While dozens of Republican officeholders are calling on Donald Trump to step down as their party’s presidential nominee, several key national leaders are, as of Sunday morning, holding their fire.
Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have criticized and condemned the lewd and offensive statements that Trump was recorded saying to Access Hollywood in 2005, as has Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.
So far, none of the three leaders have weighed in on whether or not Trump should remain on the party’s ticket and Republican national leaders were absent from the circuit of political talk shows Sunday morning.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close Trump ally who huddled with the candidate at Trump Tower over the weekend, was the nominee’s lone surrogate on national shows like Meet The Press and This Week.
But while Giuliani has aggressively gone on offense in recent surrogate appearances, on Sunday he largely conceded the serious nature of Trump’s statements during his latest round of interviews.
Trump is “very embarrassed and contrite about it, and feels like it’s the wrong thing to do,” Giuliani told ABC News’ This Week.
When moderator George Stephanopoulos pressed Guiliani that what Trump was describing in the video – kissing women and grabbing their genitals without their consent – was sexual assault, Giuliani conceded the point.
“That’s what he’s talking about,” Giuliani said. “You know, whether it happened or not I don’t know. How much exaggeration was involved in that, I don’t know. I do know there’s a tendency on the part of some men at different times to exaggerate things like this.”
Giuliani offered a similar defense – that Trump was merely exaggerating – to NBC News, when Meet The Press moderator Chuck Todd asked about statements Trump made to radio host Howard Stern, about going back stage at the beauty pageants he owned in order to see the contestants when they were naked.
“On that show, a lot of things are said that aren’t true,” Giuliani said.
Republican legal experts say it’s too late for the party to replace Trump with another nominee. Early voting is underway in many states, and more than 400,000 ballots have already been cast.
Still, more than 30 Republican lawmakers and officials are calling on Trump to step aside. Giuliani said that’s not going to happen.
“He’s showing up” at Sunday night’s debate, Giuliani told This Week. “He’s prepared as he’s ever been and he’s all ready for the debate.”
In fact, Donald Trump signaled Saturday one line of attack he’s likely to pursue. He tweeted about Juanita Broaddrick, a woman who has accused former President Bill Clinton of raping her in the 1970s.
Giuliani confirmed to Meet The Press that Trump may use the debate’s national platform to bring up that and other scandals from Bill and Hillary Clinton’s past. “The things she has said and that have been reported in various books and magazines and other places about the women that Bill Clinton raped, sexually abused, and attacked. Not Bill Clinton’s role, but her role as the attacker.”