WASHINGTON — Republican Donald Trump insists that he’s not flip-flopping when it comes to his proposal to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the United States illegally — even though his new campaign manager now says his stance is “to be determined.”
Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends on Monday that he’s “not flip-flopping,” but wants to come up with “a really fair, but firm” solution.
Trump had previously proposed using a “deportation force” to remove the 11 million people living in the United States illegally— a proposal that excited many of his core supporters, but alienated Hispanic voters who could be pivotal in key states. Republican leaders fear that Trump can’t win — and could drag down GOP congressional candidates — if he doesn’t increase his support beyond his white, male base.
Trump met Saturday with Hispanic supporters, representatives of a community that has been wary of the billionaire businessman’s deportation proposals and his plans to build a giant wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. Questioned on whether Trump still intends to deploy the deportation force, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Sunday: “To be determined.”
There have been previous signs that Trump might be moderating his stance on deportations. At last month’s GOP convention, the Republican National Committee’s director of Hispanic communications, Helen Aguirre Ferre, told reporters at a Spanish-language briefing that Trump has said he will not do massive deportations. Hispanic and religious leaders who met privately with Trump ahead of the convention said he signaled that he is open to embracing a less punitive immigration policy that focuses on “compassion” along with the rule of law.
Trump’s comments Monday come as Republican officials insist the GOP nominee is finally hitting his stride and will catch up with Democrat Hillary Clinton by early September, following a major shake-up to his campaign. Polls now mostly show Trump lagging Clinton by 5 percentage points or more nationally.
“Donald Trump has been disciplined and mature. And I think he’s going to get this thing back on track,” Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, said Sunday.
Conway echoed Priebus’ optimism, contending that the candidate just had the best week of his campaign, “mostly because he’s able to be himself, the authentic Donald Trump.”
Conway was named to her post last week in a shake-up in which the campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, resigned and conservative media firebrand Stephen Bannon, who led Breitbart News, took over as campaign chief executive.
A new style was immediately evident as Trump, in a first, offered regrets for any remarks that had caused offense, stuck with his teleprompter at a series of events, and paid a visit to flood-ravaged Louisiana. Trump also announced his first ad buys of the campaign, more evidence of an acceptance of the traditional campaign elements most experts believe he will need in order to have a shot at winning. He made a direct appeal to African-American voters, insisting he wants the Republican Party to become their political home.
Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, disputed claims of a turnaround in Trump’s candidacy. “We’re not seeing a pivot. Donald Trump himself said this was not a pivot. He wants to double down on letting Donald Trump be Donald Trump,” Mook said.
Indeed, Trump was back to his old self on Twitter Monday morning. He went after MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” tweeting that the show is “unwatchable!” and said its host, Mika Brzezinski, “is off the wall, a neurotic and not very bright mess!”
Conway had said Sunday that Trump “doesn’t hurl personal insults.”
Conway, Mook and Priebus were interviewed on ABC’s “This Week.” and Conway also spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.”