PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — What began with an unfounded allegation that Hillary Clinton was on drugs during their last debate ended with Donald Trump rolling out a new policy on drugs and criminal justice reform — his latest attempt to shift the campaign's focus with less than a month before Election Day.
Standing in the sun in the back lot of a Toyota car dealership here, Donald Trump suggested Clinton was on drugs during the last debate in St. Louis and proposed that, like athletes, the candidates should take a drug test before they face off for the third and final time Wednesday in Las Vegas.
“Why don’t we do that?” Trump asked, saying Clinton was likely "getting pumped up" as she prepared for the debate with days off the campaign trail.
"We should take a drug test prior cause I don’t know what’s going on with her," he said. "But at the beginning of last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning and at the end it was like, oh take me down. She could barely reach her car.”
Trump, for his part, said he is "willing to do it."
His surprising claims mimicked a pro-Trump super PAC Make America Number 1 ad from last week that proposed a drug test for candidates, interspersed with sound of Clinton’s coughs and imagery of her stumbling to her van on 9/11.
The group is bankrolled by Trump backer Robert Mercer, who donated $2 million to the PAC in July.
The unprecedented accusation that his opponent could have been doping before debates turned into a conversation Saturday about drugs and sentencing reform in a state with a raging heroin epidemic that Trump has taken note of before but never delved into deeply.
In fact, prior to Saturday’s remarks, Trump had never gone further than to say that New Hampshire’s idyllic terrain and landscape make it look too beautiful to be the home of a drug epidemic — nor had he ever outlined any plans for criminal justice reform.
Fewer than 25 days out from Election Day — and with no warning that a new policy was coming — Trump dove head first into the conversation.
His drug plan, outlined for the first time Saturday afternoon, promised to stop drugs from coming into the United States by implementing his immigration plan, including a southern border wall, and closing shipping loopholes. He also said he would press the Food and Drug Administration to approve abuse-deterring drugs more quickly, complaining that they were “too slow” to approve these medications.
Trump would also seek to reduce the number of prescribed opioids, like oxycodone, methadone, and fentanyl, in the United States.
“We have 5 percent of the world’s population but use 80 percent of the prescription opioids,” Trump said in a line that pricked the ears of reporters who once followed former GOP rival Jeb Bush and heard him give a similar message in the Granite State during his short-lived candidacy.
The Republican nominee also mentioned sentencing reform for the first time on the trail, giving kudos to his running mate Mike Pence for increasing mandatory minimums for drug offenders as governor of Indiana.
"We must make similar efforts a priority for the nation," Trump said.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has taken steps over the past eight years to reform minimum sentencing of nonviolent drug offenders, seeking to curb the number people incarcerated for nonviolent drug crimes, which disproportionately impacts men of color in the United States.
Obama himself has cut prison times for over 500 federal inmates for nonviolent drug offenses, which Trump incorrectly referred to on Saturday as instances of violent drug trafficking.
Trump at a later rally Saturday in Bangor, Maine, didn't dwell on his drug policy for long, but said he would fix the crisis plaguing New England and elsewhere.
His rallies weren't devoid of the assault allegations that have weighed him down in recent day.
He continued his attempts to discredit his accusers and provide supposed evidence to clear his name, pointing to the cousin of a former "Apprentice" contestant, Summer Zervos. The cousin wrote a letter distributed by Trump’s campaign discrediting the woman’s claims that Trump groped her over dinner.
Trump paraphrased the letter Saturday as an attestation that “what she said is a lie, that she was a huge fan of Donald Trump, that she invited Donald Trump to her restaurant to have dinner — which by the way, I didn’t go to … but these allegations have been, so many of them, already proven false.”
Trump’s campaign had also provided an apparent witness interview to the New York Post regarding a claim by Jessica Leeds that Trump groped her on an airplane.
Of Leeds, who Trump one day earlier disparaged on the basis of her looks, the GOP nominee called her “crazy” and suggested that no woman would allow themselves to be touched for 15 minutes on a plane.
“How about this: after 15 minutes, we don’t know each other, after 15 minutes she said well that was too much and I decided — 15 minutes! With the ladies in this place, it would be one second, then it would be smack,” Trump said, making a slapping motion with his hand.
“It’s a crazy world we live in,” he said.