WH knocks Trump for Duke endorsement

WH knocks Trump for Duke endorsement
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President Obama’s top spokesman took a shot at Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCarter Page questioned in FBI Russia investigation: report Major progressive group rolls out first incumbent House endorsement Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods underscores the threat posed by ‘big data’ MORE on Monday for his initial refusal to disavow an endorsement from prominent white supremacist David Duke. 

“I know Mr. Trump says there’s more that he needs to learn about Mr. Duke before he can render an opinion," White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. "But I think we now know all we need to know about Mr. Trump to render our own personal opinion of his candidacy.”

Trump’s kid-glove treatment of Duke set off an uproar on the 2016 campaign trail, where he is dominating the Republican field. 

Trump has repeatedly drawn the ire of Obama and his top aides, especially for his proposal to temporarily ban all Muslim immigration to the U.S. in the aftermath of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorst attack.

Earnest said last December that proposal should disqualify Trump from being president. But on Monday, he said it would be up to GOP voters to decide whether the bombastic real estate mogul's stance toward Duke is enough to oppose him.

“It will be up to Mr. Trump to decide how he wants to run his campaign and what he wants to say in terms of the kind of support he is recruiting to his campaign," he said. "And it will be up to Republican voters across the country to decide whether or not they’re comfortable with those tactics.”

The spokesman said Republican leaders in Washington have only themselves to blame for the rise of Trump. 

He pointed out “there is some consternation” among prominent GOP figures that the bombastic real estate mogul is “on the brink of succeeding in hijacking the Republican Party.” But he said it’s “not surprising,” given Republican leaders’ refusal to work with Obama on advancing an agenda. 

“If you don’t stand for anything, you’ll fall for anything,” Earnest said. 

Trump dismissed questions about Duke’s endorsement during a Sunday appearance on CNN. He repeatedly claimed he was unfamiliar with the views of the former Ku Klux Klan leader, despite condemning him in the past. 

The candidate blamed his response on a faulty earpiece and pointed to several instances last week where he distanced himself from Duke’s endorsement. 

-- This report was updated at 2:16 p.m.