Khizr Khan, whose son, Humayun S. M. Khan was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving in the U.S. Army in the 10 years after the 9/11 attacks, offers to loan his copy of the Constitution to Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump, as he speaks while a relative looks on during the last night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 28, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Khizr Khan offers to loan Donald Trump his copy of the US Constitution at the Democratic convention. His wife Ghazala looks on © Reuters

A growing dispute between Donald Trump and the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq has put the Republican candidate’s temperament and character centre stage as the US presidential campaign hurtles into its final 100 days. 

Mr Trump’s response to a Democratic National Convention speech by Khizr Khan, the slain soldier’s father, was criticised by members of both parties.

Mr Khan, a Pakistani immigrant to the US, electrified the convention when he assailed Mr Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the US. He added that the Republican had “sacrificed nothing” for his country. 

Mr Trump fired back over the weekend, saying he had sacrificed by “working very hard” and “employing thousands and thousands of people”. He also suggested that the Khans had been doing the Clinton campaign’s bidding and suggested the soldier’s mother had stood silently alongside her husband during his speech because “maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say”.

Ghazala Khan, the mother of Army Captain Humayun Khan, subsequently explained that she finds it difficult to speak of her loss and still becomes emotional whenever she sees his picture.

“Walking on to the convention stage, with a huge picture of my son behind me, I could hardly control myself. What mother could?” she wrote in an article for the Washington Post published on Sunday.

“Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”

Her son was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his actions in saving his men from an explosives-packed taxi in Baqubah, Iraq, in 2004.

Even as Mr Trump’s campaign manager Paul Manafort criticised the news media on Sunday for focusing on the exchange, his candidate continued to dig in. “I was viciously attacked by Mr Khan at the Democratic Convention,” Mr Trump replied in a Sunday morning tweet. “Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!”

The soldier’s father said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Trump was “a candidate without a moral compass”.

Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, faced questions over her honesty in her first television interview since becoming the first female nominee of a major US political party last week. She again acknowledged having made “a mistake” in using a private email server while secretary of state and rejected allegations of any link between contributions to the Clinton Foundation or paid speeches by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and her actions as the nation’s chief diplomat. 

“I have work to do,” she acknowledged in an appearance on Fox News. 

A pair of polls taken since the end of the conventions has Mrs Clinton in the lead. Public Policy Polling gives her a 5 percentage point lead in the head-to-head matchup with Mr Trump — 50 per cent to 45 — while a new Morning Consult survey has her ahead by 3 points. 

Mr Trump’s ties to Russia were also in the spotlight following his call last week for Moscow to find and release the 30,000 emails Mrs Clinton says she deleted from her private email account. The Republican also praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as a stronger leader than President Barack Obama and called for stronger ties between the two nations.

Russia has been linked to an attack on the networks of the Democratic National Committee. The attack resulted in emails being released showing senior party officials — supposedly impartial — siding with Mrs Clinton in her battle with Senator Bernie Sanders. Several cyber security firms such as CrowdStrike say that Russian intelligence services were behind the computer break-in. 

In her Fox interview, Mrs Clinton said the episode “raises serious questions about Russian interference in our elections” and she criticised Mr Trump for demonstrating “a very troubling willingness to back up Putin”. 

The Republican campaign platform dropped a proposal to arm Ukraine in its fight against Russian-backed separatists, who control the eastern part of the country. Mr Manafort, who worked as a consultant for Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government, denied on Sunday that the Trump campaign was involved in the shift. 

On ABC, Mr Trump appeared open to accepting the Russian occupation of the Crimean peninsula, which it seized in 2014. “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” he said.

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Inane campaign / From Toby Zanin

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