RNC Chair Embraces Trump, Who Backs Off ISIS Comments

Republican Donald Trump on Friday backed away from comments calling President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton the founders of the militant group Islamic State (ISIS), while the Republican Party sought to project unity behind their candidate.

A new poll showed Trump, whose unfiltered speaking style has repeatedly landed him in hot water, losing ground in three crucial states ahead of the Nov. 8 general election against Clinton.

In a surprise appearance, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who in private expressed fury over some of Trump’s actions earlier this month, introduced the candidate at a campaign event in Erie, Pennsylvania, and the two hugged onstage.

Try Newsweek for only $1.25 per week

“We’re so honored to be working with Donald Trump and the campaign,” Priebus told thousands of Trump supporters.

“And don’t believe the garbage you read. Let me tell you something. Donald Trump, the Republican Party, all of you, we’re going to put him in the White House and save this country together.”

Republican sources earlier this month said Priebus was furious over Trump’s failure to endorse House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and his feud with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. Trump did endorse Ryan a few days later.

Trump brought Priebus on stage later at another rally, in Altoona, Pennsylvania, to thank him for the work he has done as he insisted there is great unity in the party.

08_13_trump_01 Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at an American Renewal Project event at the Orlando Convention Center in Orlando, Florida August 11. Eric Thayer/Reuters

“I have to say we have great unification,” Trump said.

Trump on Friday told the rallies in Altoona and Erie that his remarks earlier this week calling Obama and Clinton the founders of ISIS had been sarcastic.

“I have been saying because it’s true, but somewhat sarcastically, that he’s the founder of ISIS and she’s a close second,” Trump said in Altoona.

Trump first made the unfounded claim on Wednesday and repeated it through the week.

Trump claimed sarcasm in July as well after he was heavily criticized for inviting Russia to dig up tens of thousands of “missing” emails from Clinton’s time as U.S. secretary of state.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Marist poll released on Friday suggested support for Trump is eroding among voters in three battleground states.

Such states are hotly contested because their populations can swing either to Republicans or Democrats and thus play a decisive role in presidential elections, which are ultimately decided by the state-by-state tally of the Electoral College.

The poll found Clinton widening her lead in Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina, while holding her advantage in Florida.
Related Stories

Trumponomics: Warmed-Over Trickle-Down Policies
Will Trump’s Rust Belt Strategy Lead to Victory?
Quora Question: Being Black at a Trump Rally
Donald Trump’s History of Lying Under Oath

Clinton released her tax returns on Friday, painting the move as a sign of transparency that her campaign says Trump lacks.

U.S. presidential candidates are not required to release their tax returns, but it has become a common custom.

Trump has cited an audit by the Internal Revenue Service in refusing to release his returns. Trump also has said his taxes are no one’s business and that they reveal little.

Trump scheduled a speech in Warren, Ohio, on Monday that will focus on how he would handle the threat posed by ISIS. Trump has said he would “knock the hell out of ISIS ,” without offering details.