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Republican Handel Beats Democrat Ossoff In Georgia 6th Special Election

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. (Reuters) – Republican Karen Handel won a hotly contested Georgia congressional race on Tuesday, CNN reported, fending off a Democratic challenge in a race that was widely seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump.

With more than 65 percent of the votes counted, CNN predicted that Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, would defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff, a political newcomer who sought to wrest control of a suburban Atlanta district that has elected Republicans to Congress since the 1970s.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: Karen Handel, Republican candidate for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, leaves after speaking to supporters during a brief appearance at her election night party at the Hyatt Regency at Villa Christina in Atlanta, June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Bita Honarvar

Purple Georgia 6th: Ossoff Scores Big Win But Faces June Runoff

 

DUNWOODY, Ga. (Reuters) – A novice Democratic candidate weathered attacks from President Donald Trump and finished well ahead of his Republican rivals in a much-watched Georgia congressional race on Tuesday, but appeared to fall short of the majority he needed to win outright.

Democrat Jon Ossoff ended up as the top vote getter in a crowded field of 18 candidates vying to fill a vacant seat in the House of Representatives. But with 185 of 210 precincts reporting, he held 48.3 percent of the vote – just shy of the 50 percent he needed to become the first Democrat to represent Atlanta’s affluent northern suburbs since the 1970s.

That would tee up a June 20 runoff with Republican Karen Handel, who was headed to a second-place finish with 19.5 percent of the vote.

With few other events on the political calendar, the race was seen as a bellwether of the national mood during Trump’s turbulent first few months in office. Republicans have controlled the seat for decades, but Trump only won it by 1 percentage point in last November’s presidential election.

“This is already a victory for the ages. We have defied the odds, we have shattered expectations,” Ossoff told a cheering crowd of supporters.

The winner replaces Republican Tom Price, who stepped down to serve as Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Democrats, searching for answers at a time when they are shut out of power in Washington, found a unifying figure in Ossoff, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker who campaigned on a promise to “Make Trump Furious.” He raised more than $8 million in the first three months of the year, much of it from out of state, and drew volunteers from across the country.

Ossoff benefited from a fractured Republican field of 11 candidates, some of whom emphasized their loyalty to Trump while others kept their distance. Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, did not mention Trump during a 10-minute speech on Tuesday night, according to local media.

National Republican groups spent millions of dollars painting Ossoff as a neophyte who does not live in the area he aims to represent. Trump himself targeted Ossoff with robocalls and a barrage of Twitter messages.

“BIG ‘R’ win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!” he wrote late on Tuesday.

Ossoff grew up in the district and says he will move back if he wins.

An Ossoff win would not tip the balance of power in Washington, where Republicans control the White House and both chambers of Congress. But it could weaken the already shaky hold Trump has on his fellow Republicans by encouraging lawmakers to distance themselves from him.

Trump’s approval rating has not topped 50 percent since he took office on Jan. 20, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

The party avoided embarrassment last week when it narrowly held a conservative Kansas seat vacated when Trump tapped Republican Representative Mike Pompeo to head the Central Intelligence Agency.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Peter Cooney and Stephen Coates)

IMAGE: Supporters of Sixth District Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff cheer at Election Night party in Sandy Springs, Georgia, April 18, 2017.  REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

Billionaire Wilbur Ross, Trump’s Commerce Pick, Has Offshored 2,700 Jobs Since 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Billionaire Wilbur Ross, chosen by Donald Trump to help implement the president-elect’s trade agenda, earned his fortune in part by running businesses that have offshored thousands of U.S. jobs, according to Labor Department data attained by Reuters.

As a high-stakes investor a decade ago, Ross specialized in turning around troubled manufacturing companies at a time when the U.S. economy was losing more than 100,000 jobs yearly due to global trade. A Senate confirmation hearing on his nomination to become commerce secretary is set for Wednesday.

