WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins continues to defend Donald Trump in the wake of the presidential candidate’s attacks on the parents of a slain U.S. soldier, saying that Trump had every right to fight back after the soldier’s father delivered a passionate speech excoriating the GOP candidate at last week’s Democratic National Convention.
“We all know Mr. Trump. If you take a swing at him, he’s going to punch back,” Collins said Monday on MSNBC. “Maybe some of the rest of us in the political world aren’t quite made up of that. But that’s Mr. Trump’s character. And frankly, I don’t blame him.”
Collins’ comments came four days after Khizr Khan, a 66-year-old lawyer from Charlottesville, Va., and the father of the late Capt. Humayun Khan, delivered a searing speech at the DNC attacking Trump for his proposed ban on Muslim immigration.
“Have you even read the United States Constitution?” Khan asked Trump. “I will gladly lend you my copy.”
Trump responded Sunday on ABC, questioning why Khan’s wife, Ghazala, never spoke as she stood next to her husband on the convention stage, implying that she was forced to remain silent because of her Muslim faith.
Mrs. Khan replied in a Washington Post essay, saying she was too emotionally overwhelmed to speak.
To hear Collins tell it, the Khans’ actions made them fair game in the rough-and-tumble world of American politics.
Asked about Trump’s comments regarding Mrs. Khan, Collins said. “When someone attacks your character as they did attack Mr. Trump, he just asked a question, and maybe that’s not a question I would have asked. But it goes back to Mr. Khan attacking him. He’s now appeared on other shows, he’s become Hillary Clinton’s attack dog. And every time Donald Trump will say something, he (Khan) puts up this shield, if you will, of the loss of his son.
“And that was very tragic 12 years ago in a war that Hillary Clinton supported, in a war that Donald Trump did not support,” Collins added.
But PolitFact, the fact-checking news service that’s allied with The Buffalo News, has reported that there is no clear evidence that Trump opposed the Iraq War, which Clinton voted to support while serving as a U.S. senator from New York.
Contacted for further comment from Collins Tuesday morning, his spokesman, Michael McAdams, said the congressman would be unavailable for the day.
In the MSNBC interview, Collins also defended Trump’s proposal to ban immigrants and refugees from countries with an ISIS presence from entering the United States, the latest iteration of what Trump had previously said would be a temporary ban on Muslim immigration.
“That is all Mr. Trump is saying and that is his position today,” Collins said. “It’s not anything to do with the Muslim faith.”
In addition, Collins said he disagreed with Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, 2008 GOP presidential nominee and former prisoner of war who released a statement Monday saying: “In recent days, Donald Trump disparaged a fallen soldier’s parents. He has suggested that the likes of their son should not be allowed in the United States – to say nothing of entering its service. I cannot emphasize enough how deeply I disagree with Mr. Trump’s statement.”
Veterans of Foreign Wars also released a statement criticizing Trump, and both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, leader of the Republican Senate majority, issued statements defending the Khans without mentioning Trump’s name.
Nevertheless, Collins – the first House Republican to endorse Trump and a lawmaker who has said he would consider serving as Commerce secretary in Trump’s administration – stood by his man.
“Mr. Khan is saying I’m immune from anyone criticizing me because my son died in a very heroic loss to the family and also his service to the country,” Collins said on MSNBC. “But today he has taken on a political role as an attack dog and I think in that regard he’s got to take what comes back at him.”