The president’s latest episode followed a repeated Trump tactic of pushing his rhetoric over the line — and then shrugging off responsibility.
He once encouraged supporters to attack protesters — then claimed to ensure the safety of all Americans.
He mused that Russia should seize his competitor’s emails — then said it was just a joke.
And he whipped his crowd into a frenzy about locking up Hillary Clinton — before insisting post-inauguration that the idea of prosecuting his Democratic opponent is “just not something I feel very strongly about.”
President Donald Trump returned to a familiar tactic Thursday of blaming others for a problem many believe he created, tossing his own base under the bus to deflect outrage from GOP allies on Capitol Hill and beyond.
It’s a throwback to a field-tested Trump playbook: push the rhetoric further than some allies can handle, then tiptoe back to shrug off responsibility.
Days after Trump encouraged four freshman Democrats — Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — in a pair of tweets to “go back” to other countries, his supporters backed him up Wednesday night by chanting “send her back” about Omar, the only one of the four congresswomen who was born outside the United States.
Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Trump reprimanded his supporters who had launched into the racially incendiary chant at a North Carolina campaign rally. Trump, who said he was “not happy” with the episode, claimed that he tried to stop the crowd by “speaking very quickly,” at no point mentioning that the chant began only seconds after he told the crowd that Omar “looks down with contempt on the hardworking American” and “has a history of launching vicious, anti-Semitic screeds.”
Indeed, the president pushed his adoring audience all the way to the edge and then continued attacking Omar once the chant they started died down. But as more and more Republicans piled onto him Thursday, Trump responded by suggesting it was his audience — not he — who had crossed a line.
“I disagree with it,” he said of the chant.
It is hardly the first time the president has denied involvement in a controversial action or comment that, intentionally or not, he provoked.
At a campaign rally the day of the 2016 Iowa caucuses, then-candidate Trump told his supporters to “knock the crap” out of any protesters — promising to cover their legal fees if they did. But one month later, when an anti-Trump protester was sucker-punched at another rally in Arkansas, his campaign aides said they “obviously discourage this kind of behavior.”
But Trump has shown no sign of a course correction, despite distancing himself from his supporters’ controversial chant. Even some of his campaign advisers said they worry he will make matters worse while he’s visiting his Bedminster, N.J., golf club this weekend. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to speak at a private campaign event there Friday night, while the president‘s schedule for the rest of the weekend is unknown.
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