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Donald Trump defends controversial comments after Orlando nightclub massacre

Donald Trump speaks out about the shooting attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, over the weekend.
/ Source: TODAY

In a phone interview with TODAY's Savannah Guthrie Monday, Donald Trump rejected the idea of a ban on assault weapons like the one used to kill 49 people over the weekend at a Florida gay nightclub. The presumptive Republican nominee said it would prevent innocent gun owners from protecting themselves.

“There are millions of them already out there, millions upon millions, so they’re already out there,” Trump told Guthrie. “People need protection. They have to protect. So the bad guys will have the assault rifles and the people trying to protect themselves will be standing there with a BB gun.”

Trump also defended a series of tweets he posted shortly after details of the attack broke, including one in which he took credit and appreciated “the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism.”

Trump said he received "tens of thousands" of tweets, calls and letters about the posts congratulating him because "I’ve been the one that predicted it, and I’m the one that said what you should be doing."

Then he pivoted: "I don’t want the credit. "What I said is I want you to be strong and vigilant and I want you to be smart."

The early Sunday morning massacre is the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

During an earlier interview Monday on Fox, Trump criticized President Obama for failing to describe the attack correctly, calling for his resignation because he “has no clue.”

On TODAY, Trump clarified his views by saying the president “just doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

“He’s not addressing the issue. He’s not calling it what it is. This is radical Islamic terrorism. This isn’t fighting Germany, this isn’t fighting Japan where they’re wear uniforms,” he said. “These are people who come out and you have no idea who they are and he doesn’t want to discuss it, and he doesn’t want to properly describe it. and if you don’t discuss it and describe it properly, you’re never going to solve the problem.”

Shortly after news about the attack broke, Trump’s Democratic rival declared the shootings as acts of terror and hate. In an interview earlier Monday on TODAY, Hillary Clinton also voiced her support for stricter gun control reforms and ban on all assault weapons.

"We can not fall into the trap set by the gun lobby that says if you can't stop every shooting and every incident you shouldn't try to stop any," she said. "That is not how laws work. It's not common sense.

"We need to get these weapons of war off the streets. We had an assault weapons ban, it expired, and we need to reinstate it. From San Bernardino to Aurora, Colorado, to Sandy Hook and now to Orlando, we have seen the devastation that these military style weapons cause," the former secretary of state explained.

But Trump dismissed the idea, saying “she doesn’t understand the issues. She’s weak. She’s ineffective."

He also renewed his call for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, even though nightclub shooter Omar Mateen was an American-born citizen. Trump told Guthrie that just means the U.S. government needs "far better intelligence gathering" capability.