Obama urges Republicans to shun Trump

US President Barack Obama has urged senior Republicans to formally withdraw their endorsement of Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.

At a rally in support of Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, Obama said it didn’t make sense to denounce Trump’s controversial remarks while still backing him for the White House.

Many top Republicans have distanced themselves from Trump over a video in which he boasts of groping women.

Trump accused them of disloyalty.

He was particularly scathing about House Speaker Paul Ryan whom he described as a “weak and ineffective” leader.

Addressing a campaign rally in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Tuesday evening, Obama questioned how senior Republican politicians could still want Trump to be president.

“The fact is that now you’ve got people saying: ‘We strongly disagree, we really disapprove… but we’re still endorsing him.’ They still think he should be president, that doesn’t make sense to me,” he told the crowd.

Obama said Trump’s crude comments about women would disqualify him from even working in a shop.

“Now you find a situation in which the guy says stuff that nobody would find tolerable if they were applying for a job at 7-Eleven,” he said.

Obama was interrupted several times by anti-Clinton campaigners but seemed unfazed, saying: “This is democracy at work. This is great,”

The hecklers were escorted from the venue by security officials.

In another development, Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Chairman John Podesta has said that Russia was behind an apparent hacking of his emails and may have been colluding with the Trump campaign.

He said on Tuesday that the FBI was investigating the hacking of the emails that were published by WikiLeaks.

The 2005 video released on Friday revealed Trump describing how he had sought to have sex with a married woman and making other sexually aggressive comments about women.

Nearly half of the 331 incumbent Republican senators, House members and governors have condemned the lewd remarks on the video and about 10% have called for Trump to drop out of the race, according to Reuters news agency.

On Monday, Ryan said he would not defend Trump over the remarks, reports the BBC.

He told fellow House Republicans he would instead focus on congressional elections to ensure Republicans could maintain legislative control.

Trump fired back in a string of tweets, saying the “shackles” had been removed, allowing him to “fight for America the way I want to”.

He also attacked Senator John McCain, who has denounced Trump’s conduct and faces a close re-election battle in Arizona, as “foul-mouthed”.

Despite a widening divide within the Republican Party, some members insist they are sticking by Trump.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he was “really disturbed” by Trump’s comments about women but still planned to support him, saying the election was “about bigger issues than that”.

Texas Senator and former rival Ted Cruz also said he would still cast his ballot for Trump, telling a Texas TV station that Mrs Clinton was an “absolute disaster”.

A recent PRRI/Atlantic poll suggested Mrs Clinton holds a 49-38 lead over her opponent.