Billionaire landlord, hotel magnate, television star and self-described Tea Partier Donald Trump is turning up the heat on President Barack Obama, insisting that after three weeks of probing the question, he is now more convinced than ever that the president has failed to prove he is a citizen of the United States.
- Chris Soules's Bachelor Blog: 'I Knew Things Were About to Get Very Real'
- Pretty Little Liars Recap: Ezra and Aria Break Up, Hanna Heads to Jail
- 19 Kids & Counting Recap: Jessa and Ben Receive Their Wedding Invitations, Shop for Flowers
- Jennifer Garner: My Favorite Role Is 'Mommy'
- Five Things You Need to Know About Connor Franta
“Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country,” Trump, who is very publicly mulling his own run for the Republican nomination for president in 2012, told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira. “Right now, I have some real doubts.”
In a wide-ranging interview that aired Thursday, Trump said he is not convinced that the birth certificate that Obama has produced, certified by the state of Hawaii where Obama was born and acknowledged as legitimate by most scholars, is enough proof. He says he has dispatched his own investigators to Hawaii. “I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” he said.
“His grandmother in Kenya said he was born in Kenya, and she was there and witnessed the birth. He doesn’t have a birth certificate or he hasn’t shown it,” Trump told Vieira. “He has what’s called a certificate of live birth. That is something that’s easy to get. When you want a birth certificate, it’s hard to get.”
Each state is responsible for issuing its own birth certificates and the state of Hawaii, which issued Obama’s, stands behind it. In many states, this document is referred to as the certificate of live birth. Independent analysts have also confirmed the authenticity of Obama’s birth certificate. Several leading Republicans, including Karl Rove, have dismissed the controversy. Glenn Beck, the conservative television and radio personality, last week accused Trump of taking the birth certificate issue too far. But the so-called “birther movement” has continued to raise questions about the president’s birth. And Trump has enthusiastically joined them.
While many political analysts contend that Trump’s interest in the president’s nativity is a calculated attempt to woo Republican primary voters, half of whom have questions about the president’s citizenship, there are indications that the strategy may be working. According to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll, Trump is running a close second to Mitt Romney among potential GOP candidates for the White House, with 17 percent of the vote. He is tied with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and is besting such party stalwarts as Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
But the citizenship question is not the only issue on which Trump is taking aim at the Obama administration. In his interview with Vieira, he launched a blistering attack on the president’s handling of the uprising in Libya.Video: Trump weighs in on ‘Apprentice,’ 2012
“Look at Libya. We go in. We don’t remove Gadhafi, but we’re going to go fight and we’re going to do this and that. Nobody knows what’s happening. It looks like Gadhafi is going to beat the United States,” Trump said, adding that Obama has no doctrine. If Trump were in the White House, he says, he would have handled things differently.
“I’m only interested in Libya if we keep the oil. If we don’t keep the oil, I’m not interested,” Trump said. “I don’t know who the rebels are. You know, they make the rebels like it’s some romantic, beautiful novel, ‘The Rebels.’ I hear the rebels are al-Qaida. I hear they’re Iran-backed and Iran-influenced. Where are they getting those weapons before we came along? From Iran.”
A Trump foreign policy, he said, would focus exclusively on America’s self-interest, and it would be the same philosophy he has used in his business career. “Foreign affairs [means] we take care of ourselves first, OK? We don’t build the schools in Afghanistan. We go to Afghanistan, we build a road, we build a school. Two days later, they blow up the road, they blow up the school. We start building the road and the school again,” he said. “In the meantime, we can’t build schools in Alabama, in New Orleans, in Texas, in New York ... We’re spending trillions and trillions of dollars. My thing and my doctrine would be build, build, build.”
But Libya is not the only issue for which Trump believes the current president should be fired. “It’s been a terrible presidency,” he said.Story: Bill Cosby to Donald Trump: ‘Run or shut up’
“I wish this country was running so great and I wish Obama was the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln. And I wish this was the greatest place in the world,” he said. “What we’re doing is unbelievable. If you look at what’s going on, where our jobs are disappearing to foreign countries … you’re going to be paying $7 or $8 a gallon for your oil very soon,” Trump said, adding that he places the blame for that squarely on Obama.
He also took aim at the controversial health care overhaul passed last year by Congress, saying, “I think Obamacare’s a total disaster.”
The president, he said, is far better at campaigning than at governing.
“I think the thing that he did best of all is get elected. He ran an unbelievable campaign,” Trump said. “I want him to do well... I love this country. But this country is going to hell.”
Trump says he considers himself a “very proud” member of the Tea Party movement. “I’m very proud of some of the ideas they put forth,” he said. “And, the big idea is they want to stop this ridiculous, absolutely killer of spending that’s going on. What’s going on in this country, the way we’re spending money like drunken sailors ... ultimately, we’re going to destroy our own freedom,” Trump said.
And if that battle, now being fought out between the White House and Congress, does lead to a government shutdown this weekend, that too would be an indictment of the administration, Trump said.
“If there is a shutdown, I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the president ...” he said. “He’s the one that has to get people together.”
Because of his business background, he said, he believes he could have averted the showdown altogether. “I’m a deal man. I make hundreds and hundreds of deals and transactions. [Obama] never did deals before,” Trump said. “How’s he gonna corral all these people? I would get everybody together, and we’d have a budget,” he said.Trump raves about Rinna's lips — then fires her
So far, Trump says, he has not yet decided whether he will be a candidate. The fact that he’s the man behind NBC’s hit series “The Celebrity Apprentice” is one of the reasons that he’s not yet decided whether to toss his hat into the ring. “It sounds so trivial and I hate to even bring it up. But I’m not allowed to run during the show,” Trump told Vieira. “It’s a great show, and it’s got phenomenal ratings. And until that show is over, I can’t declare, because otherwise NBC would have to take the show off the air and I think that would be very unfair to NBC.”
At least one person isn't buying that argument. Comedian Bill Cosby, who appeared on TODAY Thursday, told Meredith Vieira that Trump was "full of it" and that he should "run or shut up."Story: Bill Cosby to Donald Trump: ‘Run or shut up’
But nothing has stopped the outspoken Trump from touting his own credentials for the job and dismissing critics who say that his background in finance and show business doesn’t prove that he has what it takes to be the president. “I know this. I will be better than anybody. If I decide to run, I will do the best job. I will be best for this country,” Trump said. “And, you may say, ‘Oh, gee, that doesn’t sound like George Washington.’ Well, guess what? Before George Washington ran, he didn’t sound like George Washington either. I will ... do a great job, if I run and if I win.”
© 2013 NBCNews.com Reprints