‘Birther’ Issue Comes Back |to Bite Donald Trump

     (CN) – Donald Trump’s campaign Thursday night said the Republican presidential candidate now believes President Barack Obama was born in the United States, but the candidate himself was reluctant to address the issue himself, only doing so Friday after it threatened to overwhelm his campaign.
     Trump had promised Friday morning to make a “major statement” on the president and where he was born, but when the time came, at the end of an event attended by veterans and medal of honor winners, he addressed it with a single sentence.
     “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period,” Trump said.
     President Obama himself commented on the controversy that’s overtaken the presidential race Friday morning, telling reporters in the Oval Office that he was “shocked” something like “birtherism” would come up now, “when we have other things to do.”
     Obama then added, “Actually, I’m not shocked at all.”
     “I was pretty confident about where I was born,” the president continued. “I think most people were, as well. My hope would be the presidential election reflects more serious issues than that.””
     The renewed attention to the “birther” movement, which falsely claims President Obama wasn’t born in the United States and the GOP presidential candidate’s hand in it is part of the fallout from the release a trove of hacked emails from the Gmail account of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
     In an August 21 email disclosed on the DCLeaks.com website, Powell attacked Trump for being one of the leaders of the movement.
     The catalyst for Powell’s comments to Emily Miller, a journalist who once worked under him as a deputy press secretary at the State Department, was a speech Trump had given earlier in Virginia in which the candidate claimed the GOP “will be the party of Lincoln once again” – a blatant play for the black vote.
     Powell and Miller begin their email conversation talking about the secretary’s schedule, and then, as the extended email chain continues, turn to the subject of the Trump.
     “There is nothing he can say that will sway black voters, so he might as well say it to white folks,” Powell says. “He is at 1% black voters and will drop. He takes us for idiots. He can never overcome what he tried to do to Obama with his search for the birth certificate hoping to force Obama out of the Presidency. Or, demanding his school transcripts to see how he got into Harvard (eg, affirmative action ). You don’t fall for his false sincerity, I hope.”
     Later, Powell adds: ” … the whole birther movement was racist. That’s what the 99% believe. When Trump couldn’t keep that up he said he also wanted to see if the certificate noted that he was a Muslim.
     “As I have said before, ‘What if he was?’ Muslims are born as Americans every day,” the former secretary of state said. “The transcript thing was also racist. The President graduated Harvard and was editor of the Law Review. And now decades later Trump wants to see his transcripts to see if he should have been admitted. And for him to say yesterday that within four years he would have 95% of blacks voting for him is schizo fantasy.”
     Trump first ventured into the swamp of the birther movement in March 2011, when he was considering mounting a challenge to President Obama’s 2012 re-election bid.
     Trump revealed he was “seriously considering” running for president on the ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and said both that he was a “little” skeptical of Obama’s citizenship, and that someone who shares this view shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed as an “idiot.”
     He also said he considered “birther” to be a “derogatory” word.
     Later, Trump appeared on “The View” and again said, “I want him to show his birth certificate.”
     Trump also said “there’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like,” a comment that drew a sharp rebuke from host Whoopi Goldberg.
     After Obama released his long-form birth certificate on April 27, 2011, Trump said “I am really honored and I am really proud, that I was able to do something that nobody else could do.”
     But he wouldn’t let the issue of Obama’s background go.
     In October 2012, Trump offered to donate $5 million to the charity of the president’s choice in return for the publication of his college and passport applications by the end of the month.
     Obama scoffed at the offer during an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” joking that he and Trump had bad blood dating back to their “schoolboy days in Kenya” — a jab at the claims by Trump and others that he was not born in the United States.
     After the deadline came and went, Trump posted a video on YouTube calling it a “very, very sad day for the United States of America.”
     He also lamented that the president’s snub had prevented him from giving $5 million to a group such as the Wounded Warrior Project, American Cancer Society or to the families of victims from the embassy attack in Benghazi, Libya.
     “Someday those papers will come out, and people will say, ‘You know what? Donald Trump was right,’ ” he said in a video.
     In light of Powell’s now very public comments, The Washington Post asked Trump Thursday evening if he now believes President Obama was born in the United States.
     Trump refused to the answer the question.
     Hours later, the Trump campaign released a statement that blamed Democrat Hillary Clinton for first raising the Birther issue during her 2008 primary contest against Obama, and that MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television program, hosted by Trump antagonist Joe Scarborough, acted as her “henchmen” to further the story.
     But the Trump campaign says “Clinton was too weak to get an answer.”
     This isn’t the first time Trump and other Republicans have made that claim.
     In 2015, Trump tweeted that Hillary Clinton started the movement in 2008, adding “She was all in!” And as recently as August, GOP Chairman Reince Priebus repeated the claim to Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
     And on Friday, Trump himself repeated the statement, saying “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy; I finished it.”
     Several reputable news organizations have debunked these claims, and Politifact.com rated them “False,” saying there is no link to the movement and Clinton. Even Fox News said Friday that it had found no evidence that Clinton had raised the issue in 2008.
     Nevertheless, the Trump campaign statement continued to espouse this position while also trying to afford its candidate a victory lap over the birth certificate’s disclosure.
     “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,” the statement said.
     According to the campaign, 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,” the statement says.
     Making the rounds on morning-news shows Friday, Donald Trump Jr. denied that his father was pressured into making the statement.
     “This is coming from him,” Trump Jr. told told ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
     Hillary Clinton blasted her opponent for his long history of birtherism in a Friday morning meeting of the Black Women’s Agenda in Washington, D.C.
     “For five years, he has led the birther movement to de-legitimize our first black president. His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie,” Clinton said. “There is no erasing it in history.
     “Just yesterday, Trump, again refused to say with his own words that the president was born in the United States. Now Donald’s advisors had the temerity to say he’s doing the country a ‘service’ by pushing these lies. No, he isn’t. He is feeding into the worst impulses, the bigotry and bias that lurks in our country.
     “Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple,” Clinton said. “And Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.”

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