Hours before a televised debate widely expected to define the presidential campaign -- and the political career of Donald Trump -- the GOP nominee remained defiant even as a growing number of fellow Republicans continued to call on him to exit the race.
In the wake of the release of a 2005 video in which he uses crude language to brag about forcing himself on women sexually, Trump unleashed an avalanche of tweets and retweets Sunday in which he showed no sign of dropping out. The calls for him to do so from fellow Republicans also continued, signaling an unprecedented political crisis with just one month to go until Election Day.
The crisis will play out in front of a potentially historic audience on live television Sunday, when Trump will face Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in a town-hall-style debate in St. Louis. In interviews and social media posts, Trump made clear that he has no plans to back down -- and that he intends to criticize Clinton for her treatment of women who over the years have accused her husband of sexual assault.
"So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers -- and elections -- go down!" read one Trump tweet Sunday.
"Tremendous support (except for some Republican "leadership"). Thank you," another read.
The video, published Friday by The Washington Post, shows Trump bragging in crude terms about kissing and groping women, something he said he has license to do because he is a "star." The remarks were taped in 2005 as part of a segment for the NBC entertainment show "Access Hollywood."
Dozens of elected officials, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Saturday that they could no longer support Trump. A growing chorus called for him to drop out of the race. Even his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, said he could not defend Trump's remarks. Trump was scheduled to campaign with House Speaker Paul Ryan on Saturday in Wisconsin, but Ryan asked the nominee not to attend. Pence was scheduled as a stand-in, but he, too, decided to stay away. Although Ryan criticized Trump's remarks, he has not withdrawn his support for the candidate.
As Trump jetted to St. Louis -- without his press corps -- Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., was on the campus of debate host Washington University on Sunday afternoon with his phone to his ear urging fellow congressional Republicans to settle down and stick with the party's standard-bearer.
"He's charged up," Sessions said of Trump in an interview with The Post. "I believe he can turn this around. I think our party leaders need to slow down and give him a chance to make his case."
He added, "I'm disappointed some people felt the need to respond so quickly."
Sessions also denied a rumor that has circulated among GOP insiders that he had candidly suggested to Trump on Friday that the businessman should consider leaving the race.
"It's not true, and I never came close to saying that," Sessions said. "I came to (Trump Tower) toward the end of the night and he asked me some questions. He was serious and understood the problems and the significance of it. So we talked. But it was about the significance, and he wasn't in denial that this was some normal little blip that wasn't going to have any impact. He understood it had a life of its own and was already taking off."
Several Clinton advisers and allies said they expect Trump to enter the debate angry, on the defensive and ready to lash out. Clinton will be prepared, but she sees no need to respond point by point, one aide said.
There is a view, however, that Trump could adopt the mindset of a "wounded animal," as one aide put it, which could make him more dangerous and unpredictable.
"The dynamic is he's done and is he going to blow things up and take other people down as he goes? It's what a bully does or what a loser does," said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. "You know you're losing, so you might as well inflict a maximum amount of damage. With him, you never know."
Added Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri: "We understand that this is uncharted territory to face an opponent that is in the grips of a downward spiral in terms of his own party belatedly walking away from him. So she has a lot of experience, she is very tough, and she'll be prepared to handle whatever comes her way."
Palmieri also sought to measure expectations by predicting that the town hall format could help Trump. En route to St. Louis on Clinton's campaign plane, Palmieri said Trump did well in a forum on national security in terms of tone, and she noted that voter questions could keep him relatively focused.
There are "guardrails that may keep him from spiraling as he did in the first debate," Palmieri said. "For Secretary Clinton, it's a great format when she's able to talk directly to voters about issues that they care about in their lives.
"We think there are a lot of voters who are newly open to hearing from her. And that's what we spent most of our time in prep doing and that's what we see the opportunity is here," she added.
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani gave a hint Sunday of how Trump plans to respond, stating that the real estate mogul will probably apologize. Giuliani said Trump is prepared to talk about the issues facing the country. He said that Trump feels badly about the controversy and that the remarks don't reflect who he is.
"I think he made a full and complete apology for it," Giuliani said of the tape on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday morning. "He's probably gonna do it again tonight."
But Giuliani also signaled that Trump has not ruled out using former president Bill Clinton's infidelities to attack his opponent. Trump again tweeted Sunday morning about Juanita Broaddrick, whose accusation that the former president had raped her in 1978 was never litigated in criminal court and has been denied by the Clintons.
Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" that the Clintons had a "rough time in their marriage 20 years ago" and that voters want to focus on the issues facing the country.
"I think Donald Trump's campaign is spiraling. They are trying to figure out a way to dig out of this mess," Mook said, noting that the race is between Trump and Hillary Clinton, not Bill Clinton. "If we need to discuss issues that were raised in that video with Donald Trump, that's fine, but the question here is what is Hillary Clinton's take on that issue, not her husband's."
Giuliani appeared in place of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who declined to show up for scheduled appearances on the Sunday morning talk shows, as did Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, and top surrogate Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.
Giuliani had difficulty justifying Trump's words and the defiant apology the nominee issued late Friday, which morphed into an attack on the Clintons.
"You're saying that the words are wrong. How about the actions?" Chuck Todd asked Giuliani on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"Well, the actions would be even worse if they were actions. Talk and action are two different things," Giuliani said.
On ABC's "This Week," he seemed to acknowledge that Trump's comments on the tape suggested sexual assault.
"What Trump is describing in that tape is sexual assault," host George Stephanopoulos said.
"That's what he's talking about," Giuliani said.
Giuliani got into a tense exchange with "State of the Union" host Jake Tapper, who tore into the defense that Trump engaged in "locker room" banter on the tape.
"First of all, I don't know that he did that to anyone. This is talk, and, gosh almighty, he who hasn't sinned cast the first stone here," Giuliani told Tapper.
Tapper responded tersely: "I will gladly tell you, Mr. Mayor, I have never said that, I have never done that. I am happy to throw a stone. I don't know any man -- I've been in locker rooms, I've been a member of a fraternity -- I have never heard any man, ever, brag about being able to maul women because they get away with it. Never."
Giuliani responded: "The fact is men, at times, talk like that, not all men, but men do. He was wrong for doing that. I'm not justifying it. I believe it's wrong."
After the controversy erupted Friday, Clinton pinned a tweet that contained the Trump video and the words "Women have the power to stop Trump."
More tapes showing Trump making crass remarks about sex and women surfaced on Saturday, including one in which the Republican nominee described his own daughter as "voluptuous."
Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said on "Fox News Sunday" that Trump's remarks show his true character.
"This is who this guy is," Podesta said. "I hope every voter actually takes the time to see what is really on that tape, and I hope that all of their children don't get to see what's on that tape."
Meanwhile, Clinton's allies tried to tamp down the significance of remarks the Democratic nominee apparently made to Wall Street groups that included her dreams of "open trade and open borders," remarks that were taken from hacked emails and are likely to come up during Sunday's debate.
Although Clinton's surrogates did not deny that she gave the speeches, they said they could not verify the authenticity of the hacked emails, which were made public Friday by WikiLeaks and were apparently lifted from Podesta's account. They also tried to counter critics who said the emails illustrate how Clinton is out of touch with working Americans and bends her positions to suit the audience to which she is speaking.
"Her public position and what she's going to fight for as president are one in the same," Mook said.