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Trump says he regrets some of his controversial comments

USA TODAY USA TODAY 19/08/2016 David Jackson

Donald Trump began life with a revamped campaign team Thursday by making an unusual admission of regret for some of his past comments.

"Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don't choose the right words or you say the wrong thing," Trump told backers in Charlotte, N.C. "I have done that – and, believe it or not, I regret it ... And I do regret it – particularly where it may have caused personal pain."

Trump, who has been accused of offending Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, the disabled and fellow Republicans such as John McCain during his 14-month presidential campaign did not specify which comments he regretted and said at one point that journalists have often taken him "out of context." Throughout the campaign, Trump has generally refused to apologize for remarks viewed as insensitive or insulting.

The Republican nominee also said that "too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues," little more than 80 days before the election against Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, one in which he currently trails according to numerous polls.

Critics expressed skepticism over Trump's contrition.

Clinton campaign spokesperson Christina Reynolds said Trump "literally started his campaign by insulting people," and his "apology tonight is simply a well-written phrase until he tells us which of his many offensive, bullying and divisive comments he regrets — and changes his tune altogether.”

Trump told supporters in Charlotte he would "speak the truth" on behalf of Americans who have lost jobs and been failed by government run by "insiders" who only look out for themselves.

The trip to North Carolina — a key state in the Nov. 8 election — came a day after Trump announced major changes to his campaign staff. Stephen Bannon, the executive chairman for Breitbart News, is the new campaign CEO, while pollster and consultant Kellyanne Conway is campaign manager. Paul Manafort, the aide who had wielded the most control, remains as campaign chairman.

Donald Trump © Evan Vucci, AP Donald Trump

In another sign of a changed approach, Trump delivered a speech at the Charlotte Convention Center with a teleprompter, the third time this week he has read from a prepared text.

In previous weeks, Trump has read prepared remarks at smaller events devoted to economic and foreign policy, including a Monday address in Ohio on fighting terrorism.

During an event Tuesday near Milwaukee, Trump spoke about the need for "law and order" and to challenge what he described as a corrupt political establishment, themes he also hit during his speech in Charlotte.

He also made an appeal for African-American voters — as he did in Wisconsin — saying no community should be "left behind" and that Democrats have failed them for decades.

Democrats and some Republicans have criticized Trump's hiring of Bannon, whose Breitbart news site is known for its aggressive support of Trump and condemnation of Clinton as well as the Republican establishment. Aides to Clinton said the Bannon hire signals a raft of attacks and conspiracy theories will be emanating from the Trump camp over the next two-and-a-half months.

“After several failed attempts to pivot into a more serious campaign, Donald Trump has decided to double down on his most small, nasty and divisive instincts,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said.

During the rally in Charlotte, Trump described Clinton as a liar who has become wealthy through the Clinton Foundation and is part of a political system in which people "get very rich at your expense." He also criticized the former secretary of State and President Obama, saying a $400 million payment to Iran amounted to ransom for hostages.

Saying he wanted to lay out "a new American future that we are going to create as a team, together," Trump again discussed proposals to fight terrorism and change trade deals that he says have sent American jobs overseas. He echoed long-standing proposals to build a wall along the U.S-Mexico border and to replace Obama's health care plan.

North Carolina is normally an essential state for any Republican presidential nominee, and polls show Trump in a tight race with Clinton. The Real Clear Politics website average of recent polls gives Clinton a slight lead of 2 percentage points.

After meeting with a group of law enforcement officers earlier in the day, Trump said things are going well in the state.

"North Carolina is going to be very important," Trump said.


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