Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appeared to suggest Monday that President Barack Obama sympathized with terrorism, saying that when it came to tackling Islamic extremists, “maybe he doesn’t want to get it.”
Speaking to Fox News, Trump claimed Americans were “led by a man who is either not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind. People cannot believe President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.”
Pressed later to explain his comments during an appearance on NBC’s Today show, Trump said, “There are a lot of people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it.
“A lot of people think maybe he doesn’t want to know about it. I happen to think that he just doesn’t know what he’s doing. But there are many people that think maybe he doesn’t want to get it. He doesn’t want to see what’s really happening.”
Trump has tapped into Obama conspiracy theories in the past, and has questioned on multiple occasions whether the president was born in the United States at all.
On Monday, he also focused heavily on the nation’s immigration system, although the Orlando shooter was born in the United States. The presumptive Republican nominee redoubled his call for temporarily banning Muslims from the United States, saying he would lift the ban once the government could “properly and perfectly” screen immigrants.
Going further, Trump said he would also “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there’s a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe and our allies.” He did not specify what countries would be affected or whether the suspension would apply regardless of religion.
Earlier Monday, Trump asserted that American Muslims know the identities of potential terrorists but are not reporting them. He also said there are thousands of people living in the United States “sick with hate” and capable of carrying out the sort of massacre that killed at least 49 people in a Florida nightclub.
The gunman, identified by police as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old US citizen from Fort Pierce, Florida, opened fire with an assault-style rifle inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday, killing at least 49 people before dying in a gunfight with police. Another 53 people were hospitalized, most in critical condition.
Trump’s opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, struck a decidedly different tone Monday, saying she would prioritize stopping “lone wolf” attackers as president — those who may be radicalized without having direct contact or orders from a larger terror network. Overseas, the presumptive Democratic nominee called for ramping up the US air campaign targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and pointedly called out US partners in the region by name, saying Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar must stop their citizens from funding terrorism.
Clinton also vigorously reiterated her call for banning assault weapons, like one of the guns the Orlando shooter used.
“I believe weapons of war have no place on our streets,” she said.
Clinton’s address was measured and sober. While she drew implicit contrasts with Trump, she never mentioned him by name, declaring, “Today is not a day for politics.”
Trump’s longstanding proposal to temporarily ban foreign-born Muslims from entering the United States has triggered outrage from Democrats and Republicans alike, who see it as unconstitutional, un-American and counterproductive. But it has helped him win over many primary voters who fear the rise of Islamic extremism and believe that “political correctness” — the fear of offending Muslims — is damaging national security.
Trump’s rhetoric on Muslims was a hallmark of his primary campaign. Besides proposing a temporary prohibition on foreign Muslims entering the country, he has advocated using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods to try to stave off future attacks.
In the hours after the Orlando shooting, Trump issued a statement calling on President Barack Obama to resign for refusing “to even say the words ‘radical Islam'” in his response to the attack. He also said Clinton should exit the presidential race if she does the same.
While some Republican leaders have encouraged Trump to abandon his proposed Muslim ban in an effort to broaden his support among voters before November’s general election, the Orlando attack appeared Sunday to harden the billionaire businessman’s position.
“What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough.”