COLUMBUS, Ohio — Donald Trump on Monday said he’s “afraid” the November election “is about to be rigged,” stoking mistrust of the system that he has fostered among his supporters.
The GOP nominee consistently complained of a system “rigged” against him as an “outsider" during the primaries. Now, with less than 100 days until the general election, Trump is again expressing doubts about the legitimacy of the process.
"I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged. I have to be honest," Trump said.
Trump’s rally Monday was his first public event since his controversial back and forth with Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Kahn, who spoke out against his candidacy at the Democratic convention last week and he made no mention of the family during Monday's event.
He did, however, call for the press corps to meet him in the hall of the event venue ahead of his appearance where he criticized the location’s fire marshal for not allowing any more people into the event hall.
When he was done claiming politics as the motivation, Trump ignored questions about Khan as he walked on stage -- where he led off by continuing his tirade against the fire marshal. "I have to tell you that the fire marshal, they turned away thousands of people," Trump said, claiming they were given "orders of no more than a thousand people." As Trump spoke, almost all of the chairs laid out by the campaign around the stage were full.
After the rally, the Columbus Fire Department told NBC in a statement that attendance was limited to about 1,000 people “due to construction in the building” that rendered “many of the exits” unusable.
Trump's earlier comments about Russia also continued to dog him. The Republican standard bearer made sure to clarify an exchange from an interview Sunday where it seemed Trump was unaware of the situation in annexed Crimea. In the interview, with ABC News, Trump contended that Russia would “not go into Ukraine” only to be corrected that Putin already has troops in the country. “He’s there in a certain way,” Trump said. “But I’m not there.” That answer led to some criticism that Trump was unprepared and uninformed about the happenings in the region. But, he said Monday, that’s not how it should have come across.
"I gave a very good answer over the weekend to one of the shows on Russia going into the Ukraine. I said very simply, they’re not gonna do it on my watch, essentially,” Trump paraphrased – adding the contextualizing words “on my watch.” “I said Russia will not go into the Ukraine. I said that.”
Pushing back on reports that questioned his knowledge of Ukraine-Russia affairs, Trump emphasized that he did in fact know Crimea was already taken by Russia. “I know it,” he said. “Two years, approximately, okay, approximately. It was taken during Obama’s watch.”
Still, Trump posited, “wouldn’t it be great if we actually got along with Russia?”
But in the midst of multiple controversies, Trump’s supporters remained, as usual, mostly undeterred in their loyalty. Judy Dellevonne of Springfield, OH told NBC when asked about the Khan controversy that she thinks “the news blows everything he does out of proportion and doesn’t report very accurately on him sometimes.”
Twenty-two-year-old Ohio State University Students, Skylar Alexander and Andy DeVita, echoed the sentiment saying they thought the Khan controversy is largely fueled by the media. "I think it's just where we direct our attention and what’s actually worth getting media coverage,” Alexander told NBC before the rally. Others in attendance sought to discredit the Kahns, one man telling NBC “the news media lies constantly.”
"I don’t have any objections to what he’s said so far,” Dellevonne said, firm in her support.