Supporters say Ross saved thousands of U.S. jobs by rescuing firms from failure. Data attained by Reuters through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that rescue effort came at a price: textile, finance and auto-parts companies controlled by the private-equity titan eliminated about 2,700 U.S. positions since 2004 because they shipped production to other countries, according to a Labor Department program that assists workers who lose their jobs due to global trade.

The figures, which have not previously been disclosed, amount to a small fraction of the U.S. economy, which sees employment fluctuate by the tens of thousands of jobs each month. But Ross’s track record clashes with Trump’s promise to protect American workers from the ravages of global trade.

Recently, Trump claimed credit for saving 800 jobs at a Carrier Corp. factory in Indiana, even touring the plant to shake hands with employees. He has targeted Ford Motor Co and other automakers to keep hundreds of jobs inside the U.S. borders.

That disconnect could draw attention at his hearing, one of many scheduled this week for Cabinet nominees ahead of Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

“He is not the man to be protecting American workers when he’s shipping this stuff overseas himself,” said Don Coy, who lost his job at the end of 2016 when a company Ross created – International Automotive Components Group – closed a factory in Canton, Ohio and shifted production of rubber floor mats to Mexico, eliminating the final 16 jobs in a factory that once employed 450 workers.

Ross resigned from the IAC board of directors in November 2014 and was named chairman emeritus.

Ross did not respond to several requests for comment. His offshoring activities are not unusual in an era when globalization has lowered international trade barriers. Auto-parts maker Delphi Corp., for example, has offshored 11,700 U.S. jobs since 2004, while textile makers have offshored at least 17,000 jobs since then, the Labor Department said.

As IAC shuttered its Canton plant in the final months of 2016, Ross argued on behalf of Trump that free-trade agreements hurt the United States.

“When Ford offshores new production facilities to Mexico, that both boosts the Mexican economy and reduces investment in this country,” he wrote in September in a Washington Post opinion piece penned with Peter Navarro, another Trump economic adviser who has been tapped to direct a White House trade council.

In a bid to reverse offshoring, Trump has threatened to impose “a big border tax” on automakers that choose to build cars in Mexico rather than the United States and has talked of resetting free-trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

A Trump transition spokesperson said personnel decisions at Ross’s auto-parts and textile companies were driven by the need to put operations near customers and keep U.S. plants competitive, echoing arguments made by other auto industry executives who face pressure from Trump.

“Few people have done as much to defend American jobs and negotiate good deals for American workers as Wilbur Ross,” said the spokesperson, who asked not to be named.

The offshoring figures for Ross’s companies came from the Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which provides retraining benefits to some workers who lose their jobs due to outsourcing or cheap imports. The program does not cover everybody who is hurt by global trade: service-sector workers were not eligible until 2009, and those who don’t apply for the program don’t show up in its records.

Only 1.6 million factory workers qualified for TAA benefits between 2001 and 2010, a time when the United States shed 6 million manufacturing jobs.

Despite Trump’s campaign rhetoric about countries like Mexico and China taking U.S. jobs, the TAA figures show globalization has claimed fewer jobs in recent years. The program covered roughly 80,000 workers last year, down from about 340,000 in 2009.

CUTTING JOBS TO SAVE OTHERS

Ross amassed a fortune, estimated by Forbes magazine at $2.5 billion, by buying up companies in struggling industries and returning them to profitability. Labor leaders such as United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard have said that Ross over the years saved thousands of manufacturing jobs.

In one case, Ross bought two struggling North Carolina fabric makers out of bankruptcy to create International Textile Group (ITG) in 2004, as textile import quotas were being phased out. Between 2005 and 2011, the company laid off 1,268 U.S. workers as it set up operations in Mexico, China and Nicaragua, TAA records show. ITG CEO Ken Kunenberger told Reuters that those job reductions were primarily due to competition from cheap imports.

ITG now operates six U.S. plants, down from nine in 2007, according to its annual reports. Ross sold the company in October for an undisclosed sum.

Ross also created International Automotive Components Group in 2007 to buy up auto-parts makers around the world as the industry struggled with overcapacity and slowing sales. TAA filings show IAC eliminated 853 U.S. jobs because it shifted work from the United States to Mexico.

