Donald Trump's campaign said late Thursday the Republican presidential nominee believes President Obama was born in the United States, after he earlier refused to answer the question in a Washington Post interview.
The candidate has for years repeatedly implied or added fuel to discredited conspiracy theories that Obama wasn't actually born in Hawaii, and he refused to directly answer whether he believes the president was born in the US in an interview published Thursday.
“I’ll answer that question at the right time. I just don’t want to answer it yet,” Trump told the paper.
Hours later, in an apparent effort at damage control, Trump senior communications adviser Jason Miller released a statement saying, "Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States."
Hillary Clinton's campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty failed 2008 campaign for President. This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer. Even the MSNBC show Morning Joe admits that it was Clinton's henchmen who first raised this issue, not Donald J. Trump.
In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama's birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.
Mr. Trump is now totally focused on bringing jobs back to America, defeating radical Islamic terrorism, taking care of our veterans, introducing school choice opportunities and rebuilding and making our inner cities safe again.
Last week his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, told CNN that Trump “believes President Obama was born here,” following similar comments made by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
When asked about Conway's comments, Trump said: “It’s OK. She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs, I want to focus on other things.”
But pressed on the issue, Trump told the Post: “I don’t talk about it anymore. The reason I don’t is because then everyone is going to be talking about it as opposed to jobs, the military, the vets, security."
Obama released his Hawaii birth certificate in 2011, but Trump has never renounced his birther position.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton immediately seized on Trump's comments doubting Obama's birthplace Thursday night, telling the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Dinner: "And he still wouldn't say Hawaii. He still wouldn't say America... When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry? Now he's tried to reset himself and his campaign many times. This is the best he can do. This is who he is."
She later tweeted about the comments, saying, "President Obama’s successor cannot and will not be the man who led the racist birther movement. Period."
On Wednesday, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said in an interview that Trump no longer questions Obama’s citizenship.
“Those are issues of the past,” Pence said. “Donald Trump and I both accept that the president was born in the United States of America."
Despite the campaign statement Thursday, Trump himself has not said Obama was born in the US.
"Trump needs to say it himself. On camera," Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon tweeted.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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