Donald Trump says he will ‘never’ withdraw from presidential race

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

NEW YORK — Donald Trump will “never” drop out.

The embattled Republican presidential nominee told a pair of newspapers on Saturday that he has no intention of quitting the presidential race despite a growing chorus of Republicans urging him to step aside in the wake of sexually aggressive remarks he made in 2005.

“I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life,” Trump told The Washington Post. “No, I’m not quitting. I have tremendous support.”

He also told The Wall Street Journal there is “zero chance I’ll quit.”

The comments also came as his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said he was “offended” by Trump’s 2005 remarks and could not defend them. Pence on Saturday canceled plans to attend a Wisconsin Republican event alongside House Speaker Paul Ryan even though the Trump campaign announced Friday evening Pence would attend in Trump’s stead.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican and a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s inner circle, called on Trump to drop out so that Pence can be the GOP standard-bearer.

Trump struck the defiant tone on Saturday less than 24 hours after previously unaired footage of Trump having talking in lewd and sexually aggressive terms about women during a 2005 taping for “Access Hollywood” surfaced.

In that timespan, Republicans have quickly condemned Trump for the comment many of them have deemed “inexcusable” and “indefensible,” prompting Trump to issue his first-ever apology of his nearly 16-month campaign.

But Trump also signaled a willingness to fight, quickly turning from apology to defiant combativeness in the 90-second video statement, pivoting to attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her husband’s sex scandals.

The brash billionaire’s insistence to the pair of newspapers on Saturday morning, though, came as Republican members of congress began urging Trump to step aside, with several senators who had endorsed Trump, including Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, formally pulling their support.

‘Wisconsin is off’

In a statement Saturday, Pence said he was “offended” by Trump’s remarks.

“As a husband and father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released yesterday,” Pence said. “I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people. We pray for his family and look forward to the opportunity he has to show what is in his heart when he goes before the nation tomorrow night.”

Late Saturday morning, a campaign source told CNN that Pence decided not to attend the Wisconsin event hosted by Ryan, the GOP House speaker.

“Wisconsin is off” for Pence, the source said, adding that the decision was made this morning. The source gave no reason for the cancellation.

Ryan, who said he was “sickened” by Trump’s comments, announced Friday night that the GOP presidential nominee would no longer attend the event, at which the two were slated to appear on Saturday. Multiple sources told CNN that Trump was asked not to come by Ryan, and one source said the message was delivered via intermediaries.

Trump’s campaign had said Pence would represent him instead while the real estate magnate focuses on debate prep on Saturday.

But Trump instead spent Saturday morning boldly countering the growing calls for him to drop out of the presidential race, with some Republicans suggesting Trump should step aside and allow Pence to top the Republican ticket. With just one month to Election Day and as early voting has already begun in some states, replacing the Republican nominee would be a near-impossible task.

“They’re not going to make me quit, and they can’t make me quit,” Trump told the Post.

Instead, Trump has signaled that he will head into the debate prepared to fight Clinton by raising the marital infidelities of her husband former President Bill Clinton — a shift since Trump said as recently as Thursday night he would not raise the issue in Sunday’s debate.

And Trump argued to the Post that he will be able to weather the comments that have come back to haunt him in part because Clinton, the Democratic nominee, is “so bad” and “so flawed as a candidate.”

“Running against her, I can’t say it’d be the same if I ran against someone else, but running against her makes it a lot easier, that’s for sure,” Trump said in the Saturday morning interview.

Trump also told both the Post and the Journal that he is considering delivering remarks Saturday evening to encourage his supporters and address the controversy.

And he also said of the 2005 comments that “people get it. They get life.”

Pressed a final time by the Post about the possibility he could quit the race, Trump firmly shut the door on that option.

“Zero chance. I’ve never quit in my life,” Trump said. “I can give you my word that I’m never leaving.”