the myriad racially charged controversies that have bedeviled his campaign from the start.

“He’s made it very easy for them to call him a racist,” said Ryan Williams, a former spokesman for 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. “Trump has shown an absolute indifference to the tone in which he describes racial issues and appears either completely unaware or totally ambivalent to how this is being perceived. That perception is going to be hard to change.”