Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's Road to Majority Conference in Washington, Friday, June 10, 2016 (Photo: AP)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attacked Democratic rival Hillary Clinton on Friday as weak on Islamist militants, in a speech at a Christian evangelical conference where he received a standing ovation.
Reading a carefully scripted speech from a Teleprompter, Trump said money aimed at resettling Syrian refugees in the United States should instead be spent on tackling poverty in U.S. cities.
The real estate mogul said Clinton's refusal to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" -- favored by Republicans to describe violent Islamist militants -- makes her unfit to be president.
Clinton, a former secretary of state, effectively clinched the Democratic Party's nomination at primary elections this week, setting up what will be a bruising fight between the two ahead of the Nov. 8 election. Trump's harsh rhetoric on illegal immigration and national security are likely to be a central part of the election debate.
Trump on Friday criticized Clinton's willingness to accept thousands of refugees from the Syrian civil war into the United States and challenged her to "replace her support for increased refugee admission" in favor of a new jobs program for inner cities.
But Trump stopped short of repeating his own call for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States, a proposal that has drawn heavy fire from Republicans and Democrats.
"We have to temporarily stop this whole thing with what's going on with refugees where we don't know where they're coming from. We have to use the money to take care of our poorest Americans so they can come out of this horrible situation that they're in," he said.
Trump's struggle to unify Republicans behind his insurgent candidacy was apparent at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" conference, where several speakers studiously avoided speaking his name.
Former campaign rival Carly Fiorina, who had endorsed U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and had campaigned briefly as his vice presidential running mate, spoke of the need to prevent liberal policies from engulfing the United States.
U.S. Representative Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, said a Republican president is needed, without mentioning Trump.
"We don't want this contest this fall to just be a contest of personalities," she said.
But conference organizer Ralph Reed was adamant in his support for Trump, saying the New Yorker has energized the evangelical vote in a way that past Republican presidential nominees have failed to do.
"We understand that perfection is not the measure that should be applied," Reed told the crowd.
While Trump searched for party unity, Clinton met on Friday with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive voice, in another sign of Democrats coming together against the prospect of a Trump presidency.
The two held talks at Clinton's Washington home a day after Warren endorsed Clinton's White House bid, adding support from the Democrats' liberal wing as Clinton seeks to move on from her protracted primary battle with Bernie Sanders.
Warren left the meeting smiling after roughly an hour and did not speak to reporters outside. A source familiar with the meeting said the pair discussed how best to work together to put forward a progressive agenda and stop Trump.
Party leaders are hoping Sanders will drop his presidential run before the party convention in Philadelphia in July.
Sanders said on Thursday he would remain in the race through the final nominating contest in Washington, D.C., next week but would work with Clinton to defeat Trump.
The Warren meeting on Friday fueled speculation that the senator from Massachusetts might be under consideration as Clinton's running mate. Asked in an MSNBC interview on Thursday whether she had discussed with Clinton the prospect of being vice president, Warren said she had not, nor had she been vetted.
Warren has considered the idea of serving as Clinton's running mate but sees obstacles to that choice, several people familiar with Warren's thinking told Reuters this week.