Now that Donald Trump is safely ensconced in the White House, it’s time for a review of how he got there.
Think back about his road to the White House and his first real political statements to elevate him on the national stage.
It was way back in early 2011 that Trump attracted attention by raising questions about Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility for the presidency. At the time, Trump also talked about the possibility of running for the highest office in the land in 2012, but what drew more press notice were his comments about Obama.
“I have some real doubts,” Trump told the “Today” show. He said he sent his own investigators to Hawaii, where Obama claimed to have been born. “I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding.”
On “Good Morning America,” Trump suggested Obama might be trying to conceal his religion by refusing to release his genuine birth certificate nearly three years into his first term.
“Maybe it says he’s a Muslim,” he speculated.
In the spring of 2011, after Obama released what he purported to be his real long-form birth certificate, Trump boasted about forcing Obama to release the document. He said he was “very proud” of himself and the birth certificate would have to be examined to ensure it was authentic.
He didn’t let go of the issue until September 2016.
He told ABC News’ John Karl in 2013 he knew what he was doing.
“I don’t think I went overboard,” he said. “Actually, I think it made me very popular. … I do think I know what I’m doing.”
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper in June 2015, Trump appeared to want to avoid the topic, but refused to say whether he believed Obama was born in the U.S.
When asked the direct question, Trump responded, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. I mean, I don’t know why he wouldn’t release his records. But you know, honestly, I don’t want to get in it.”
Was that the end of it? Not by a long shot.
On Aug. 6, 2012, Trump was suggesting the birth certificate Obama released was a fake.
Trump Tweeted: “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.”
By Oct. 1, 2012, he was encouraging Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, to press the issue during a debate. In his tweet, Trump cites a promotional booklet for Obama’s autobiography that asserted Obama was born in Kenya.
He Tweeted: “In debate, @MittRomney should ask Obama why autobiography states ‘born in Kenya, raised in Indonesia.'”
And Trump did not let go after Obama was re-elected.
On Dec. 12, 2013, he tweeted: “How amazing, the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”
Even in early 2016, when Trump was an announced candidate for the presidency, he spoke to ABC News at length about the issue with Jonathan Karl:
KARL: You said a lot of things over the years that people say just make you not serious. One of the big things is on the birth certificate –
TRUMP: Why does that make me not serious? I think that resonated with a lot of people.
KARL: But you don’t still question that he was born in the United States, do you?
TRUMP: I have no idea.
KARL: Even at this point?
TRUMP: Well I don’t know. Was it a birth certificate? You tell me. Some people say that was not his birth certificate. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. I’m saying I don’t know. Nobody knows. And you don’t know either, Jonathan. You’re a smart guy. You don’t know either.
KARL: I’m pretty convinced he was born –
TRUMP: Pretty! Ah, pretty, pretty! You said pretty!
KARL: I’m convinced, I’m totally –
TRUMP: No, no you said pretty –
KARL: – totally without question that he was born in the United States.
TRUMP: Excuse me, Jonathan, you said you were pretty convinced. OK? So let’s just see what happens over time. But it’s not my issue, Jonathan.
KARL: OK, let me ask you something else –
TRUMP: My issue right now is much different, wait a minute. My issue is economic. Our country is being ripped apart by China and many other countries. That’s my issue.
KARL: But isn’t it going to be harder for people to take you seriously on those issues if you don’t acknowledge that you went overboard on this whole birther stuff?
TRUMP: Well, I don’t think I went overboard. Actually, I think it made me very popular, if you want to know the truth, OK? So I do think I know what I’m doing.
KARL: But on this issue, people think that you were just out to lunch.
TRUMP: Well, you just said you were pretty sure. And if you’re pretty sure, that’s not acceptable. Because you can’t be pretty sure, you have to be 100 percent.
KARL: I’m sure, I’m 100 percent sure, for the record.
TRUMP: I don’t think you are.
See the interview:
Note what Trump said. He said the issue resonated with people. He added that it made him very popular.
Later in 2016, he answered a question from CNN by changing the subject: “Who cares right now? We’re talking about something else, OK? I have my own theory on Obama. Someday I will write a book.”
It was not until September 2016, two months before the election, that Trump said for the first time: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States.”
Many assumed that was the end of the controversy.
But is it? Could there be more to the eligibility story than where Obama was born?
What if Obama, as president, cooked up a phony document 18 months before his re-election bid?
Keep in mind something Trump said in that interview with Jonathan Karl: “Let’s just see what happens over time.”
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