During an interview with a New Hampshire television station on Thursday, Donald Trump characterized Al Baldasaro — a campaign adviser who said “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason” last month because of the way she handled the Benghazi attack — as “a very fine person.” Trump also said he wasn’t familiar with Baldasaro’s incendiary remarks, which were extensively covered by many media outlets at the time.
Asked whether he condones his veterans adviser’s remarks, which included calling Clinton a “piece of garbage,” Trump said, “Well, I didn’t know that but he’s a very fine person. He is a person that loves the military and loves the veterans.”
Pressed again for a reaction to Baldasaro’s call for Clinton to be executed, Trump reiterated, “I don’t know what he said.”
Though Baldasaro’s comments were widely denounced and triggered a Secret Service investigation, the Trump campaign has steadfastly refused to distance itself from the New Hampshire state representative. Last month, Trump spokesman Hope Hicks released a statement saying “Mr. Trump and the campaign do not agree” with Baldasaro’s conviction that Clinton should be executed, but Baldasaro is still on board as an advisor. In fact, during a rally in New Hampshire earlier this month, Trump gave Baldasaro a shoutout, saying “Al has been so great.”
Baldasaro has refused to apologize for his comments, going as far as to say last night that his call for Clinton’s execution was “in accordance with the law.”
Paul my comments were in accordance with the law & Constitution, far from controversial just an opinion from a Vet https://t.co/OeECnkMQs8
— Rep Al Baldasaro (@Al_Baldasaro) August 25, 2016
On Friday morning, Baldasaro released a statement via his wife’s Twitter account expanding on his rationale. “Do I think Hillary Clinton committed treason? Absolutely, I do!” he wrote.
This isn’t the first time Trump has played dumb about controversies swirling around his campaign. After former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke endorsed him earlier this year, Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper “I don’t even know anything about what you’re talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.” But Trump actually referenced Duke by name at least twice — once during a 2000 interview with World News Now, and again in an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times.
More recently, Trump blamed the media for controversy generated by a tweet he posted featuring a constellation of anti-Semitic tropes — a pile money, a star of David and the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever” next to Hillary Clinton’s face. He suggested that instead of a star of David, the star might’ve just been “a Sheriff’s Star, or plain star.” Nonetheless, Trump deleted the tweet.