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Obama says Trump ‘unfit’ to be president

·Chief Washington Correspondent
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President Obama on Tuesday bluntly declared Donald Trump “unfit” to be commander in chief and pressured senior Republicans to retract their endorsements of the GOP standard-bearer.

“I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president,” Obama told reporters at a joint press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House.

Turning up the heat on top Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who have endorsed the former reality show star, Obama said their criticisms of his frequent controversial statements “ring hollow” because they say they will still support him in November.

“There has to come a point at which you say ‘enough,’” the president declared.

Obama cited Trump’s bitter public feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan. Their son Humayun, a 27-year-old Muslim American Army captain, was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004.

“The notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that had made such extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country, the fact that he doesn’t appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe, in the Middle East, in Asia, means that he’s woefully unprepared to do this job,” Obama said.

Trump’s criticisms of the Khans, who assailed the former reality show star last week at the Democratic nominating convention, has drawn criticism from Ryan, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Sen. John McCain — but none has rescinded his endorsement.

“The question I think that they have to ask themselves is, ‘If you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party that this is your standard-bearer?’” Obama said.

“There has to be a point at which you say, ‘This is not somebody I can support for president of the United States even if he purports to be a member of my party,’” the president said.

“There has to come a point at which you say somebody who makes those kinds of statements doesn’t have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world,” he continued.

The president had repeatedly made clear in the past that he did not think Trump belongs in the Oval Office, but his remarks on Tuesday amounted to a sharp escalation in a rhetorical war sure to stretch all the way to Election Day.

Trump subsequently released a statement declaring Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton unfit for the Oval Office.

“They have produced the worst recovery since the Great Depression,” Trump said of Obama and Clinton. “They have shipped millions of our best jobs overseas to appease their global special interests. They have betrayed our security and our workers, and Hillary Clinton has proven herself unfit to serve in any government office.”

President Obama speak during a joint news conference with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
President Obama speak during a joint news conference with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. (Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

At his Tuesday press conference, Obama also signaled that he has not given up on trying to push the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal through Congress, even though the agreement faces opposition from both Trump and Clinton. The former secretary of state used to support TPP but turned away from it during her pitched primary battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“Right now, I’m president and I’m for it,” Obama said. “Hopefully, after the election is over and the dust settled, there will be more attention to the actual facts behind the deal and it won’t just be a political symbol or a political football.”

The president also weighed in gingerly on the release of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, the result of a cyber-intrusion that some experts have pinned on Russia.

Asked whether Moscow was behind the attack, Obama declined to comment specifically, citing an ongoing FBI investigation, but hinted that his administration was looking at possible retaliation against the perpetrators.

“There are a lot of countries out there that are trying to hack into our stuff,” he said. “We have provisions in place where, if we see evidence of a malicious attack by a state actor, we can impose, potentially, certain proportional penalties. But that requires us to really be able to pin down and know what we are talking about.”

And, he added, “I don’t think that it wildly swings what is a tough and difficult relationship that we have with Russia right now.”

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