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Does Trump Even Know The Constitution Well Enough To Be President?

Does Trump Even Know The Constitution Well Enough To Be President?

By MAGGIE HABERMAN and RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA for The New York Times

Under assault from Democrats and Republicans alike, Donald J. Trump on Friday drew back from his call for a mandatory registry of Muslims in the United States, trying to quell one of the ugliest controversies yet in a presidential campaign like few others.

The daylong furor capped a week of one-upmanship among Republican presidential candidates as to who could sound toughest about preventing terrorism after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris. Polls show the national mood has soured on accepting refugees from Syria amid concerns about potential terrorist attacks within the United States.

Mr. Trump’s talk of a national database of Muslims, first in an interview published on Thursday by Yahoo News and later in an exchange with an NBC News reporter, seemed the culmination of months of heated debate about illegal immigration as an urgent danger to Americans’ personal safety.

It came as Mr. Trump has regained some momentum in the Republican presidential race, with polls showing his support on the rise nationally since the Paris attacks, and Ben Carson’s on the decline.

By Friday, though, he appeared to pull back slightly from the idea. In a post on Twitter, Mr. Trump complained that it was a reporter, not he, who had first raised the idea of a database. And his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, insisted that Mr. Trump had been asked leading questions by the NBC reporter under “blaring music” and that he had in mind a terrorist watch list, not a registry of Muslims.

Still, nowhere, even on Friday, did Mr. Trump, who has rarely acknowledged being at fault in a campaign predicated on his strength as a leader, clearly state that he was opposed to the idea of a registry of Muslims.

For months, Mr. Trump has set the tone and pace of the Republican primary, forcing his rivals to respond to his statements and in some cases to try to emulate his style and positions. His periodic eruptions have seemed to power his campaign; he has denigrated Senator John McCain’s record in Vietnam because he was a prisoner of war, said that the Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly was bleeding from “wherever,” insulted Carly Fiorina’s looks and read Senator Lindsey Graham’s cellphone number aloud before a crowd of thousands. Through it all, his supporters have held firm.

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