MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Donald Trump said Tuesday night that, despite his earlier pledge, he would not commit to supporting the Republican nominee.
“No,” Trump said, when asked by Anderson Cooper during a CNN town hall if he would support the eventual nominee if it was not him.
“I have been treated very unfairly,” Trump said, hitting out at the “RNC, the Republican Party, the establishment.”
He also said that he is not looking for chief rival Ted Cruz’s support either.
“He does not have to support me,” he said. “I am not asking for his support.”
Cruz, who preceded Trump at the town hall, hedged when asked whether he would support Trump if he became the Republican nominee, though he did not categorically refuse to back the billionaire.
During the town hall, Trump also mocked a reporter who brought simple battery charges against his campaign manager, saying she had changed her story about the aide pulling her arm.
Trump said he would not fire the aide, Corey Lewandowski, saying he stood by his people, and disputed the woman’s initial account of the incident earlier this month in which she said she almost fell to the ground.
“She’s not a baby. In her own words, ‘I was jolted backwards’ … She wasn’t ‘yanked down,'” Trump said, referring to a statement made by the reporter Michelle Fields, who worked at the time for Breitbart News, which he said was not reflected in scenes shown on a security tape that has since emerged.
Addressing the incident involving Fields, Trump alleged that she was in fact pushing Trump as he tried to leave a press conference and was brandishing a pen, which he said could have alarmed Secret Service agents protecting him.
He said that Lewandowski had been “unjustly accused.”
“It would be so easy for me to terminate this man, ruin his life, ruin his family … and say you are fired. I have fired many people, especially on ‘The Apprentice,'” Trump said. “The problem is everybody dumps people when there is a sign of political incorrectness.”
In contrast, Cruz said earlier at the town hall that he would “of course” ask his campaign manager to resign if he were charged with battery.
“It shouldn’t be complicated,” Cruz said. “Members of the campaign staff should not be physically assaulting the press.”
He added, “I will say it is consistent with the pattern of the Trump campaign. The culture of the campaign has been a campaign built on attacks and insults.”
The charges against Lewandowski have prompted fresh criticism of Trump’s campaign and came a week ahead of the Wisconsin primary, which is shaping up as a huge night in the bid by the billionaire’s rivals to deprive him of the GOP nomination.
The feud between Trump and Cruz turned even more personal last week when the real estate mogul took aim at the Texas senator’s wife.
Cooper at one point challenged Trump for tweeting what appeared to be an unflattering picture of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, after a Super PAC that the billionaire accused of working with Cruz used a revealing picture of his wife, Melania, a former model. There’s no evidence, however, that the Super PAC worked with Cruz, which would be illegal.
“I didn’t start it,” Trump, said.
Cooper replied, “Sir, with all due respect, that is the argument of a 5-year-old.”
“I didn’t start it,” Trump insisted, adding that he would prefer to talk about nuclear proliferation than candidates’ families.
On the foreign policy front, Trump went on to defend his statement that Japan and South Korea should consider developing nuclear weapons to defend themselves from North Korea rather than relying on the U.S. nuclear umbrella.
Experts have warned that such a move could result in an arms race in Asia and elsewhere. But Trump said that America could no longer afford to be solely responsible for defending its allies.
“Maybe it is going to have to be time to change,” he said.
Trump also complained that in the state of Louisiana, which he won, he appears to have been awarded fewer delegates than Cruz due to the vagaries of election law.
“I won the election, and then it is all about the delegates,” Trump said. “Then I find out that I got 10 delegates less than the guy that lost. I beat him,” Trump said.