Trump in Hanahan calls Gitmo plan ‘ridiculous’

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump answers questions from the crowd at the East Cooper Republican Club meeting Monday February 15, 2016. Trump also stopped in Hannahan. Grace Beahm/Staff

HANAHAN — Republican front-runner Donald Trump on Monday underscored his opposition to shipping enemy combatants from Guantanamo Bay to the nearby Navy brig.

Trump, who talked about the issue during a campaign stop at Hanahan City Hall, made the point earlier while answering a student’s question at an East Cooper Republican Club luncheon.

“It’s ridiculous that they’re moving people into this area. We are totally against it,” he said, adding that if any combatants are moved to the U.S. Naval Consolidated Brig at the Naval Weapons Station before he is sworn in “they’re going back.”

One of President Barack Obama’s unfinished campaign promises is to close the controversial Cuban detention center opened to hold suspected terrorists and enemy combatants after 9/11.

The brig in Hanahan is among the sites mentioned as possible landing spots for the prisoners.

Trump also criticized Gov. Nikki Haley for not doing more to block the settlement of Syrian refugees in her state and for not taking a stronger stand against moving combatants here.

“The governor has a lot of power that people don’t realize,” he said. “With the (Syrian) migration, you have a lot of people coming into the area of South Carolina. They’re coming in. If I were the governor, I wouldn’t let them come in. I don’t care what the rules and regulations say.”

Rob Godfrey, Haley’s deputy chief of staff, said Trump would be wise to know the facts before he discusses serious issues affecting South Carolinians.

“On both topics, the governor has taken on President Obama directly,” Godfrey said. “It’s a real shame — Republican governors are looking for a president who will support them, not continue to make their jobs harder with senseless and uneducated attacks.”

Trump, who was booed during Saturday’s debate, blamed the Republican National Committee for stacking the room with big donors and special interests loyal to other candidates.

He said the RNC is “doing a terrible, terrible job,” adding, “I signed a pledge, but that pledge isn’t being honored by the RNC.”

Trump, who flirted with the possibility of a third-party candidacy earlier in the campaign, did not say he would still consider doing that, but he said he does consider the RNC in default.

“When somebody is in default, that means the other side can do what they have to do,” he said.

Asked about his ability to unify the GOP if he wins, Trump said he has received “so many calls” from leaders who have criticized him publicly but who have expressed interest in supporting him down the road. He said he couldn’t name any at this point. “They’re politicians,” he said. “They change so easily.

“My only worry about South Carolina is that my opponents lie, especially (Sen. Ted) Cruz,” Trump said. “If people believe the lies, then we won’t make America great again because nobody else is going to be able to do it but me. I know my competition, and they’re all bought and paid for by special interests.”

Reach Robert Behre at 843-937-5771 or at twitter.com/RobertFBehre.