Watch Trump go through the phases of birtherism until he finally throws of the shackles of the last remaining ties to reality:
Phase One: Say the Birthers Ask Interesting Questions.
You don't start out full birther. You have to ease your way in. Trump dipped his toe in birtherism on Good Morning America on March 17, 2011, saying, "Everybody who gives even a hint of being a birther... even a little bit of a hint... they label them as an idiot... Let me tell you, I'm a really smart guy. The reason I have a little doubt -- just a little -- is because he grew up, and nobody knew him. If ever I got the nomination, if I ever decide to run, you may go back and interview people from my kindergarten. They’ll remember me. Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in his life. It’s very strange. The whole thing is very strange."
Phase Two: Say the Documents Raise More Questions Than They Answer.
Obama had released only his "certificate of live birth," not the long-form document, when Trump went on The View March 23, 2011. Trump wasn't saying that he thought Obama was born in Kenya, just that the document in question raised some questions. "I've seen people take a $100 bill and make a $1,000,000 bill," he said. "There's something on that birth certificate that [Obama] doesn't like." Birthers rejoiced, saying Trump "might very well succeed in diminishing the sting of the 'birther' label."
Phase Three: Do Some Fact Finding.
Trump sent "people" to Hawaii to research Obama's origins in early April. What they were finding, he would not say.
Phase Four: Say You Can't Help But Go Full Birther.
On April 7, 2011, Trump said on The Today Show, "Three weeks ago when I started, I thought he was probably born in this country. I have a much bigger doubt than I did before. His grandmother said he was born in Kenya... I'm starting to think he was not born here." He can't help it, you see? He's just forced by the facts -- and Obama's stonewalling.
Phase Five: Turn an Implicitly Racial Charge into an Explicitly Racial One
Trump said he had other questions about Obama's background in an April 26 interview with The Associated Press: "I heard [Obama] was a terrible student, terrible... How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?" The answer you are supposed to assume is that he got in with bad grades because he's black. The birther conspiracy theory has a racial tinge, because it suggests Obama isn't "one of us" -- he's some kind of outsider. But the affirmative action charge is explicitly about him being black. As bad as Obama not being a citizen might be -- it could be merely a symptom of something worse.
Phase Six: Take Credit for Birth Certificate Being Released
When Obama released his long-form birth certificate April 27, 2011, Trump said he was "proud." "I've accomplished something that no one else has been able to accomplish... I want to look at it, but I hope it's true... But he should have done it a long time ago." See that? Trump bought himself some time, left a little bit of room for doubt to return to the issue later, but made himself look reasonable enough that almost every single Republican presidential candidate met with him latter that summer.