US Elections 2016

Sparks fly over Obama birthplace issue again

A New York City billboard in support of the Republican presidential nominee. On the subject of Mr Obama's place of birth, Mr Trump said in an interview: "I'll answer that question at the right time."
A New York City billboard in support of the Republican presidential nominee. On the subject of Mr Obama's place of birth, Mr Trump said in an interview: "I'll answer that question at the right time."PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Trump won't concede that the President was born in the US; Clinton blamed for rumours

WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump has refused again to acknowledge that President Barack Obama was born in the United States, reviving the so-called "birther" issue that the Republican presidential nominee has played down since announcing his campaign last year.

"I'll answer that question at the right time," Mr Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post published on Thursday.

"I just don't want to answer it yet."

Later on Thursday, the New York businessman said he will make a "big announcement" about his view on Mr Obama's birth.

"You watch my statement," he said in a phone interview on Fox Business, suggesting it would take place at a campaign event he had scheduled in Washington at his hotel project site yesterday.

"We have to keep the suspense going," he told host Maria Bartiromo. "I think you'll be happy."

Mr Trump, who spearheaded the birther movement, has repeatedly refused to bend on the issue, which deeply inflames black voters whom he has been working more aggressively to court.

Mr Trump, who spearheaded the birther movement, has repeatedly refused to bend on the issue, which deeply inflames black voters whom he has been working more aggressively to court.

In an effort at damage control, a Trump spokesman issued a statement on Thursday saying that "Mr Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States".

But the statement by Mr Jason Miller, a senior communications adviser, goes on to falsely accuse Mrs Hillary Clinton, who will face Mr Trump in the Nov 8 election, of starting rumours about Mr Obama's birth in the 2008 campaign.

It then called her "weak" for not getting the question answered.

The statement actually credits Mr Trump for settling the issue, saying - again falsely - that he "obtained" Mr Obama's birth certificate, which the President released in 2011.

Mr Trump had in 2012 suggested that the documentation might have been fraudulent.

Mrs Clinton was quick to respond to her rival in a blistering speech.

"He was asked one more time, where was President Obama born? And he still wouldn't say Hawaii," she said in an address to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. "This man wants to be our next president?"

Separately on Thursday, Mr Trump unveiled a plan for US$4.4 trillion (S$6 trillion) in tax cuts, offering less generous tax breaks than his original US$10 trillion plan but proposing to cut the current top rate for the wealthiest taxpayers.

His proposal, which he detailed in a speech in New York, would reduce the top individual rate to 33 per cent from the current 39.6 per cent.

He also offered a "Penny Plan" for cutting federal spending.

He would also shrink government programmes outside of defence by 1 per cent each year.

Mr Trump said his plan would not add to the federal deficit.

He said the US$4.4 trillion tax cut would actually cost less, about US$2.6 trillion, under a mechanism known as dynamic scoring, which assumes that tax cuts will lead to faster growth, which in turn would allow at least some of the tax breaks to pay for themselves.

The original tax plan laid out by the Republican businessman last September was criticised by Democrats and Republicans alike for its costly price tag.

Mrs Clinton, the Democratic nominee, denounced it as catering to the very wealthy and ignoring the working class.

Some economists also questioned the assumptions underpinning the plan he outlined.

Mr Oren Cass, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and domestic policy director of Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential bid, said the plan for 1 per cent cuts in some programmes would not be enough to pay for Mr Trump's proposals.

"It doesn't square," said Mr Cass.

Ms Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, welcomed the scaling back of Mr Trump's original tax-cut proposals.

However, she said the plan would still leave the country on an unsustainable budget path.

NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2016, with the headline 'Sparks fly over Obama birthplace issue again'. Print Edition | Subscribe