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A guide to Donald Trump's poorly-timed gaffes

Trump's campaign gaffes

Since the start of the general election season, many of Donald Trump's campaign gaffes have proven to be fortuitously timed boons for his Democratic rival.

It's a pattern that's repeated since he won the GOP primary race, with Trump squandering prime opportunities to hammer Hillary Clinton over her own campaign controversies. When the Democratic nominee mischaracterized the FBI investigation into her private email server, for instance, Trump spent less time harping on her false statements than he did litigating "babygate."

And that's not the only time the mogul's missteps have overshadowed a potentially damaging Clinton scandal.

Take a look at this guide to all the recent times Trump has clocked in with some poorly-timed gaffes.

July 1, 2016

Just as the FBI investigation into Clinton's private email server was wrapping up, former President Bill Clinton made a major political miscalculation: while parked on the tarmac of the Phoenix Airport, the former commander-in-chief paid a private visit to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Lynch, whose position as the head of the Justice Department meant that she was involved in the investigation into Clinton's wife, said there was no "impropriety" and neither the State Department emails nor Benghazi were discussed.

But -- as even Lynch admitted -- the optics were terrible.

The incident dominated headlines for a full day.

And then Trump tweeted this:


One day after the unwise meeting between Clinton and Lynch, Trump sent out a graphic on Twitter proclaiming Clinton was the "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!" The photo mashup included what many on social media interpreted as the Star of David splayed across piles of hundred dollar bills.

Dozens of prominent Twitter users denounced the tweet as anti-semitic, and the Trump campaign spent a news cycle attempting to tamp down its effects, with some surrogates rushing to call it a "sheriff's star" and the social media team throwing together a new, less controversial graphic.

July 5, 2016

While FBI director James Comey declined to press criminal charges against Clinton in early July over her use of a private email server, he also wagged a finger at the former state secretary for how "extremely careless" she had been in handling potentially classified information.

Rather than highlight Comey's press conference from that day, Trump instead made news with an unrelated riff about Iraq and its deceased dictator, Saddam Hussein, at a campaign stop.

Trump shifts focus from Clinton's emails by praising Saddam Hussein

"Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right? ... But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good," Trump said at a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina. "They didn't read 'em the rights, they didn't talk. They were a terrorist, it was over."

Trump spent the next several days revisiting those remarks at seemingly every opportunity. And the Clinton campaign, which would normally be on the defensive in such a situation, immediately pounced.

Jake Sullivan, Clinton's senior policy adviser, slammed Trump saying his "praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds" and that the comments "demonstrate how dangerous he would be as commander-in-chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks."

July 22, 2016

In July, hacked Democratic National Committee emails flooded the document dumping site WikiLeaks just as the party's convention was set to kick off in Philadelphia, weaving a damaging tale of favoritism among DNC officials towards Clinton's campaign. The email exchanges offered a harsh look at how top DNC workers perceived the campaign of rival Bernie Sanders and presented an easy target for Trump to cry out against a "rigged" election.

Trump attacked Clinton over the contents of the emails, but the impact of his criticism didn't last long.

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After government sources disclosed that they believed Russia was responsible for the cyber breach, prompting Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook to insinuate that they had done so to help Trump. Trump then dared foreign hackers some days later to mine his rival's private emails.

"It would be interesting to see, I will tell you this, Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing," Trump said at a press conference in Miami on July 27. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

Trump took some time before he walked back the remarks, telling Fox News a day later that "of course I'm being sarcastic. They don't even know, frankly, if it's Russia."

July 31, 2016

At the end of July, Clinton began peddling a story about the FBI's final findings regarding their private email server investigation: "[FBI Director] Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I've said is consistent with what I have told the American people," she told Fox News Sunday.

Numerous outlets fact-checked the claim and found that Clinton was being less than truthful, with the Washington Post dubbing it a "four-Pinocchio" lie.

Trump shared the Post story on his constantly updated Twitter feed, even throwing out a #CrookedHillary hashtag.

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But the real story that week: Trump's response to the Gold Star Khan family, who criticized the billionaire at the Democratic national convention. (The same day Clinton falsely represented Comey's statements, Trump claimed on Twitter that he was "viciously attacked by Mr. Khan.")

And then there were Trump's comments to ABC News about Crimea that same day, where he asserted Putin was "not going into Ukraine" despite the two-year-long Russian presence in the area.

The day after? Trump refused to endorse two popular GOP lawmakers ahead of their respective primaries: House Speaker Paul Ryan and Arizona Sen. John McCain. ("I'm not there yet," he had said of Ryan in a Washington Post interview, before ultimately giving his support to the two Republicans a week later.)

That was also the same day Trump said he regretted skipping out on the Vietnam War at a Virginia rally and, after being gifted with a Purple Heart replica from a wounded veteran, declared "I always wanted to get the Purple Heart" but noted that "this was much easier."

But wait. There's more.

That same rally was the site of Trump's infamous "babygate," where he seemed to throw a crying infant out of the Ashburn, Virginia venue after it interrupted his speech. Babygate was in the headlines for days after, with Trump insisting on relitigating the issue at nearly every public appearance to say that "I don't throw babies out." The soundbite drove the news cycle for a full 24 hours before the Post came out with its own fact-check of this incident, giving Trump a rare "Gepetto" grade for telling the truth.

Lost in the noise of the bawling baby, the Purple Heart, and the divisive non-endorsements: his rival's half-truths about the most damning controversy of her presidential campaign.

August 8, 2016

The father of Orlando nightclub shooter Omar Mateen attended Clinton's rally Monday in Kissimmee, Florida the same day the parents of two Americans killed in Benghazi filed a lawsuit against the former secretary of state.

Trump's response: Just one day later, Trump made an unforced error and stoked a firestorm when he suggested "Second Amendment people" take action against the Democratic nominee.

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"If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks," Trump said at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina. "Although the Second Amendment people ... maybe there is, I don't know."

Media outlets and politicians alike criticized Trump's remarks, and the GOP nominee spent the following hours attempting to douse the flames.

That same day, Trump only mentioned Mateen's father in passing, briefly hitting Clinton for not distancing herself from the man during an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity.

"She did not disavow and if that were me this would be a headline all around the world. He's got some pretty harsh views," Trump said. "It's a whole double standard, but we're punching through it and I think the people understand."

CBS News' Julia Boccagno contributed to this report.