Donald Trump stood on stage face to face with Hillary Clinton earlier this month and told her he’d send her to jail.
But his campaign says he didn’t really mean it. Kellyanne Conway, the campaign manager, explained the GOP presidential nominee was speaking more metaphorically, expressing frustration with how Mrs. Clinton mishandled classified information on her personal email server, and why she has not been punished for it.
For a man who prides himself as being a truth-teller, Mr. Trump’s camp repeatedly finds itself having to clean up his verbal miscues.
In some cases they say his words were misunderstood, other times they his audience missed his sarcasm, including at a July press conference when he said, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from the email server Mrs. Clinton used as secretary of state.
After Mr. Trump’s remarks came under fire, campaign spokesman Jason Miller said on Twitter Mr. Trump was “clearly saying that if Russia or others have Clinton’s 33,000 illegally deleted emails, they should share them [with the] FBI [immediately].”
But sometimes the explanations stretch the bounds of belief.
SEE ALSO: Donald Trump’s electoral map looking worse than Mitt Romney’s in 2012 as red states lean blue
Mr. Trump has campaigned in recent days telling supporters the election is “rigged,” and warning of massive voter fraud involving illegal immigrants and other illicit voting.
His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, and Mrs. Conway, his campaign manager, say it’s not true, and say what Mr. Trump really meant was that the political establishment is against him.
“I think what Donald Trump is talking about is, frankly, what appears to be the monolithic support of the national media for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, their willful ignorance about the avalanche of hard evidence, not allegations but hard evidence now coming out in these emails of collusion and pay-for-play politics,” Mr. Pence said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
The next day, though, Mr. Trump expanded on his claim, saying the election has been — and will be — rife with voter fraud.
“Of course there is large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day,” Mr. Trump said on Twitter. “Why do Republican leaders deny what is going on? So naive!”
Those who have been through campaigns had sympathy for the cleanup crew.
SEE ALSO: Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton election proving just as divisive abroad
“It is crazy and frenzied enough on the campaign trail every day to not have to clean up for your candidate pretty much on daily basis,” said Lanhee Chen, who served as a policy director on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. “I think the challenge is pretty extreme, because in some cases it appears they would be saying something entirely different from what their candidate is saying.”
It remains to be seen whether the daylight between Mr. Trump and his campaign will cost him come Election Day.
For many of his supporters, what he says is not as important as those his campaign angers — the establishment politicians in both parties of whom a large swath of voters have had enough.
It’s also set up a clear contrast with Mrs. Clinton, whose campaign is heavily choreographed. The cache of emails obtained by WikiLeaks from the private account of John Podesta, a longtime Clinton confidant and chairman of her presidential campaign, show Mrs. Clinton and her team wrestling with precise wording and timing on her positions.
In one exchange Mrs. Clinton’s team debated how much “outrage” she should display in her opening statement to Congress during a hearing on the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack. Another exchange showed Mrs. Clinton’s team debating how best to leak the news that she opposed the Keystone XL pipeline, without having to have her announce it publicly.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, sometimes doesn’t appear to know the policy stances his campaign has worked out for him.
In one of the GOP primary debates Mr. Trump said he would welcome more high-skilled foreign workers — contradicting his own immigration plan on his website, which called for a halt in the H-1B visa used to bring in high-skilled foreigners.
“I’m changing, I’m changing,” Mr. Trump said, after being told what his plan called for.
After the debate, his policy director insisted the campaign policy remained in place.