Trump aides wrestle with 'birther' issue and alleged threats to Clinton

Donald Trump's aides tried Sunday to bury the issues of "birtherism" and an alleged incitement to violence against Hillary Clinton, but that won't be so easy to do less than two months before the election.

While aides to Trump said he does believe that President Obama was born in the United States and was talking about gun rights rather than Clinton's safety, Democrats said the Republican nominee continues to make statements that seem to encourage racists and extremists.

"This is a pattern that has been repeated over and over again, and I think this doesn’t belong in any race, much less a race to be president of this country," said Clinton running mate Tim Kaine on Fox News Sunday.

Kaine was discussing comments Trump made Friday in Miami. The New York businessman, claiming that Clinton wants to take away gun rights, suggested that her Secret Service guards be "disarmed" and "let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away. OK? It would be very dangerous."

Kaine described Trump's words as an incitement, "or at a minimum, an expression of indifference to whether violence would occur."

Trump running mate Mike Pence, speaking on ABC's This Week, called the idea of a threat "nonsense" and said Trump was commenting on how a public figure is surrounded by armed guards but wants to "deny the right of law-abiding citizens to have a firearm in their home to protect their own families."

He added, "I think what Donald Trump was saying is if Hillary Clinton didn't have all that security — she'd probably be a whole lot more supportive of the Second Amendment,".

While supporting some gun control measures, Clinton backs the Second Amendment right to gun ownership.

Democrats also served notice that would continue to challenge Trump over "birtherism," the false suggestion that President Obama was born in another country.

Trump, who for years bolstered the birther movement, made a short statement Friday that he now believes Obama was born in the United States "period." He did not offer a reason for his change of belief. As late as Wednesday, the Republican nominee declined to answer a reporter's question on Obama's birthplace.

Kaine, speaking on a string of morning shows, said Trump pushed a "bigoted lie" designed to undermine the legitimacy of the country's first African-American president and needs to be pressed about whether he really believed it.

Citing the nation's history of racism, Kaine told NBC's Meet The Press that Trump's efforts to promote "the notion that an African-American president is not a citizen" are "extremely powerful and painful to African-Americans and to others who know this painful chapter in America's history."

Obama, who released his birth certificate in 2011, mocked Trump during a Saturday address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner, telling backers "there's an extra spring in my step" these days.

"I don't know about you guys, but I am so relieved that the whole birther thing is over," Obama said. "I mean, ISIL, North Korea, poverty, climate change -- none of those things weighed on my mind like the validity of my birth certificate."

Pence told ABC that Democrats and the media are pushing the issue to distract attention from Clinton's campaign problems. "This is not what the American people are talking about," he said. "Donald Trump put this issue to an end yesterday in Washington D.C."

Another Trump aide, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, told CNN's State of the Union that birtherism is a "done issue."

Still, the issues of Obama's birthplace and alleged incitement will likely surface when Trump and Clinton debate. Their first encounter is set for Sept. 26.

USA Today


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