A re­ver­sal of course for Don­ald Trump

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date ad­mits Obama was born in the U.S.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire

WASH­ING­TON >> After five years as the chief pro­moter of a lie about Barack Obama’s birth­place, Don­ald Trump abruptly re­versed course Fri­day and ac­knowl­edged the fact that the pres­i­dent was born in America. He then im­me­di­ately ped­dled an­other false con­spir­acy.

“Pres­i­dent Barack Obama was born in the United States, pe­riod,” Trump de­clared, enun­ci­at­ing each word in a brief state­ment at the end of a cam­paign ap­pear­ance. “Now we all want to get back to mak­ing America strong and great again.”

But as the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee sought to put that false con­spir­acy the­ory to rest, he stoked an­other, claim­ing the “birther move­ment” was be­gun by his Demo­cratic ri­val, Hil­lary Clin­ton. There is no ev­i­dence that is true.

“Hil­lary Clin­ton and her cam­paign of 2008 started the birther con­tro­versy. I fin­ished it,” Trump said.

While the ques­tion of Obama’s birth­place was raised by some back­ers of Clin­ton’s pri­mary cam­paign against Obama eight years ago, Clin­ton has long de­nounced it as a “racist lie.”

“Trump has spent years ped­dling a racist con­spir­acy aimed at un­der­min­ing the first African-Amer­i­can pres­i­dent,” Clin­ton tweeted after his Fri­day event. “He can’t just take it back.”

In­deed, it is clear Trump’s foes will try to keep the crit­i­cism of his ac­tions alive. African-Amer­i­can mem­bers of Congress held a news con­fer­ence near Wash­ing­ton’s con­ven­tion cen­ter to de­nounce him im­me­di­ately after his ap­pear­ance.

Trump’s al­le­ga­tion on Clin­ton start­ing the con­tro­versy is the lat­est ex­am­ple of his ten­dency to re­peat state­ments that are patently false. How­ever, that did not af­fect his abil­ity to beat more than a dozen chal­lengers in the GOP pri­maries and has yet to dis­suade his loyal sup­port­ers.

His state­ment Fri­day, in a sprawl­ing ball­room at his new Wash­ing­ton ho­tel, lasted only a few sec­onds fol­low­ing a lengthy cam­paign event fea­tur­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and award win­ners who have en­dorsed him. That turned the ap­pear­ance into a de facto com­mer­cial for his cam­paign and prop­erty, as the ma­jor ca­ble TV net­works aired the full event live in an­tic­i­pa­tion of com­ments Trump had hyped hours be­fore.

“I’m go­ing to be mak­ing a ma­jor state­ment on this whole thing and what Hil­lary did,” he told the Fox Busi­ness Net­work. “We have to keep the sus­pense go­ing, OK?”

For years, Trump has been the most prom­i­nent pro­po­nent of the “birther” idea. He used the is­sue to build his po­lit­i­cal profile, earn me­dia at­ten­tion and de­fine his sta­tus as an “out­sider” will­ing to chal­lenge con­ven­tions.

Fri­day marked the first time he said in no un­cer­tain terms he was mis­taken. But Trump did not ex­plain how or when he’d come to that con­clu­sion.

As late as Wed­nes­day, he re­fused to ac­knowl­edge Obama was born in Hawaii, de­clin­ing to ad­dress the mat­ter in a Wash­ing­ton Post interview pub­lished late Thurs­day.

“I’ll an­swer that ques­tion at the right time,” Trump said. “I just don’t want to an­swer it yet.”

Clin­ton seized on Trump’s re­fusal dur­ing a speech Thurs­day night.

“This man wants to be our next pres­i­dent? When will he stop this ug­li­ness, this big­otry?” she asked.

Hours later, Trump’s cam­paign spokesman Ja­son Miller is­sued a state­ment that sug­gested the ques­tion had been set­tled five years ago — by 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,” Miller said.

“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,” he added.

The facts do not match Miller’s de­scrip­tion. Trump re­peat­edly con­tin­ued to ques­tion Obama’s birth in the years after the pres­i­dent re­leased his birth cer­tifi­cate. In Au­gust 2012, for ex­am­ple, Trump was push­ing the is­sue on Twit­ter.

“An ‘ex­tremely cred­i­ble source’ has called my of­fice and told me that @Barack­Obama’s birth cer­tifi­cate is a fraud,” he wrote.

Even in Jan­uary of this year, Trump sounded skep­ti­cal when asked whether he now be­lieved the pres­i­dent was a nat­u­ral-born cit­i­zen. “Who knows? Who cares right now? We’re talk­ing about something else, OK?” Trump said in a CNN interview. “I mean, I have my own the­ory on Obama. Some­day I’ll write a book.”

Trump’s re­ver­sal comes as he works to win over African-Amer­i­can vot­ers — many of whom have been turned off by his at­tempt to dele­git­imize the na­tion’s first black pres­i­dent.

Obama took the un­prece­dented step of re­leas­ing his long-form birth cer­tifi­cate in 2011, amid per­sis­tent ques­tions from Trump and oth­ers.

On the day he re­leased the doc­u­ment, Obama jabbed at Trump, say­ing, “We’re not go­ing to be able to solve our prob­lems if we get dis­tracted by sideshows and car­ni­val bark­ers.”

The pres­i­dent added Fri­day that he hoped the elec­tion would fo­cus on more se­ri­ous is­sues, and said he “was pretty con­fi­dent about where I was born.”

After Trump’s event, the GOP nom­i­nee in­vited pho­tog­ra­phers and a cam­era on a tour of his new ho­tel prop­erty, with­out re­porters present.

Mean­while, the back­drop of blue cur­tains that Trump had spo­ken in front of col­lapsed, top­pling a row of Amer­i­can flags like domi­noes.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump, speaks dur­ing a gath­er­ing with mil­i­tary lead­ers and veter­ans at the new Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton on Fri­day.

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