At Sunday night’s debate, Donald Trump made the sort of provocative statement that has defined his candidacy: That he would throw Hillary Clinton in jail if he were elected president.
And on Monday, his staff offered a familiar defence to brush the comment aside: It was just a joke.
“That was a quip,” Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” acknowledging that Trump would not have the power as president to personally jail a political opponent.
It’s not the first time the Trump campaign and its supporters have dismissed a controversial statement from Trump by claiming the brash Republican wasn’t being serious.
Here are some other instances:
Obama is ‘the founder of ISIS’:
In August, Trump found himself in hot water when he repeatedly accused President Barack Obama of being the founder of ISIS at a campaign rally in Florida.
The next day, in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, he doubled down on the claim, even when Hewitt seemed to be giving Trump an out.
“Last night you said the president was the founder of ISIS,” Hewitt said. “I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace.”
Trump fired back: “No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.”
But one day later, Trump claimed he was merely being sarcastic, and criticised the media for taking him seriously.
Russian hackers should find Clinton’s deleted emails
In late July, Trump managed to steal some of the spotlight from the Democratic National Convention when he apparently invited Russian hackers to dig up thousands of deleted emails from Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said to reporters in Miami.
He later tweeted a similar invitation:
If Russia or any other country or person has Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, perhaps they should share them with the FBI!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2016
Trump was referring to the emails Clinton said she deleted because they were personal in nature.
The comments came after Clinton’s camp publicly suspected Russian hackers of breaching the Democratic National Committee’s computer networks, and leaking emails from top officials to WikiLeaks.
Trump was widely criticised for his remarks by cybersecurity experts and intelligence officers, as well as leaders from both major political parties.
The Republican’s advisers immediately attempted to clarify that the remarks were tongue-in-cheek, and Trump himself eventually claimed he was being sarcastic.
‘Second Amendment people’ could stop Hillary Clinton
At a campaign rally in August, Trump suggested gun owners could take matters into their own hands to prevent Clinton from using the Supreme Court to abolish the Second Amendment.
“Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment,” Trump said at the rally in North Carolina. “By the way, and if she gets to pick — if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Prominent lawmakers and pundits interpreted the comment as a call for violent action against Clinton, although Trump and his surrogates insisted he was referring to a “political movement.”
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed the remark.
“I heard about this Second Amendment quote. It sounds like just a joke gone bad,” Ryan said to reporters in Wisconsin. “I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that.”
On Monday, Ryan announced he would no longer defend or campaign for Trump, and instead focus his efforts on maintaining a Republican majority in Congress. Ryan did not withdraw his endorsement of Trump, however.
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