Don't waste time fighting Republican nominee, Donald Trump tells House Speaker
Donald Trump has hit back at House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican Party's top elected official, after he said he would not defend Mr Trump or appear with the presidential candidate for the rest of the campaign.
Mr Ryan told his party in a conference call that he is now focused on ensuring Hillary Clinton is not handed a blank cheque as president in a Democratic-controlled Congress - suggesting he does not believe Mr Trump can win the US election.
His office moved quickly to say that he was not conceding the election, but pro-Trump House members insisted the New York billionaire can still win and should not be abandoned.
In comments on Twitter, Mr Trump said Mr Ryan "should spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee".
Several people who were involved with the call said Mr Ryan explicitly told House members: "You all need to do what's best for you in your district."
The development came as Mr Trump battled to rescue his campaign after the release last week of a 2005 video in which he is heard bragging about how his fame allowed him to "do anything" to women.
Several leading Republicans have withdrawn their support or called for him to drop out of the race.
Mr Ryan's message appeared to signal he does not believe in Mr Trump's ability to turn the campaign around with four weeks until Election Day, though he did not actually revoke his endorsement.
He said his decision was driven by what he thought was best for the Republican-led Congress, not himself, according to people who participated on the call.
Mr Ryan said he will "spend his entire energy making sure that Hillary Clinton does not get a blank cheque with a Democrat-controlled Congress", according to one source.
Mr Ryan added that he was "willing to endure political pressure to help protect our majority".
In the eyes of many Republican leaders, the recently released tape of a 2005 conversation in which Mr Trump made vulgar, predatory comments about women not only jeopardised his own labouring candidacy, but that of Republicans fighting to hold their majority in the US Senate.
Their commanding majority in the House of Representatives could now be in peril, too.
Later appearing at a rally in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, Mr Trump insisted that he "had a lot of fun" in the second presidential debate and said Mrs Clinton's performance in their showdown was "highly overrated".
He claimed that Mrs Clinton had "no defence" for his attacks and that "all she could do is lie".
The debate on Sunday was vicious, with both candidates on the attack. Mr Trump called his rival "the devil" to her face and suggested that, if he wins in November, he would move to imprison her for her email scandal.
Mrs Clinton claimed Mr Trump "doubled down on his excuse" for the 2005 tape, which her rival had dismissed as "locker room talk".
She added : "That is just a really weak excuse for behaving badly and mistreating people."
Mr Trump spent his time attacking, she said, "when he should have been apologising".
And she waded into the war of words between Mr Trump and billionaire Warren Buffett.
Hours after Mr Buffett issued a statement rejecting Mr Trump's assertion that they both use the same tax avoidance strategies, Mrs Clinton worked Mr Buffett's denial into her campaign speech.
She paraphrased Mr Buffett's statement point by point, noting he says he's paid federal income tax since he was 13-years-old and would be happy to release his tax returns, unlike Mr Trump.
Mrs Clinton said her Republican opponent had messed with the wrong billionaire: If you're going to call out Buffett, you better be ready to be dealt some "good, ol' fashioned, honest facts", she said.
At the rally Mr Trump again tried to turn the criticism he's received for the vulgar remarks in the video into an attack on how former President Bill Clinton has treated women.
He accused Mr Clinton of being "the worst abuser of women" to ever sit in the Oval Office and claimed the media "condemned my words" but ignored what the former president did.
Mr Trump said the "last 72 hours has framed what this election is all about", insisting it showed the "American people fighting back against corrupt politicians who don't care about anything except for staying in power".