“We tried every trick in the book to get them to stay but they just weren’t interested,” said Tim Scott, who served on the city council in Carlisle, Pennsylvania when IAC decided to close its plant there in 2009, shifting work to Mexico and Tennessee.

An IAC spokesperson said the company has expanded in Mexico to be near the automakers that buy its parts, a common business strategy in the sector.

IAC has expanded its workforce in Mexico and Canada by 42 percent to 8,500 since 2008, and by 10 percent in the United States to 11,000 over the same period, spokesman David Ladd said.

In another venture, Ross combined several mortgage lenders into Homeward Residential Holdings Inc. in 2007, just as the housing market was collapsing.

Homeward laid off 596 employees in Florida and Texas and shifted their work to India in 2012, according to TAA filings. That was a sizeable portion of the company’s global workforce, which it pegged at 2,800 a few months after the layoffs were announced.

Ross sold Homeward in October 2012 for $750 million, which delivered a further return on top of $900 million in profits the company had already generated.

“Homeward has been profitable in each year of its existence,” he said in a press release.

(Additional reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Edward Tobin)

IMAGE: U.S. President-elect Donald Trump looks on as Wilbur Ross departs after their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., November 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Mike Segar

House GOP Votes To Gut Independent Ethics Panel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives agreed on Monday to weaken a nonpartisan ethics watchdog on the grounds it had grown too intrusive, prompting Democrats to charge they were scaling back independent oversight ahead of a new legislative session.

As they returned to Washington following a holiday break, House Republicans voted in a closed-door meeting to place the Office of Congressional Ethics under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee, giving lawmakers greater control over an independent body charged with investigating their behavior.

The measure was added to a broader rules package that is expected to pass when the House formally convenes on Tuesday.

The ethics office was created in 2008 following several corruption scandals, but some lawmakers have charged in recent years that it has been too quick to investigate complaints lodged by outside partisan groups.

The body will now have to deliver its reports to lawmakers, rather than releasing them directly to the public, according to a summary released by Republican Representative Bob Goodlatte. It will be renamed the Office of Congressional Complaint Review.

“The OCE has a serious and important role in the House, and this amendment does nothing to impede their work,” said Goodlatte, who sponsored the measure.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who created the ethics office while House speaker following complaints that lawmakers were unable to effectively police themselves, said Republicans were eliminating the only independent body charged with monitoring their actions.

“Evidently, ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress,” Pelosi said in a statement.

The move comes as Republicans who control both chambers of Congress are poised to repeal major portions of President Barack Obama’s health and environmental regulations and enact a conservative agenda once Republican President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Jan. 20.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

IMAGE: A U.S. flag on a vehicle flutters as the sun sets behind the U.S. Capitol dome in the hours before President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington January 12, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  

Kellyanne Conway Publicly Trashes Mitt Romney On ‘Meet The Press’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An internal dispute among Donald Trump’s advisers broke out into the open on Sunday when his campaign manager warned that the president-elect could face an intense backlash from supporters if he chose Mitt Romney to be his secretary of state.

Trump has been weighing whether to pick Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee who spent much of the past year criticizing Trump, or former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who backed the real-estate mogul’s insurgent presidential run.

Giuliani would fit with the other loyalists and conservative hardliners that Trump has picked to fill out his administration so far, but he has drawn criticism for working as a consultant to foreign governments.

Trump could help unite his party and win over skeptical establishment Republicans if he chooses Romney for the post.

Though the debate has largely played out behind closed doors, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway warned that Trump could anger his supporters if he picked Romney, who called him a “fraud” and a “phony” in speeches this year.

“They feel betrayed to think that you can get Romney back in there after everything he did – we don’t even know if he voted for Donald Trump. He and his consultants were nothing but awful to Donald Trump for a year,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“I am all for party unity but I am not sure that we have to pay for that with the Secretary of State position,” Conway said on CNN.

Conway said she would support Trump if he decided to pick Romney for the position, but other Republicans criticized her for making her case on television, rather than talking to Trump directly.

