WASHINGTON — Donald Trump, who issued a December press release “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” said Wednesday such a ban “hasn’t been called for yet” and it was “only a suggestion.”
It’s the latest lightning-speed evolution for the real estate tycoon as he pivots from the provocateur who upended the Republican primary to a general election candidate preparing to square off with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“We have a serious problem, and it’s a temporary ban — it hasn’t been called for yet, nobody’s done it, this is just a suggestion until we find out what’s going on,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee told Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade Wednesday.
But when Trump first introduced the proposed ban back in December he explicitly said in both a speech and in a press release: “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Trump is scheduled to spend the day in Washington, meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has so far withheld endorsing the businessman, and Republican party officials in hopes of bridging the gap between them. Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus both swiftly condemned Trump’s call for a ban in December.
Trump’s proposal is “not who we are as a party” and violates the Constitution, Ryan had said in December.
“This is not conservatism,” he had said. “Some of our best and biggest allies in this struggle and fight against radical Islam terror are Muslims.”
Trump’s presidential rivals at the time had also slammed his proposal, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who has since endorsed Trump and been tapped to lead his transition team should he win the White House.
“This is the kind of thing that people say when they have no experience and don’t know what they are talking about. We do not need to resort to that type of activity nor should we,” Christie had said on the Michael Medved radio show. “What we need to do is to increase our intelligence activities. We need to cooperate with peaceful Muslim Americans who want to give us intelligence against those who are radicalized.”
Trump on Wednesday also put a new emphasis on the temporary nature of his proposed ban in an interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.
“No, it was never meant to be — I mean that’s why it was temporary,” he said, when asked if he would consider backing off the controversial ban.
“Sure I’d back off on it. I’d like to back off on it as soon as possible, because frankly, I’d like to see something happen. But we have to be vigilant,” he said. “There is a radical Islamic terrorism problem that our president doesn’t even want to talk about.”
Trump was also pressed by Van Susteren on what kind of exceptions he might make to the “total and complete shutdown” he originally proposed. He pointed to Muslim military service members, while continuing to stress his desire to see the ban lifted once some sort of progress was made in the fight against terror.
“(Muslim military members) would all come back,” he said. “I mean we have exceptions, and again, it’s temporary, and ultimately it’s my aim to have it lifted. Right now there is no ban. But I’d like to see — there has to be an idea, there has to be something.”
As the presumptive GOP nominee explained, “Ideally you wouldn’t have the ban for very long. I mean, we just have to find out what’s happening.”