Donald Trump is softening his rhetoric on Pope Francis after blasting the leader of the Catholic Church for suggesting the billionaire businessman's plan to build a wall along the US-Mexico border made him "not Christian." Trump said during a town hall event on CNN that he now believes the pope's remarks were "probably a little bit nicer" than first reported. Trump said he believes the pope has only heard one side of the story, as told by the Mexican government, and isn't aware of the problems Trump claims are caused by a porous border. Trump also said he has great respect for Pope Francis. Still, he couldn't help but offer a dig, noting that, "He's got an awfully big wall at the Vatican."
During the University of South Carolina town hall, Trump, who has long claimed to have opposed the invasion of Iraq, was also asked about BuzzFeed's unearthing of a 2002 interview in which Howard Stern asked him whether he supported the invasion. "Yeah, I guess so," he responded at the time, according to the audio. "I wish the first time in was done correctly." At the town hall, he told Anderson Cooper he didn't remember the conversation, but he said, "I mean, I could have said that. ... It was probably the first time anybody asked me that question," adding that his opposition was early, "even if it was a little bit after the war." More from the town hall:
- Trump said that if he's elected to the White House, he plans to send cease-and-desist letters or similar threats to countries he believes are giving the US raw deals. He said he would send letters "to China to stop ripping us off. I would be sending them to other countries to stop ripping us off. I'd send them to Mexico."
- John Kasich described how his life had been shaped by the day his parents were killed by a drunk driver. "They were at the Burger King because they got the second cup of coffee for free. That's the way the mailman and Mrs. Kasich lived," he said. "I went into a black hole" after they died in 1987, he added, but he recovered and soon found God.
- Jeb Bush insisted that he still has momentum "if you look at the polls and if you look at the crowd sizes of our town hall meetings," and he said the endorsement from Sen. Lindsey Graham signals that he's ready to serve from Day 1 as "commander in chief and as leader of the free world."