“Astounding to hear K. Conway, who has the ability to tell Trump privately, trash possibility of Romney as Sec of State publicly,” Republican strategist Ana Navarro wrote on Twitter.

(Addtional reporting by David Chance; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

IMAGE: Campaign Manager Kellyanne Conway (L) and Paul Manafort, staff of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, speak during a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

U.S. Appeals Court Removes New Voter-Intimidation Rules In Ohio

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump won a legal battle on Sunday when a U.S. appeals court in Ohio removed new restrictions on partisan poll watchers that Democrats had sought to prevent Election Day voter intimidation.

The rules overturned by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals would have imposed greater penalties on people who harass voters during Tuesday’s election.

Voter intimidation already is prohibited under U.S. law but Democrats have pushed for greater restrictions in Ohio and five other battleground states, citing concerns that Trump’s heated rhetoric might inspire Election Day chaos.

On the campaign trail, Trump has warned the election may be rigged and has called on supporters to keep an eye on voting activity for possible signs of fraud in large cities. Numerous studies have found that U.S. voter fraud is exceedingly rare.

On Friday U.S. District Court Judge James Gwin imposed new restrictions on those who monitor voting activity, saying they may not interrogate voters within 100 feet of a polling place, block them from entering, or photograph them as they come and go. Those found to violate the rules could be held in contempt of court.

The Trump campaign had argued that those restrictions were not justified, given that there had been no reported instances of voter harassment in the state so far.

“In the end, plaintiff’s case rested on rhetoric, not evidence,” Trump attorney Chad Readler wrote in a court filing on Saturday.

The appeals court sided with Trump, lifting the new rules two days before Election Day. The ruling came before Democrats had a chance to respond to Readler’s motion and the party said it may appeal.

“We are stunned that a court would rule without even allowing one of the parties to file a memo explaining their case, but that is exactly what the Sixth Circuit has done in this decision. We are exploring our options to reverse this unfortunate ruling,” Ohio Democratic Party spokeswoman Kirstin Alvanitakis said.

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Bill Trott)

IMAGE: Voters wait in line to cast their ballots during early voting at the Franklin County Board of Elections in Columbus, in Columbus, Ohio U.S., October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

U.S. Court Denies Republican Poll Monitor Request In Pennsylvania

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In a blow to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, a U.S. judge on Thursday upheld a Pennsylvania state law that could make it difficult for his supporters to monitor Election Day activity in Democratic-leaning areas.

Trump has repeatedly said that the Nov. 8 presidential election may be rigged, and has urged supporters to keep an eye out for signs of voting fraud in Philadelphia and other heavily Democratic areas.

Democrats worry that could encourage Trump supporters to harass Hispanics, African-Americans and other minority voters in a state that could determine whether Trump or his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, wins the presidency.

Trump faces a significant hurdle in Pennsylvania because state law requires partisan poll watchers to perform their duties in the county in which they are registered to vote.

That could make it difficult to recruit monitors in places like Philadelphia, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of eight to one. The city has 120,000 registered Republicans and 1,685 voting locations.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party sought to suspend that requirement so that poll monitors could come from anywhere in the state, which would enable them to bring in supporters from suburban and rural areas where Trump has stronger support.

But U.S. District Judge Gerald Pappert denied the request, writing that it would be too disruptive to change the law less than a week before Tuesday’s vote.

“Were the Court to enter the requested injunction, poll watchers would be allowed to roam the Commonwealth on election day for the first time in the Election Code’s seventy-nine year history – giving the Commonwealth and county election officials all of five days’ notice to prepare for the change,” he wrote.

The Republican Party of Pennsylvania did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

IMAGE: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters through a bullhorn during a campaign stop at the Canfield County Fair in Canfield, Ohio, U.S., September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Democrats Sue Trump For Alleged Voter Intimidation In Four States

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic Party officials sued Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in four battleground states on Monday, seeking to shut down a poll-watching effort that they said was designed to harass minority voters in the Nov. 8 election.

