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In what could be another sign of Donald Trump pivoting to the center ahead of a general election, the presumptive Republican nominee said his call for “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” was “just a suggestion.”
“It’s a temporary ban,” Trump said Wednesday in a Fox News radio interview. “It hasn’t been called for yet. Nobody’s done it. This is just a suggestion until we find out what’s going on.”
Trump also downplayed how long the ban would be in effect.
“I’d back off on it,” he said in a separate interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “I’d like to back off on it as soon as possible because frankly, I’d like to see something happen. But we have to be vigilant.”
“Ultimately, it’s my aim to have it lifted,” Trump added.
The seemingly softer tone came a day before the former “Celebrity Apprentice” star had a much-anticipated meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan at the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington. (Ryan has condemned Trump’s proposal to bar Muslim immigrants and tourists from entering the U.S.)
In December, the Trump campaign issued a press release calling for a ban “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
“It is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension,” Trump said then. “Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for president, we are going to make America great again.”
“We have no choice,” Trump told supporters at a Dec. 7 rally in South Carolina. “We have no choice.”
Trump later clarified that he would make exceptions for Muslim world leaders and American Muslims living overseas. But his Wednesday comments were in sharp contrast to his rhetoric when he announced the hard-line proposal.
The comments also come on the heels of sharp criticism from Sadiq Khan, London’s new Muslim mayor.
“My message to Donald Trump and his team is that, ‘Your views of Islam are ignorant,’” Khan said in a CNN interview that aired Wednesday. “It is possible to be a Muslim and live in the West. It is possible to be a Muslim and love America.”
In response, Trump couldn’t resist reviving part of his campaign rhetoric.
“I assume he denies that there’s Islamic terrorism,” Trump said. “I mean, if you look at this Islamic radical terrorism all over the world right now — it’s a disaster what’s going on.”