U.S. Republican Donald Trump’s presidential campaign appealed to Capitol Hill for support on Monday as his attacks on the Muslim parents of a decorated American soldier killed in Iraq drew sharp rebukes from fellow party members.
Trump’s criticism of Khizr Khan and Ghazala Khan, who took the stage at last week’s Democratic convention, sparked growing concern and dismay from Republican lawmakers responding to the latest Trump outburst to blindside his party colleagues.
Republican Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war and the most prominent veteran in Congress, along with the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, joined the chorus of condemnation, reflecting the highly regarded place the military and its veterans hold with many in the United States.
Trump’s dispute with the Khans has dominated the White House campaign in recent days and underlined the uneasy alliance between many leading Republicans and the party’s freewheeling, unorthodox nominee for the Nov. 8 election.
Rob Wasinger, a onetime congressional candidate who has been working for the Trump camp on congressional outreach, sent an email to senior Senate aides saying, “We want to get several member statements out today on this, and would really appreciate your help.”
A similar appeal was made to Republicans in the House of Representatives, according to a senior aide.
Attached to the appeal were talking points lawmakers could use to try to tamp down the controversy growing since last week’s appearance at the Democratic convention by the Khans, the parents of U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed by a bomb in Iraq 12 years ago.
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, said that the campaign was grateful to have support in Congress and that Republicans are working to keep Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency. Wasinger refused to comment when contacted by telephone.
The appeal did not generate any help for Trump. A senior Senate Republican aide, who asked not to be identified, said Republican senators were pleased with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement on Sunday calling Captain Khan “an American hero” and noting “a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values.”
At the same time, the aide said the controversy would probably not cause Republican senators to withdraw their endorsements of Trump.
In a convention speech delivered with his wife at his side, Khizr Khan showcased his son’s military service and criticized Trump’s call for a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the United States, holding up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and suggesting Trump read it.
Since then, Trump has complained he was “viciously” attacked by the couple and suggested Ghazala Khan might not have been “allowed” to speak, implying her silence reflected restrictions placed on women by some traditional Muslims.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and current chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a lengthy statement sharply criticizing Trump’s comments.