In lawsuits filed in federal courts in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona and Ohio, Democrats argued that Trump and Republican Party officials were mounting a “campaign of vigilante voter intimidation” that violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act and an 1871 law aimed at the Ku Klux Klan.

“Trump has sought to advance his campaign’s goal of ‘voter suppression’ by using the loudest microphone in the nation to implore his supporters to engage in unlawful intimidation,” the Ohio Democratic Party wrote in a legal filing. Similar language was used in the other lawsuits.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Campaigning in Ohio, Clinton said Trump was hoping to discourage people from participating in the election.

“His whole strategy is to suppress the vote. Lots of noise. Lots of distractions,” Clinton said in Cleveland.

Since August, Trump has urged his supporters to monitor polling locations on Election Day for signs of possible voting fraud, often urging them to keep a close eye on cities like Philadelphia and St. Louis that have high minority populations.

In a separate lawsuit, Democrats are seeking to stop the national Republican Party from working with the Trump campaign on poll monitoring, arguing that a long-standing court order prevents the party from engaging in so-called “ballot security” measures.

Many states allow campaigns and political parties to monitor balloting, though they often face restrictions. In Pennsylvania, for example, poll watchers must be formally certified by the local election board and must be registered voters in the county where they are working. The state Republican party has sued to remove these restrictions.

With early voting under way, civil rights groups have said they have heard isolated reports of self-described poll monitors photographing voters and engaging in other intimidating behavior.

Democrats also sued Republican operative Roger Stone, a longtime Trump ally who is organizing an exit-polling effort. Democrats said the true purpose of the project, called Stop the Steal, was to intimidate minority and urban voters.

Stone told Reuters that his project was designed to ensure that electronic voting machines were working properly.

On Stop the Steal’s website, Stone says Clinton’s Democrats “intend to flood the polls with illegals. Liberal enclaves already let illegals vote in their local and state elections and now they want them to vote in the Presidential election.”

Stone said the 1,400 people across the United States who have volunteered for the project have been instructed to use neutral language and only approach people after they have voted.

“Since we are only talking to voters after they have voted, how can we be intimidating them?” Stone said.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Cleveland; Editing by Leslie Adler)

IMAGE: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada June 18, 2016. REUTERS/David Becker/Files

U.S. Civil Rights Groups Prepare To Fight Voter Intimidation

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump supporters who plan to stake out polling sites on Election Day may find their own activities tracked closely by thousands of civil-rights activists who are mounting a nationwide effort to prevent problems at the polls.

The Republican presidential candidate, who has repeatedly said that the election is rigged, has urged his backers to monitor voting sites for evidence of fraud, raising concerns that overzealous supporters could intimidate voters in the Nov. 8 election.

They will not be the only ones out in force on Election Day. Civil rights groups say they plan to deploy thousands of volunteers on the ground in 27 states to ensure that voters will not be turned away by harassment, long lines or confusing rules. Teams of lawyers will file legal challenges if necessary.

While previous elections have been marred by irregularities, Trump’s rhetoric might lead to greater problems at the polls this year, activists say.

“When Trump says, ‘Go and watch certain areas of Philadelphia,’ that’s either intentionally reckless or it’s a thinly veiled call to engage in racial profiling,” said Dale Ho, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s voting rights project. “Whether people will heed it, I don’t know.”

Non-partisan groups have mounted “election protection” programs since the disputed Bush-Gore presidential election of 2000, but they faced a more daunting landscape this year even before Trump began warning of a “rigged election.”

The Supreme Court in 2013 weakened the U.S. government’s ability to monitor voting activity in states with a history of racial discrimination, and dozens of Republican-led states have also passed laws that require voters to present photo identification or that restrict voting in other ways.

As early voting gets underway in many states, voting-rights groups are publicizing a national hotline, 866-OUR-VOTE, and establishing lines of communication with the election officials who are tasked with resolving problems.

