YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Presidential rivals Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton competed for the media’s attention more than usual on Monday, holding dueling news conferences aboard their campaign planes.
Trump extended a rare invitation to a handful of reporters to join him on his private jet between campaign stops, while Clinton debuted her new campaign plane, riding with reporters for the first time since launching her 2016 bid for the White House.
A look at the many topics discussed by both the nominees on their Labor Day jaunts around Ohio and Illinois.
Trump softened his language on immigration when pressed by reporters.
Immigrants in the country illegally may not need to return to their countries or origin to obtain legal status, Trump said — a position many conservatives would consider “amnesty.”
He insisted that, as president, he would prioritize deportation of criminal immigrants and build a massive wall along the Mexican border. Any immigrants who want full citizenship must return to their countries of origin and get in line, he said. But of the millions more living in the country illegally, he would not rule out a pathway to legal status.
“We’re going to make that decision into the future,” Trump told reporters in his most extensive comments on immigration since last week’s policy speech.
The statement conflicts with a line in last week’s address, when he declared: “For those here illegally today, who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and one route only. To return home and apply for re-entry.”
ON RUSSIA AND THE DNC EMAIL HACKING:
Clinton said she was concerned about “credible reports about Russian government interference in our elections,” telling reporters traveling with her from Ohio to Illinois that “we are facing a very serious concern.”
She told reporters, “We are going to have to take those threats and attacks seriously.”
Clinton’s comments follow reports that the Russian government may have been involved in the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails just days before the party’s national convention. The emails, later revealed by WikiLeaks, showed some DNC officials favoring Clinton over her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders.
She added that there has also never been a candidate who urged a country to hack into American computer networks. She was alluding to comments made by Trump at a July news conference, when he said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” He later said he was being sarcastic.
ON PAM BONDI AND POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS:
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.
The disclosure from Bondi’s spokesman to The Associated Press in June provided additional details around the unusual circumstances of Trump’s $25,000 donation to Bondi. The money came from a Trump family foundation in apparent violation of rules surrounding political activities by charities.
“She’s a fine person,” Trump said Monday, adding he “never spoke to her about it at all.”
“Many of the attorney generals turned that case down ’cause I’ll win that case in court,” he said.
Clinton said she was “quite taken aback” by the Trump Foundation’s political contribution to Bondi just as she was considering an investigation into Trump University.
TO DEBATE OR NOT TO DEBATE:
Trump said he plans to take part in all three presidential debates against rival Hillary Clinton.
The Republican nominee was rumored to be considering skipping at least one of the debates. But he told journalists Monday that only something along the lines of a “hurricane” or “natural disaster” would keep him from participating.
“I look forward to the debates,” Trump told reporters, saying he regards them as “an important element of what we’re doing. I think you have an obligation to do the debates.”
As for preparation, Trump said he does not believe in doing mock debates, as is tradition for many candidates. “I’ve seen people do so much prep work that when they get out there they can’t speak.”
The first debate between Trump and Clinton is scheduled for Sept. 26.
ON HILLARY’S ENERGY LEVEL:
Hillary Clinton’s message this Labor Day was that she would bring back jobs if elected, but Trump said: “She can’t. She doesn’t have a clue.”
“She doesn’t have the energy to bring ’em back,” he told reporters. “You need energy, man. And she doesn’t have the energy or the stamina to bring ’em back. It is a grueling process. You’re fighting a lot of different forces.”
Clinton pushed back against rumors that her health might hurt her ability to serve as president. “I’m not concerned about the conspiracy theories. There are so many of them that I’ve lost track of them,” she said.
Clinton battled a persistent cough during her speech in Ohio, which later flared up before reporters on the plane. She reminded them, “One thing you know from my doctor’s letter is I have seasonal allergies.”
Clinton said closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “should remain the goal of the next president,” adding that it “became a symbol of a lot of the problems that were started under the Bush administration which have not served us well in terms of relations around the world.”
Clinton noted a “legislative blockade problem” but said the next administration should try to shutter the U.S. prison.
President Barack Obama has tried to close the detention center amid opposition from Congress, which has prohibited transferring detainees to the U.S. for any reason. The administration has been working with other countries to resettle detainees who have been cleared for transfer.