Donald Trump Again Won’t Acknowledge Obama Was Born in U.S.

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WASHINGTON — Donald J. Trump has refused again to acknowledge that President Obama was born in the United States, reviving the so-called birther issue that the Republican presidential nominee has played down since announcing his campaign last year.

The resurfacing of Mr. Trump’s doubts about Mr. Obama’s birthplace — in an interview with The Washington Post that was published on Thursday — comes less than two months before the general election and as he has been working more aggressively to court minority voters.

Late Thursday, in an effort at damage control, a Trump spokesman issued a statement saying that “Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”

But the statement, by Jason Miller, a senior communications adviser, goes on to falsely blame Hillary Clinton for starting rumors about Mr. Obama’s birth in the 2008 campaign, and it then called her “weak” for not getting the question answered.

The statement actually credits Mr. Trump for settling the issue, saying — again falsely — that he “obtained” Mr. Obama’s birth certificate, which the president released in 2011.

“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,” Mr. Miller’s statement said.

But in The Post interview, Mr. Trump said something entirely different when asked about Mr. Obama’s birthplace.

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

Mr. Trump, who spearheaded the birther movement, has repeatedly refused to bend on the issue, which deeply inflames black voters who take pride in Mr. Obama. Mr. Trump’s aides are trying to make the issue go away before the presidential debates begin this month.

In his interview with The Post, Mr. Trump made it clear that his campaign staff does not always speak for him. He was asked specifically about comments by his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, who has acknowledged that Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii and has said that Mr. Trump privately agrees.

“It’s O.K.,” he said of Ms. Conway on Thursday. “She’s allowed to speak what she thinks. I want to focus on jobs. I want to focus on other things.”
He will also most likely face questions about the times that he continued to express doubt about the president’s birthplace, even after the release of the birth certificate.

In 2012, Mr. Trump suggested that the documentation that Mr. Obama provided might have been fraudulent, saying in a Twitter message that “an ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”

The Clinton campaign is unlikely to let Mr. Trump off the hook at a time when he clearly wants to change the subject.

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Hillary Clinton was quick to respond in a blistering speech, asking an audience in Washington on Thursday night, “When will he stop this ugliness, this bigotry?”

“He was asked one more time, where was President Obama born? And he still wouldn’t say Hawaii,” Mrs. Clinton said in an address to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. “This man wants to be our next president?”

Mr. Trump’s running mate, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, has also been unequivocal about Mr. Obama birthplace. Asked about it last week by NBC News, he said, “I believe that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii” and added, “I accept his birthplace.”

For Mr. Trump, clinging to “birtherism” appeared to be another sign that he does not intend to make a drastic pivot to attract a broader swath of voters, including members of minority groups who have been deeply skeptical of his campaign.

Mrs. Clinton made sure to emphasize the point Thursday night. “Now, he has tried to reset himself and his campaign many times,” she said in a speech in Washington. “This is the best he can do, this is who he is.”

Mr. Trump made no mention of the President’s birthplace at his Thursday rally in Laconia, N.H., but he did gloat about starting his rally 30 minutes before his traveling press was set to arrive, calling it “good news.”

Earlier, Mr. Trump criticized an African-American pastor who interrupted him during a campaign speech at her church in Flint, Mich., on Wednesday, saying she was a “nervous mess” with a political agenda.

During his visit to Bethel United Methodist Church on Wednesday, Mr. Trump gave a speech in which he criticized Mrs. Clinton as a failure. As he spoke, the church pastor, the Rev.

Faith Green Timmons, walked over and said, “Mr. Trump, I invited you here to thank us,” not to “make a political speech.”

Mr. Trump addressed the awkward exchange in an interview on Fox News on Thursday, suggesting that Pastor Timmons had a political agenda.

“Everyone plays their games, it doesn’t bother me,” Mr. Trump said.

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