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Priebus, Gillespie headline press conference ahead of Clinton’s visit to Virginia

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus (front) was joined by Virginia GOP Chairman John Whitbeck (right) and former RNC chairman and Senate candidate Ed Gillespie, background. Times-Mirror Photo/Trevor Baratko
FAIRFAX, Va. -- A trio of Republican Party leaders stood on the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax this afternoon to knock Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for what they say is a lack of transparency and trustworthiness.

The press conference came several hours before Clinton was set to arrive at GMU for her first official campaign stop in Virginia, a critical electoral college state for Republicans seeking their first presidential win since 2004.

Lining up for the GOP -- flanked by college students wearing “Stop Hillary” tee shirts -- were Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, former RNC chairman and Senate candidate Ed Gillespie and current chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, John Whitbeck, who resides in one of Virginia’s hottest bellwethers, Loudoun County.

The men were quick to pounce on Thursday’s news that the State Department said it can’t find 15 work emails from Clinton’s private server that were released this week by a House panel investigating the 2012 attack in Libya. At the time of the incident, Clinton was secretary of state.

“We’re here today to hold Hillary Clinton accountable, for her record of failure and her history of hypocrisy,” Preibus said. “So far, we’ve seen one of the most staged and scripted campaigns that we’ve ever seen. And the reason is simple -- Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to answer any questions.”

Priebus called for Clinton to turn her email server over to an “independent arbiter to see if anything can be recovered that she wiped clean.”

Clinton just wants "a coronation" as the Democratic candidate, Priebus said. He contrasted that with the wide open and at times flamboyant field of Republican candidates, which currently includes about a dozen presidential-hopefuls.

“The truth is, the Democrats have put all their eggs into one basket, and it's a pretty risky basket," Priebus said. "In the Republican Party, there is not going to be any coronation. If you want to win the nomination, you have to earn the nomination in the Republican Party."

Priebus was specifically asked a question about one of the GOP candidates, Donald Trump, who recently made controversial comments about Mexican immigrants. Trump said immigrants from Mexico were "bringing drugs ... bringing crime, they're rapists, and some, I assume, are good people."

Priebus would not say whether he found the comments discriminatory, but said they are "not helpful."

The GOP event, which lasted 15 minutes, came the same day the Supreme Court provided a historic ruling on the issue of same-sex marriage, declaring gay marriage legal in all 50 states.

Most members of the Republican Party have firmly opposed legalizing same-sex marriage, something that has lost the GOP votes with the LGBT community.

Priebus spoke to the court’s decision, saying, “Our party platform is pretty clear. We believe marriage should be between one man and one woman. We still believe that as a party.”

Priebus said the other issue with the court's ruling is one of states' rights. “We think it’s an overreach of the Supreme Court and it should be a state’s rights issue."

As Whitbeck highlighted, Virginia will be one of the most closely-watched states in the country for 2016. The commonwealth voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and voted in Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe in 2013. A Republican last won statewide election in 2009, when the now-disgraced Bob McDonnell took the governor’s mansion.

“Obviously the road to the White House begins and ends in Virginia,” Priebus said.


Click here to read coverage of Hillary Clinton's speech in Virginia Friday night.

Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or on Twitter at @TrevorBaratko.

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