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Donald Trump’s Campaign Says He’s No Longer a Birther. But Trump Won’t Say It

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After months of dodging, and after years of raising questions about President Barack Obama’s birthplace, Donald Trump’s campaign is asserting that the GOP presidential nominee no longer doubts that Obama was born in the United States.

In a statement Thursday night, his campaign communications director said Trump believes the issue is settled. In “Trumpian” fashion, the statement claims Trump “did a great service to the President and the country” by raising doubts about Obama’s birthplace, which led to Obama releasing his “long form” birth certificate in 2011 proving his Hawaiian birth.

Earlier Thursday, Trump once again declined to weigh in personally on the issue. He said early Friday he would clarify the matter himself in a “major statement” at around 10am local time.

The campaign statement seeks to whitewash years of Trump statements that continue to raise doubts about Obama’s eligibility to serve as President — a controversy long viewed as racially tinged by even Obama detractors — and blames Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for raising the issue in the first place.

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign first raised this issue to smear then-candidate Barack Obama in her very nasty, failed 2008 campaign for President,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said in the statement.

“This type of vicious and conniving behavior is straight from the Clinton Playbook. As usual, however, Hillary Clinton was too weak to get an answer. Even the MSNBC show Morning Joe admits that it was Clinton’s henchmen who first raised this issue, not Donald J. Trump. In 2011, Mr. Trump was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion by successfully compelling President Obama to release his birth certificate. Mr. Trump did a great service to the President and the country by bringing closure to the issue that Hillary Clinton and her team first raised. Inarguably, Donald J. Trump is a closer. Having successfully obtained President Obama’s birth certificate when others could not, Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States.”

Friday morning, Trump told Fox Business, “We have to keep the suspense going, OK?” But he then said he’ll be making a “major statement” about the controversy, Politico reports.

Clinton herself took to Twitter to attack Trump for his birther history, calling it “racist,” but didn’t address Trump’s claim that she began the birther issue.

Trump’s statement came just hours after he once again refused to state definitively that Obama was born in Hawaii. “I’ll answer that question at the right time,” Trump told the Washington Post in an interview published Thursday. “I just don’t want to answer it yet.”

Obama released his long-form birth certificate just days before the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, in which both the President and comedian Seth Meyers lambasted the reality-television star and businessman for his comments questioning Obama’s birthplace.

In 2011, Trump claimed that he had sent investigators to Hawaii in a bid to show that Obama’s birth certificate was fraudulent, calling it “one of the greatest cons of all time.” “I have people that have been studying it and they cannot believe what they’re finding,” Trump continued at the time, though he never offered any evidence of their supposed findings.

For Trump, the issue was hardly settled in 2011, as his campaign now claims. Trump continued to spread conspiracy theories about Obama’s place of birth even after the release.

Trump’s personal silence on the issue all but assures that he will continue to face questions about the “birther” controversy over the remainder of the presidential campaign.

Earlier this month, Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, said he had no doubts about Obama’s birthplace, drawing contrast with the top of the ticket.

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Write to Tessa Berenson at tessa.Rogers@time.com