‘I’d never withdraw’: Trump refuses to back down as Republicans call for him to exit race

Donald Trump defiantly insisted he would not end his campaign for the presidency, rejecting pressure from fellow Republicans to exit the race for the good of the party after the disclosure of lewd comments he made about women.

In three newspaper interviews published Saturday afternoon, the Republican presidential nominee dismissed the idea that his campaign is in “crisis” and said there was “zero chance” that he would quit the race in spite of calls from multiple Republicans for him to withdraw his candidacy.

“I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life,” Trump told the Washington Post, adding that he has “tremendous support” from within the party to continue his campaign. “People are calling and saying, ‘Don’t even think about doing anything else but running, … You have to see what’s going on. The real story is that people have no idea the support. I don’t know how that’s going to boil down but people have no idea the support.”

“I never ever give up,” the celebrity businessman told the Wall Street Journal. “The support I’m getting is unbelievable, because Hillary Clinton is a horribly flawed candidate.”

And in an interview with the New York Times, Trump further insisted he can still win the presidency. “Oh yeah, we can win– we will win,” he said. “We have tremendous support. I think a lot of people underestimate how loyal my supporters are.”

Trump’s comments came less than 24 hours the Post published video of Trump bragging in explicit terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women. The conversation was captured on an open microphone during a 2005 interview with “Access Hollywood,” and it included Trump boasting about his attempt to seduce a married woman and declaring that he could get away with “anything” with women because of his celebrity status.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump said in the recording.

After first dismissing the comments as nothing more than “locker room banter,” Trump later offered a feeble apology for the statements, implying in a 90-second video released early Saturday that he had grown as a person through his unlikely bid for the White House.

“Anyone who knows me knows these words don’t reflect who I am,” Trump said in the video. “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.”

But the controversy over Trump’s remarks only seemed to grow on Saturday as an increasing number of Republicans, including Ohio Gov. John Kasich, began publicly saying they could never vote for Trump. The list included not only vulnerable GOP lawmakers up for reelection like Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who announced she could not support her party’s nominee, but also electorally safe Republicans from deeply red conservative states including Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, who called him “unacceptable as a candidate.” Many of Trump’s critics called for Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the developer’s running mate, to replace him at the top of the ticket.

But as Republicans spoke out against Trump, there was deep silence among those closest to the GOP nominee, including his family, his senior staff and many top surrogates who were not responding to phone calls or emails as campaign sought to navigate a path forward.

NBC News reported that Pence abruptly pulled out of a Saturday Wisconsin unity rally where he had been set to appear with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other leading Republicans. Pence had stepped into replace Trump who had been scheduled to attend the event before he was abruptly disinvited by Ryan after the video of Trump’s comments on women was made public.

It was unclear why Pence would not appear at the event. The Trump campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment. But Pence issued a statement through his own political operation, not via the Trump campaign, saying he “was offended by the words and actions” expressed by Trump in the video.

“I do not condone the remarks and cannot defend them,” Pence said in the statement, adding that he was “grateful” that Trump had apologized and expressed “remorse.”

It was unclear if Pence and Trump had personally talked to one another, but in the statement, the Indiana governor offered prayers for the Trump family and said he looked forward to Sunday’s debate, where Trump would have “the opportunity … to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”

Donald Trump. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)
Donald Trump. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP)

Perhaps the biggest unknown is how Trump’s family has dealt with the controversy. His three adult children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have been close advisers to his campaign and were already said to be concerned about its trajectory in recent weeks. His wife, Melania, who has been a scarce presence on the campaign trail, released a statement Saturday afternoon urging voters to accept his apology.

“The words my husband used are unacceptable and offensive to me. This does not represent the man that I know. He has the heart and mind of a leader. I hope people will accept his apology, as I have, and focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world,” she said.

Reached on Saturday, one Republican close to the family and the candidate who declined to be named discussing internal campaign dynamics, said there had been no outreach to staff or surrogates to soothe concerns about the video and its impact on Trump’s candidacy. Amid the GOP nominee’s insistence that he would stick in the race, the GOP aide speculated that the only people who might be able to sway Trump otherwise are his children.

With just one month to go before Election Day, Trump seemed to brush off suggestions from fellow Republicans that his campaign would not survive the controversy — pointing out that he’s prevailed over moments that would have felled any other candidates before.

“I’ve been here before, I’ll tell ya, in life,” Trump told the Post on Saturday. “I understand life and how you make it through. You go through things. I’ve been through many. It’s called life. And it’s always interesting.”

As Trump’s inner circle, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, gathered at Trump Tower Saturday, the candidate hinted he might hold a campaign event to address the controversy later in the day.