Back in 2011, when Donald Trump was flirting with a possible presidential bid, he appealed to conservative audiences by questioning, over and over, whether or not Barack Obama was actually born in the United States. At one point, the loudmouthed millionaire even said that he dispatched investigators to Obama’s (actual) native Hawaii to see what they could dig up.
Mainstream Republicans seethed, fearful that Trump's shenanigans were off-putting to moderates and a distraction from issues like the economy that could actually unseat an incumbent president.
Three years later, Obama has released his long-form birth certificate, proving beyond any doubt that he was born in Hawaii as he says, and Trump is once again making the rounds at Republican conferences.
And as for that whole birther controversy, he says he regrets none of it.
“I don’t think it was a distraction. A lot of people love me for it. I got him to produce his so-called birth certificate, or whatever it was,” Trump said at a news conference this afternoon.
Trump was in New Orleans for the Republican Leadership Conference, a semi-annual conservative confab. For most of his remarks, he was relatively constrained, saying that “We don’t have that leadership. We need strength in this country. We need leadership in this country,” and adding, “I’d love to see Obama do great,” Trump said. “I’d love to see him be a great president. It’s not going to work out that way”
At one point, the host of Celebrity Apprentice that Tea Partiers need to stop supporting doomed candidates. But Trump gave no indication that he was going to change his mind on the question of the president’s birthplace, and reminded reporters that he also wanted to see Obama’s college records, a request that was denied.
“Look, I offered him five million dollars, as you remember, and then in the last moments I even increased it to 50 million. I didn’t want see his marks. I just wanted to see his records,” Trump said. “And he would have been doing a great thing because that money would have gone to charity, it could have gone to Chicago youth, it could have gone to any charity that he picked. That was up to fifty million dollars to share some records from college and he chose not to do it.”
If Obama was actually born in the US, Trump says, “I would have been totally happy about that. In fact, I would have probably preferred it because that would mean we would have a president for whom everything was fine.”
He then suggested that Obama may have lied about actually being born in Kenya when applying for college because being from an African country would have helped him get into college and would have increased his chances for financial aid.
“You might say it is a distraction, I tell you, I have more fans and more followers, I have millions of people coming up to me on the street saying, ‘Don’t give that fight up.’” Trump said. “I am not giving it up. I am onto [the issue of growing] jobs, I am on to stopping China from ripping this country, because they are treating us very badly as a country. I am onto many other things.”
But the issue, as he sees it, remains.
“But certainly it is not something in my opinion that is a distraction at all. There is a great level of popularity. He should have taken the fifty million and given it to charity. I mean why would someone not take 50 million and give it to charity? That is a lot of money.”