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Clinton Says Terrorists Are Praying For Trump To Win Presidency


Last night Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump participated in a forum on national security. Both argued that they would be the best commander in chief. Trump got the last word, but this morning Clinton responded at a press conference in New York. I spoke with NPR's Asma Khalid about it. She's traveling with the Clinton campaign today.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Clinton is not one to stand behind a lectern and take questions from the press, but that's exactly how she started her day today. She stood on a noisy tarmac in front of her campaign plane to take questions from the press. She said that she has plans to convene a meeting of bipartisan experts tomorrow who will focus on national security issues, and she knocked Donald Trump's strategy - or lack of a strategy - to defeat ISIS.


HILLARY CLINTON: He trash-talked American generals, saying they've been quote, "reduced to rubble." He suggested he would fire them and replace them with his hand-picked generals.

KHALID: Donald Trump has said he would give the generals 30 days to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS. He says he doesn't want to broadcast more about his plans to the enemy.

But Clinton doesn't buy that. She said last night's forum was yet another test, and Donald Trump failed it. She's also trying to hit home the idea that she wants to hunt down the leader of ISIS, and Trump just doesn't have the temperament to do that. In fact she repeated a claim she's made before that Trump would actually be a gift to ISIS.

CORNISH: Clinton actually made that point in an Israeli TV interview out today. Let's listen.


CLINTON: The jihadists see this as a great gift. They are saying, oh, please, Allah, make Trump president of America. So I'm not interested in giving aid and comfort to their evil ambitions.

KHALID: And Audie, that quote seemed a little crude to some folks. I saw some reactions on social media where people did not like how she used the use of the word Allah, that it just seemed awkward. And Muslims, for one, picked up on this. They've been the No. 1 victim of terrorism attacks, and President Obama has made a point of not using the words radical Islamic terrorism - and then, you know, to hear Clinton say that the terrorists are praying to Allah.

But look; I think, Audie, what she was trying to do is she's trying to point actually to specific research from Matt Olsen. He's the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Olsen points to a specific message from an ISIS leader on social media who said, quote, "I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump."

Clinton says that Olsen's expert advice should be a word of caution to folks concerned about the country's safety regardless of their political affiliation. And Audie, she's trying to play on the fear that maybe terrorists could use Trump's rhetoric as propaganda to foster a kind of war of civilizations.

CORNISH: Asma, beyond ISIS, what else did Hillary Clinton have to say about Trump?

KHALID: She's also hitting Donald Trump today for his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that it's scary and suggests that Trump could possibly be a pawn who would let the Russian strongman get away with anything he wants.


CLINTON: What would Ronald Reagan say about a Republican nominee who attacks America's generals and heaps praise on Russia's president? I think we know the answer.

KHALID: And Audie, that's really interesting to me there - how she specifically references Ronald Reagan, a Republican president. This has been a consistent theme in Clinton's national security message. You know, she's been trying to play up her support from Republicans and generals who may be traditionally more hawkish. And that's a tough line to walk.

You know, she's trying to prove she's tough enough to take on ISIS but at the same time, not alienate the progressive base of the Democratic Party. And that's why today she repeated that she has no desire to send U.S. ground troops into Syria.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Asma Khalid covering the Clinton campaign now in Charlotte, N.C. Thanks so much.

KHALID: You're welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.