New York (CNN) — Donald Trump said Tuesday night that the political system is “stacked against me,” and accused the Republican Party of conspiring to stop him from clinching the party’s nomination.
At a special CNN town hall in New York City ahead of next Tuesday’s crucial New York primary, Trump said: “I know the rules very well, but I know it’s stacked against me by the establishment.”
His comments elicited a tough response from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who tweeted: “Nomination process known for a year + beyond. It’s the responsibility of the campaigns to understand it. Complaints now? Give us all a break.”
The feud between Trump and rival Ted Cruz engulfed the RNC Tuesday night, after the GOP presidential front-runner at CNN’s town hall blasted “unfair” results in Colorado. He was swept there in the delegate hunt by Cruz at a party convention this weekend. A similar outcome emerged from Louisiana, where he won the primary but Cruz is seeking to sway delegates.
Those developments, Trump said, were the result of establishment Republicans working against his campaign.
“They changed the rules a number of months ago,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “You know why they changed the rules? Because they saw how I was doing and they didn’t like it.”
Trump, saying the Republican Party is “100%” controlled by the Republican National Committee, said he believes the RNC is rooting against him.
“No, I don’t think so,” Trump said, responding to a question from Cooper on whether he believes the RNC does not want him to get the GOP nomination.
‘Give us a break’
Without mentioning Trump by name, Priebus’ tweet Tuesday night sent a clear message about how he felt about the front-runner’s complaints.
It also further escalates an ongoing feud between the GOP front-runner and Priebus. In an interview with The Hill earlier in the day, Trump called the GOP’s nominating process a “scam.”
“It’s a disgrace for the party. And Reince Priebus should be ashamed of himself,” Trump had said. “He should be ashamed of himself because he knows what’s going on.”
In the rare family appearance, Trump’s wife, Melania, and children — Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr. and Tiffany — shared the spotlight with the Republican presidential front-runner at Tuesday’s town hall, answering questions from New York voters in the audience.
Ivanka Trump called politics “a vicious industry,” and said she and her siblings are committed to supporting their father.
“We know what he could bring to the country so we’re just happy to support him,” she said.
Tiffany Trump, the daughter of Trump and his second wife Marla Maples, said: “Whenever my father puts his heart and soul into something, he goes full force.”
As soon as Trump announced his campaign, she added, “All of us knew, you know, here we go.”
She also said the quality she most admires in her father is his work ethic.
“His hard work ethic is truly inspiring. Whenever I’m at school studying these long hours … It just makes me want to continue to work harder and improve myself and keep on pushing to my limit,” she said.
Eric Trump said his father was perhaps his “best friend in the entire world.”
“He’s been the greatest father in the world. He’s an amazing deal maker,” he said.
Trump’s treatment of women
Responding to criticism Trump has received on the way he has spoken about women, Ivanka said her father’s respect for women was evident in how he raised her and her sister, Tiffany.
“It’s a testament to the fact that he believes in inspiring women, in empowering women,” she said.
She added that her father instilled in her the belief that she has “the potential to accomplish exactly what her brothers could.”
“To me, his actions speak louder than words spoken by other politicians,” Ivanka said.
Tiffany said her father has “just had faith in me.”
“He wants us to do the best, and he has the utmost faith that we can accomplish whatever set our minds to just as well as men, if not better,” she said. Melania Trump added that her husband treats men and women equally. “He treats everyone equally, so if you’re a woman and they attack him, he will attack back no matter who they are,” she said. “We are all human. He encourages everybody, you’re a man or a woman.”
Trump’s family members said they have privately pleaded with Trump at times to tone down his rhetoric and sound more “presidential” in the public spotlight.
Asked by an audience member whether he speaks to his family in the same manner he speaks to his GOP rivals at the presidential debates, Trump joked: “I think I’m much nicer to them.”
The businessman said his family is constantly asking him to be “nicer” at the debates — a piece of advice that he said he has had trouble following.
“They’re always saying be nicer on the debates,” Trump said. “They’re coming at me from all these different angles — how can I be nice? I can’t do that.”
Ivanka Trump said watching her father run for president has taught her how difficult it is for politicians to avoid getting into battles. Though she has asked her father to hold back sometimes, she says she now also understands his instincts to hit hard.
“It’s like a cage match. They’re jumping on him, hitting him from the left, hitting him from the right,” she said. “I don’t think you can be particularly laid back and make it through this experience.”
Trump and his family also discussed the candidate’s prolific use of social media — particularly Twitter. Trump has been criticized on multiple occasions during the 2016 campaign for tweeting or retweeting inflammatory things.
“It kind of makes him the person he is,” Eric Trump said, calling his father “authentic.” “I think that’s actually what makes him the great candidate that he is.”
Trump said he believes Twitter is a “powerful” forum, even as he acknowledged that some of his retweets have gotten him in trouble.
“There is some genius there,” he said. “You have to find the right genius. It is a powerful thing.”
As president, he added, he would use Twitter “very little.
His wife, Melania, said she’s learned that it is futile to try to pull him back on social media.
“I say, OK, do whatever you want,” she said. “He’s an adult. He knows the consequences.”
New York primary
The town hall comes ahead of New York’s Republican primary next Tuesday. Trump, who was born in Queens and now resides in the famous Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, is expected to easily win the state’s contest next week, where 95 delegates are at stake.
Trump has 54% of support among likely New York GOP primary voters, according to a recent Fox News poll. GOP rivals Ohio Gov. John Kasich trails with 22% and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has just 15% support.
Tuesday’s event with the Trump clan is the second of three consecutive family town halls CNN is hosting this week.
On Monday night, Kasich took the stage with his wife, Karen, and two daughters, Emma and Reese. The family discussed everything from how the daughters deal with political attacks on their father, to Kasich’s quirky habits to how the governor believes a potential contested convention this summer would play out.
Wednesday’s CNN town hall will feature Cruz and his wife, Heidi.