“We haven’t encountered a situation yet where we feel there’s a need to call the police,” said Marcia Johnson-Blanco, a co-director of the voting rights project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

This year, civil-rights groups are broadening their efforts beyond perpetual battlegrounds like Ohio and Florida to conservative states like Texas, where they plan to field 200 volunteers to monitor polling sites in Houston’s Harris County.

“We’ve seen an uptick of folks saying they’re going to be out patrolling in a way that we think is trying to be intimidating,” said Zenen Jaimes Perez, communications director for the Texas Civil Rights Project.

In New York, volunteers with Common Cause are expanding their monitoring programs to Muslim neighborhoods in New York City and some areas of the rural Hudson Valley.

“What Trump’s efforts have caused us here in New York to think about are places where there are concentrations of voters who, I hate to say, are easy targets – a magnet for people who are extreme,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York.

Democratic officials have stepped up their efforts as well. In Arizona, a traditionally Republican state that is competitive this year, Democrats plans to deploy a record 200 lawyers to make sure that everybody who is in line when polls close at 7 p.m. will get a chance to cast a ballot, said Spencer Scharff, the state party’s voter protection director.

But at the end of the day, poll monitors do not have the power to fix problems – they can only point them out to election officials.

“States have the most important role. They’re the ones who write these laws and they have to enforce these laws,” said Danielle Davis, a staff attorney at the Advancement Project, a national civil-rights group.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Photo: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives on his plane for a campaign rally in Grand Junction, Colorado, U.S. October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Trump Refuses To Condemn Violence At His U.S. Presidential Rallies

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that “professional agitators” bore much of the blame for violence at his rallies as video showed a protester being beaten and another apparently being grabbed by Trump’s campaign manager.

Speaking on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Trump defended campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and declined to condemn supporters who have attacked protesters at his increasingly chaotic rallies.

Nor did he back down from his warning that there would be riots in the streets if the Republican Party denied him the nomination for the November election, despite his being the most popular candidate among Republican voters.

Senior figures in the party are openly plotting to prevent Trump from becoming the nominee because they view him as insufficiently conservative, and Trump was due to privately meet with some party leaders in Washington on Monday, the Washington Post reported.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I will say this, you’re going to have a lot of unhappy people,” he said on “This Week,” predicting anger at the party’s national convention in July should someone else end up the nominee. “I don’t want to see riots, I don’t want to see problems. But you’re talking about millions of people.”

Scenes of mayhem have become increasingly common at the billionaire New York businessman’s rallies, which have been frequently interrupted by protesters, many of them Democrats, who say Trump’s controversial remarks on immigrants and Muslims are dangerous. The 69-year-old candidate has sometimes encouraged his supporters using violence on protesters, and on at least one occasion said that he would like to punch a protester himself.

Television footage from an Arizona rally on Saturday showed a man punching and kicking a protester as he was led out of the event. Another video appeared to show Lewandowski grabbing a protester by the back of his shirt.

Trump declined to condemn the violence and said it was often provoked by protesters, who briefly blocked a highway leading to an Arizona rally on Saturday.

“These people are very disruptive people. They’re not innocent lambs,” he said.

He also defended Lewandowski and said a security official had actually grabbed the protester. Lewandowski also manhandled a reporter last week, according to the Washington Post.

“I give him credit for having spirit,” Trump said of Lewandowski.

Republican leaders have said Trump needs to more clearly discourage his supporters from engaging in violence.

About two dozen senior Republican figures will meet with Trump at a law firm near the Capitol on Monday afternoon in what the Trump campaign described as an effort to improve “party unity”, the Washington Post reported. The newspaper did not say who would be attending.

Candidates were also required to submit their most recently monthly financial disclosures to the Federal Election Commission on Sunday.

Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic Party’s nomination, raised $30.1 million in February, according to filings, about $12 million less than that raised by chief rival, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the same period.

Clinton began March with $31 million in cash on hand, according to filings.

 

(Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal, Ginger Gibson and Susan Cornwell in Washington, and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Louise Ireland and Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: A member of the audience (R) throws a punch at a protester as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event in Tucson, Arizona March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich