WASHINGTON — Donald Trump doubled down on his controversial comments on Saddam Hussein last night, hours after two high-profile Republicans withdrew from vice presidential consideration yesterday.

At a rally in Cincinnati, where he campaigned with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Trump decried the press for overblowing comments he made Tuesday night in Raleigh, N.C., praising Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“I said ‘Saddam Hussein is a bad guy,’ ” Trump said. “Bad guy. Really, really bad guy. But he was really good on one thing: He killed terrorists. Next day, ‘Donald Trump loves Saddam Hussein!’ ”

The comments drew fire from Republicans and Democrats alike, including from House Speaker Paul Ryan, who called Hussein “one of the 20th century’s most evil people,” and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), who served four tours in the Iraq War, who said: “I take Donald Trump’s latest piece of bile personally.”

Trump also continued to defend an anti-Hillary Clinton tweet featuring what appeared to be a Star of David imposed on piles of money, blasting those who called the image anti-Semitic.

“I have a son-in-law who’s Jewish. My daughter is Jewish,” Trump said. “I have grandchildren who are Jewish. I love them. They are great people.”

The speech came hours after U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who appeared with Trump in North Carolina, withdrew from vice presidential consideration, saying, “There are better ways for me to serve.”

Another popular Republican under consideration, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, who recently met with Trump, told Politico yesterday: “I made that very clear to him that I’m focused on Iowa.” She recommended Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for the job.

Others reported to be on Trump’s list include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Gingrich, Pence, and two former generals, including retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, one of Trump’s top advisers and the former head of the Pentagon’s intelligence agency under President Obama until he was ousted in 2014 after clashing with senior officials.

The withdrawals came as Trump announced much stronger fundraising numbers over the previous month, and as he readied to unveil the speakers schedule for the national convention in Cleveland, which kicks off later this month.

Trump’s campaign raised $26 million online in June, and Trump and the Republican National Committee raised an additional $25 million with 22 fundraising events in June and late May, according to Trump’s campaign.

“We just started our fundraising efforts in the last week of May,” said Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s campaign finance chairman, in a statement announcing the numbers. In May, Trump’s campaign raised just $3 million and the RNC about $11 million.

He still trails Clinton, whose campaign raised $40 million in June, with an additional nearly $30 million raised by the Democratic committee.


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