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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Trump returns to Florida with 'birther' con­tro­ver­sy in tow

Donald Trump on the campaign trail

The Associated Press

Donald Trump on the campaign trail

16

September

UPDATE: Donald Trump today in Washington said: "President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period," But he doubled down on a new false claim: That Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign against Obama started the issue.

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Donald Trump returns to Florida feeling a bit of a bounce. Polling is trending in his favor. He’s more disciplined. He’s finally outlining policy.

But then there’s that birther thing.

Trump refused to say in an interview Thursday that President Obama was born in the U.S. “I’ll answer that question at the right time,” he told the Washington Post. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

Trump was a prominent birther years ago and the issue helped him gain a foothold among conservative activists. “All I want to do is see this guy's birth certificate," he said to cheers during a 2011 tea party event in Boca Raton.

He doesn’t bring it up anymore but when it questioned says that’s because it would dominate news coverage, not because he'd changed his mind. His comment Thursday guarantees Democrats will seek to amplify the issue today in Florida.

“President Obama’s successor cannot and will not be the man who led the racist birther movement. Period,” Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter Thursday night.

Trump’s campaign then released an extraordinary statement that said he had done Obama and the country a public service, while saying he now thinks Obama was born in the U.S.

"Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller wrote. “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.”

PolitiFact determined claims about Clinton's role are false.

“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 goes on. “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.”

Trump will campaign today in Miami. He's in Fort Myers on Monday.

[Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2016 1:12pm]

    

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