- By David FrancisDavid Francis is a staff writer for Foreign Policy, where he oversees FP's breaking news blog, The Cable. An award-winning journalist, David has reported from all over Europe, Nigeria, Kenya, Mexico, and Afghanistan on terrorism, national security, the geopolitics of energy, global economics, and the European financial crisis. His work has been published in outlets including the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times Deutschland, Slate, and SportsIllustrated.com., Molly O’TooleMolly O’Toole is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, covering the 2016 election and national security.
In case you missed it, President Barack Obama is not running for president. He’s done it twice and won, so the Constitution prohibits it. That hasn’t stopped Donald Trump from inviting his half-brother, Malik Obama, who supports the Republican presidential nominee, to Wednesday night’s debate in Las Vegas.
For those who don’t know Malik Obama: he’s a Kenyan-born U.S. citizen, and is three years older than his brother; they share a father. In July, Malik Obama announced he was backing Trump. He told the New York Post in an article posted Tuesday evening that he was “excited” to attend the debate and that Trump “can make America great again.” The GOP nominee, Malik Obama said, gets it “gets it far better than his brother.”
Trump’s invitation is an apparent attempt to rattle Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Malik Obama has been critical of her tenure as secretary of state, and he cites deceased Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as a friend.
Malik Obama said his last meeting with his presidential half-brother was at the White House in 2015. He’s been critical of the president for not doing more to help their father’s village of Kogelo, Kenya.
Malik isn’t the only Trump invitee meant to spook Clinton, who is ahead in most polls. Pat Smith, whose son Sean, a U.S. information management officer, died in the 2012 attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi when Clinton ran the State Department, will also be in attendance. Smith is a vocal Clinton critic who also spoke on Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention in July.
Trump has pulled this stunt before. Hours before last week’s debate in St. Louis, he hosted a news conference with several women who have accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault, accusations the Clinton camp has long denied. Trump did this in the wake of leaked audio of him bragging about sexually assaulting women.
In yet another sign that all civility surrounding this election has all but disappeared, the families of the two nominees will not shake hands before the debate. The Clinton campaign asked for the change.
It’s not surprising Trump is trying to draw more attention to his guest list than the state of the race.
The increasingly desperate and erratic Republican presidential nominee has spent the week ahead of the debate repeatedly railing that the U.S. election is “rigged” and urging supporters to “keep an eye on” polling stations, particularly in areas with a sizable minority community, prompting fears of voter intimidation. On Tuesday, President Obama advised him to stop “whining” about a fixed tally. Even state and national GOP leaders have pushed back, pointing out there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the U.S.
Seizing rather than shaking off the mantle of the least-liked presidential candidate in the history of polling, Trump has done little to apologize for his bragging about sexual assault and broader pattern of making lewd remarks about women. Instead, he’s said his accusers’ looks prove he didn’t attack them. And he’s gone after everyone from the media to House Speaker Paul Ryan, the GOP’s top elected official, for allegedly conspiring against his candidacy.
Clinton has laid low ahead of the debate, with her campaign basking in the glow of a cascade of positive polls.
The Clinton campaign has invested more $100 million in battleground states. But on Monday Campaign Manager Robby Mook also announced the campaign is also infusing additional millions to help down-ballot candidates in deep-red states like Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Indiana, where Democrats typically lose in presidential election years.
Recent polls show Clinton with a lead in every state Trump needs to win the White House, and even within striking distance in ones that were a given. Swing states Ohio and Florida are toss-ups — but so are Arizona and Texas, which between them haven’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996 and 1976, respectively. According to Real Clear Politics’ polling average, she leads him nationally by 7.2 points.
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