Clinton accuses Trump of inciting violence after gun remarks

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Wednesday accused Republican opponent Donald Trump of inciting violence with his call for gun rights activists to stop her from nominating liberal US Supreme Court justices.

Clinton's comments added to a growing outcry over Trump's remarks on Tuesday at a North Carolina rally, which some interpreted as a call for violence against his White House rival. His remarks also fuelled widespread concerns about his ability to stay on track.

"Words matter, my friends," the former US secretary of state, who rarely engages in direct back-and-forths with her Republican rival, said at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa. "And if you are running to be president or you are president of the United States, words can have tremendous consequences.

"Yesterday, we witnessed the latest in a long line of casual comments from Donald Trump that crossed the line," she said, citing "his casual inciting of violence".

Trump insisted in an interview with Fox News that his remarks were a call for political, not physical, action.

 ''There is tremendous political power to save the Second Amendment, tremendous," the New York businessman said. "And you look at the power they have in terms of votes and that's what I was referring to, obviously that's what I was referring to, and everybody knows it."

The US Constitution's Second Amendment guarantees a right to keep and bear arms.

"I can't think of anything remotely comparable to it. No one tells a joke about the opponent getting shot. I've never heard it," said Bob Shrum, a top aide for Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000 and John Kerry's in 2004.

High-profile Republicans and rank-and-file voters appeared shaken on Wednesday after a string of Trump misfires, struggling with how to best reject his divisive candidacy. Some pledged to withhold their endorsement and others backed Clinton.

Some, including MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, called for party leaders to replace Trump on the ticket.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll taken 5-8 August - before Trump's latest controversy - showed that nearly one-fifth of 396 registered Republicans said they want Trump to drop out of the race and another 10 per cent said they "don't know" whether the Republican nominee should or not drop out.

Clinton's campaign, seeing an opening, has moved to bring disenchanted Republicans into the fold by announcing an official intraparty outreach effort on behalf of the Democratic nominee.

Clinton's campaign now has a website for Republicans and political independents to sign up to pledge their support, listing 50 prominent Republicans and independents who have endorsed her.

On Monday, 50 Republican national security officials signed an open letter questioning Trump's temperament, calling him reckless and unqualified to be president.

Other top Republicans, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine this week, have disavowed Trump but said they cannot back Clinton.

Trump has dismissed the defections and criticism as an unsurprising reaction of the so-called Washington elite to his drive to change the status quo.