Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders trained their fire on Donald Trump on Sunday night in the wake of a series of violent incidents at the Republican frontrunner’s rallies, with Sanders calling him a “pathological liar” and Clinton comparing him to an arsonist.
The two Democratic hopefuls are still locked in a competitive primary race, yet with just one day left before key contests in five states both candidates reserved their fiercest attacks for the New York billionaire whom one of them may face at the ballot box in November.
After violent clashes erupted on Friday night in Chicago, where Trump postponed a rally, the billionaire blamed his Democratic rivals for inciting the protesters. Asked about this at a CNN town hall at Ohio State University on Sunday, Sanders said: “I hesitate to say this because I don’t like to disparage public officials, but Donald Trump is a pathological liar.”
Sanders lambasted Trump for offering to pay the legal fees of a supporter who sucker-punched a protester at a recent rally in North Carolina.
The two Democratic hopefuls were also asked a number of questions about race and criminal justice. Sanders took a hard line on police killings – “Any police officer who breaks the law ... must be held accountable. Period” – and said that as president he would investigate every killing of an American held in police custody or while being apprehended.
Clinton said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that so many African American men were going to jail and promised to replace the “school to prison pipeline” with a “cradle to college pipeline”.
Sanders attacked Clinton’s previous support for trade deals and said he would introduce “an entirely different” process for the issue.
But he drew laughter when he explained his support for trade generally by saying: “Nobody is talking about building a wall around the United States.”
The two candidates have criss-crossed the country in recent days to campaign in the states holding the party’s next major contests on Tuesday – Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina. Sanders, buoyed by his surprise victory in Michigan, has made a strong play for Ohio, where Clinton has spent time and resources.