Donald Trump sure has a strange way of trying to make clear that he’s disavowing the “birther” conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama’s birthplace.
On Friday, Trump gave a press conference in which he said he now believes Obama was born in the US, reversing years of unfounded accusations. He then tried to falsely pin the origin of the conspiracy theory on Hillary Clinton, going so far as to take credit for helping to debunk it.
Less noticed was that even during this late and half-hearted acknowledgement, Trump stood right next to — and was even introduced by — a leading advocate of the birther movement: retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney.
McInerney isn’t just one of the coterie of former officers who have backed the mogul despite his lack of military service and his continued attacks on the integrity of the nation’s top generals and admirals. Instead, McInerney has spent years publicly arguing that there are “legitimate concerns” about whether Obama was born in the US. He even submitted a court affidavit in support of birther Army Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because he did not believe Obama was a legitimate president, according to Talking Points Memo.
TPM republished the affidavit McInerney wrote, which is worth reading just to get a sense of the depth of the former general’s birtherism:
As a practical example from my background I recall commanding forces that were equipped with nuclear weapons. In my command capacity I was responsible that personnel with access to these weapons had an unwavering and absolute confidence in the unified chain of command, because such confidence was absolutely essential-- vital-- in the event the use of those weapons was authorized. I cannot overstate how imperative it is to train such personnel to have confidence in the unified chain of command. Today, because of the widespread and legitimate concerns that the President is constitutionally ineligible to hold office, I fear what would happen should such a crisis occur today.
In refusing to obey orders because of his doubts as to their legality, LTC Lakin has acted exactly as proper training dictates. That training mandates that he determine in his own conscience that an order is legal before obeying it...Indeed, he has publicly stated that he "invites" his own court martial, and were I the Convening Authority, I would have acceded to his wishes in that regard. But thus stepping up the bar, LTC Lakin is demonstrating the courage of his convictions and his bravery. That said, it is equally essential that he be allowed access to the evidence that will prove whether he made the correct decision.
For the foregoing reasons, it is my opinion that LTC Lakin's request for discovery relating to the President's birth records in Hawaii is absolutely essential to determining not merely his guilt or innocence but to reassuring all military personnel once and for all for this President whether his service as Commander in Chief is Constitutionally proper. He is the one single person in the Chain of Command that the Constitution demands proof of natural born citizenship. This determination is fundamental to our Republic, where civilian control over the military is the rule. According to our Constitution, the Commander in Chief must now, in the face of serious-- and widely held-- concerns that he is ineligible, either voluntarily establish his eligibility by authorizing release of his birth records or this court must authorize their discovery. The invasion of his privacy in these records is utterly trivial compared to the issues at stake here. Our military MUST have confidence their Commander in Chief lawfully holds this office and absent which confidence grievous consequences may ensue.
Today, Trump appeared to want to demonstration that he’s putting his birther affiliations behind him. And to do it, he embraced a former officer who put birther conspiracy theories over the military’s sworn duty to uphold the US Constitution and take orders from the nation’s elected leadership. Trump can only hope that McInerney’s political skills are better than his legal ones: Akin was court-martialed by the army and ultimately spent five months imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth.