Trump aide blames Clinton campaign for “birther” movement

Two days after GOP nominee Donald Trump finally conceded that President Obama was born in the United States, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway blamed the entire “birther” theory on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign.

“This started with Hillary Clinton’s campaign, number one,” she told CBS’ “Face the Nation. “Number two, it was Donald Trump who put the issue to rest when he got President Obama to release his birth certificate years later and number three, he said President Obama was born in this country period and let’s move on to creating jobs, defeating radical Islam, rebuilding our inner cities.”

Conway said Clinton was running in a “bruising, vicious primary” against Mr. Obama in 2008 and that her team directed reporters to Mr. Obama’s citizenship because she’s a bad “closer” who didn’t expect Mr. Obama’s rise.

“Well Donald Trump was not running for president against—in a bruising vicious primary in 2008 against Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton was,” she said. “And you know that the former DC bureau chief of McClatchy newspaper, a respected journalist, just on Friday said he was approached … he had a meeting with him where [Clinton insider] Sid Blumenthal allegedly told him that President Obama was not born in this country and to go check it out.”

Clinton’s campaign has repeatedly denied the idea that the Democratic nominee or her aides were behind the rumors in 2008; however, Trump and his surrogates have continued pushing the idea in recent days.

“The idea that people around Hillary Clinton were not responsible for this -- Donald Trump in 2007 and 2008, while the Clintons were pushing this theory, he was a successful businessman, he was building things,” she said.

Asked why Trump had spent five years peddling a “lie,” Conway said that only Trump can answer the question as to why he kept perusing the issue.

“Well you’re going to have to ask him,” she said. “But again I think that this is a sideshow now that the media seem obsessed with ... he put everything out on the table Friday, those were his words, he does things on his terms, on his timeline.”

As for the criticism Trump received from former defense secretary Robert Gates, who wrote in an op-ed Saturday that Trump is “beyond repair” on national security issues, Conway blasted Gates for his comments on Islamic terrorism.

“Sec. Gates really should have, I think, in his book been a little bit more forceful about the fact that radical Islam has ideological moorings,” she said. “He acts like terrorism is something like the weather, it just happens, and we as Americans know that’s not true.”

Trump responded on Saturday to Gates’ criticism with several tweets calling Gates—who has served eight different presidents, most of them Republicans—“dopey.” He also referred to Gates as a “clown” at a campaign event this weekend.

Asked whether Trump’s over-the-top response proves Gates’ point about the candidate, Conway replied: “No, not at all.”

“He was defending himself, and Mr. Trump has the right to do that,” she said. “He’s attacked by people who have never met him, who haven’t given a thoughtful look to his plans which of course are out there for everyone to see.”

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.