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Gold Star father Khan calls on GOP leaders to denounce Trump

| Sunday, July 31, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

Khizr Khan, whose son died fighting in Iraq, said Sunday that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's temperament and lack of empathy render him unfit to lead the nation and that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have a moral obligation to speak out against their party's standard-bearer.

“Two things are absolutely necessary in any leader or any person that aspires, wishes to be a leader. That is moral compass and, second, is empathy. This candidate is void of both traits that are necessary for the stewardship of this country,” Khan said on CNN's “State of the Union.”

“He is a black soul. And this is totally unfit for the leadership of this beautiful country,” Khan said.

Speaking on NBC's “Meet the Press,” Khan said the U.S. political process is “wonderful” and “beautiful” and urged patriotic people not to vote for Trump.

“I implore those patriotic Americans that would probably vote for Donald Trump in November, I appeal to them, not to vote for hatred, not to vote for fearmongering. Vote for unity. Vote for the goodness of this country. Vote for liberty and freedom. So my appeal now is to the folks that are going to be thinking to vote for Trump,” Khan said.

Khan and his wife, Ghazala, appeared last week at the Democratic National Convention, where Khan gave an emotional speech in which he questioned whether Trump had ever read the Constitution and offered to lend him his copy. The Khans' son, Army Capt. Humayun Khan, was killed in Iraq in 2004. Khan said the Republican nominee had “sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Trump lashed out at the Khans on Saturday, accusing Khizr Khan of being controlled by the campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump claimed sacrifices made as a businessman, saying he worked hard and employed thousands of people.

The backlash to Trump's remarks continued from Democrats and Republicans on Sunday.

“Mr. Khan,” Clinton said at a church in Cleveland, “paid the ultimate sacrifice in his family, didn't he? And what has he heard from Donald Trump? Nothing but insults, degrading comments about Muslims, a total misunderstanding of what made our country great, religious freedom, religious liberty. It's enshrined in our Constitution, as Mr. Khan knows, because he's actually read it.”

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., whose husband is a military veteran, called Humayun Khan a “true American hero” and slammed Trump for equating his sacrifices to those of the family of a soldier killed in action.

“The Khan family deserves nothing less than our deepest support, respect and gratitude, and they have every right to express themselves in any way they choose,” Ayotte said.

“I am appalled that Donald Trump would disparage them and that he had the gall to compare his own sacrifices to those of a Gold Star family,” she said, using the term for a military family that has lost a loved one.

In an interview with the New York Times, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a veteran, said Trump's comments about the Khans are unacceptable.

“This is going to a place where we've never gone before, to push back against the families of the fallen,” he told the Times.

“There used to be some things that were sacred in American politics, that you don't do, like criticizing the parents of a fallen soldier, even if they criticize you,” Graham said. “If you're going to be leader of the free world, you have to be able to accept criticism, and Mr. Trump can't.”

Khizr Khan's wife, Ghazala, did not speak onstage. The Khans are Muslim, and Trump questioned why Ghazala Khan did not speak. “She probably — maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say,” he said.

In a subsequent interview, Ghazala Khan said she did not speak because she becomes overwhelmed with emotion whenever she sees her son's picture. A large photo of Humayun Khan was displayed on the video screen onstage during her husband's speech. In an opinion piece published Sunday on The Washington Post's website, Ghazala Khan responded directly to Trump.

“Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart,” she wrote.

On Sunday, Khizr Khan defended his wife's silence at the convention, telling CNN that she is ill, has high blood pressure and cannot keep herself composed when she sees images of her son.

“For this candidate for presidency to not be aware of the respect of a Gold Star mother standing there, and he had to take that shot at her, this is height of ignorance,” Khan said.

In a tweet Sunday, Trump responded to Khan.

“I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention. Am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq war, not me!” Trump wrote.

In statements Sunday, Ryan and McConnell expressed support for the Khans and reiterated their opposition to Trump's proposed ban on Muslims, but they did not abandon their support of the Republican nominee.

“Capt. Khan was an American hero, and like all Americans I'm grateful for the sacrifices that selfless young men like Capt. Khan and their families have made in the war on terror. All Americans should value the patriotic service of the patriots who volunteer to selflessly defend us in the armed services,” McConnell said in a statement.

“And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values,” McConnell said.

Ryan said a religious test for people coming into the country is “not reflective” of the nation's values.

“Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice — and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — should always be honored. Period,” Ryan said in a statement.

In a statement released Saturday night, Trump called Humayun Khan a “hero” and accused Khizr Khan of saying “inaccurate things” about him at the convention.

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