Donald Trump.jpg
Photograph: EPA/JIM LO SCALZO

Washington (dpa) - Donald Trump came under mounting pressure Saturday to withdraw as the Republican party's candidate in the US presidential race after explicit comments he made about groping women in a 2005 conversation were leaked to the media.

Trump's response to calls from leading Republicans for his withdrawal was to double down on his vow to stay in the race just over four weeks from the election and on the eve of his second face-to-face debate with his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

As in the past he used Twitter - and capital letters - to emphasize his position.

"The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly - I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA," he tweeted.

The embattled candidate remained at his home in Trump Tower in New York City on Saturday, where a crowd of supporters gathered. Broadcast images showed Trump walking through the crowd, giving high-fives and greeting some of the cheering supporters.

He made no other public appearances after being disinvited from an event in Wisconsin, where he was to have been the guest of honour at the side of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

Ryan appeared at the event, referring to the firestorm over Trump's comments as the "elephant in the room."

But he declined to expand on the statement he issued the night before, in which he said he was "sickened" by Trump referring to grabbing women "by the pussy" and being able to get away with it because he was a celebrity.

The vulgar comments initially reported by the Washington Post also included Trump's rebuffed attempts to get a married woman to sleep with him and her "phony tits."

The leaked tape has roiled the Republican Party like none of Trump's many previous insulting comments about Muslims, women, Mexicans and veterans and increased the pressure on him to pull his campaign back on track during Sunday's debate.

That challenge appeared more and more difficult as a growing list of fellow Republicans disowned his candidacy Saturday despite a written apology Trump issued Friday and a video recording in which the candidate again apologized.

His running mate, Mike Pence, said he "cannot defend" Trump's comments in a post on Twitter.

US Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, joined a list of 11 senators and 14 members of the US House of Representatives who either called on Trump to withdraw from the race or who withdrew their support.

McCain, who previously had criticized Trump multiple times for offensive statements, said he and his wife would vote by writing in the name of "some good conservative Republican who is qualified to be President."

The leading Republicans followed the chairman of their party, Reince Priebus, who denounced the comments on Friday, saying, "No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever."

Donald Trump's wife also condemned her husband's comments, but said she hoped people would accept his apology and "focus on the important issues facing our nation and the world.”

The number of other politicians who condemned the comments and in some cases completely disowned Trump seemed to grow by the minute.

Democratic Vice President Joe Biden chimed in on Twitter saying, "The words are demeaning. Such behavior is an abuse of power. It’s not lewd. It’s sexual assault."

Former Republican presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson and John Kasich as well as former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice also issued statements slamming Trump.

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger, who like Trump entered politics after a career in entertainment to become the governor of California, said he wouldn't vote for Trump.

But former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani told CNN the idea that Trump would abandon the race for US president was "wishful thinking" on the part of Clinton's campaign.

The Republicans who had disowned Trump hadn't supported him in the past, he added.

The Clinton campaign, after saying the comments were "horrific" on Friday, remained mostly silent on Saturday.

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