Donald Trump eyes economy as he seeks to shift course after turbulent week

Donald Trump attends a campaign event at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine on Aug 4, 2016.
Donald Trump attends a campaign event at the Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine on Aug 4, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - Republican Donald Trump announced plans to address economic issues and backed off a claim that he had seen a video of cash being delivered to Iran on Friday (Aug 5), in signs he wants to steer away from controversial comments and get his White House campaign back on message.  

Trump said he had created an economic advisory team and would release his plan to boost the US economy in a speech on Monday.  

Trump also said he had not seen a video carrying cash to Iran, as he had repeatedly said earlier this week, but rather had seen a clip showing a plane carrying some of five Americans who were freed from Iran in January.

“The plane I saw on television was the hostage plane in Geneva, Switzerland, not the plane carrying US$400 million in cash going to Iran!” Trump tweeted early Friday morning. It is rare for the free-wheeling Republican presidential nominee - known for making provocative claims - to admit making a mistake.

Critics of the Obama administration have said a US$400 million payment in cash to Iran amounted to a ransom in exchange for the freeing of American prisoners in January, but President Barack Obama has defended the payment as a release of frozen funds that followed an international nuclear agreement with Iran.  

In a statement, Trump’s campaign said his economic advisory panel included former steel executive Dan DiMicco; tobacco company Vector Group Ltd President and CEO Howard Lorber; and Trump campaign finance chairman and investment manager Steven Mnuchin.  

Hedge fund managers John Paulson and Steve Feinberg; anti-tax advocacy group Club for Growth’s Stephen Moore; and David Malpass, who has served under previous Republican administrations in the Treasury and State Departments, were also named.

The moves came after many Republicans urged Trump to correct course following a tumultuous week that has seen falling opinion poll numbers.

On Thursday, Trump pledged to get back on track in attacking his Democratic rival in the Nov 8 election, Hillary Clinton.

The real estate mogul and former reality television star was caught up for days in a public spat with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. The parents had spoken out against Trump at last week’s Democratic National Convention.  

He also inflamed some Republicans by refusing to endorse US House Speaker Paul Ryan in his re-election bid.  

Polls showed Trump’s support slipping nationwide. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found him trailing Clinton 38 per cent to 47 per cent, a 9-point gap. A Fox News poll showed Clinton ahead by 10 percentage points.  

Republicans are concerned that Trump could lose not just his White House bid, but also cost them their control of the US Senate and House of Representatives.