It is difficult to glean a platform from Donald Trump's powerfully incoherent rhetoric.
The presumptive Republican nominee changes his mind so often that this comprehensive listing of his past and present policy views must sometimes be updated multiple times a day (like the day when he offered up three different views on abortion in the eight hours after this story was first published). Add that to the quicksand-like task of separating fact from Trump's many exaggerations and outright falsehoods in hundreds of interviews, and his routine refusal to offer specifics – he says unpredictability is an advantage he’ll use to cut better deals -- and you've got one of the most elusive policy platforms in history.
His fluid views aren't just confusing for reporters, they're also a source of consternation for his party -- more than a few of his current policies directly contradict the GOP platform. Consider the debt flip: a desire to rapidly pay down the debt is one of the only issues the divided Republican Party can agree on, but their presumptive nominee has made a bold argument for prioritizing infrastructure investment over the debt.
“You have to have a certain degree of flexibility,” the presumptive Republican nominee said in a March debate when confronted on his evolving policy platform, taking a stance on immigration he'd reverse hours later. “You can't say, it's OK, and then you find out it's not OK and you don't want to do anything. You have to be flexible, because you learn.”
In order to better understand what the presumptive GOP nominee believes today — and yesterday — this list offers a look at the billionaire real estate mogul's views since he announced his candidacy a year ago, along with any explanation the candidate has offered on the changes.
Think we've missed something? Tweet at @janestreet.
PROPOSED MUSLIM BAN
1. No Muslims should be allowed to enter the United States —as immigrants or visitors.
Donald Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in a statement about "preventing Muslim immigration" in December.
2. Ban Muslims from entering but make an exception for his friends and Muslims serving in the US military.
He later amended his stance in an interview with Fox News, saying the 5,000 Muslims serving the United States military would be exempt from the ban and allowed to return home from overseas deployments. He also suggested that current Muslim residents — like his “many Muslim friends” — would be exempt, too, and able to come and go freely.
3. It was just an idea!
"We have a serious problem, and it's a temporary ban -- it hasn't been called for yet, nobody's done it, this is just a suggestion until we find out what's going on," Trump said on in mid-May, softening for the first time in months on the ban.
4. We should definitely ban Muslims, and also people from countries with a history of terrorism.
In a national security address after the terror attack in Orlando, Trump said that if he's elected he would “suspend immigration from areas of the world where there’s a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies until we fully understand how to end these threats.”
5. Ban people from countries with a history of terrorism.
When a reporter asked Trump how he'd feel about a Muslim Scot entering the U.S. while on a trip to visit his golf courses in Scotland, Trump said it "wouldn't bother me." He then went on to emphasize that he did not want "people coming in from the terror countries." When asked, Trump would not name one such country.
6. Ban Muslims from countries with a history of terrorism, and potentially also other Muslims.
That same day, when pressed about how this statement in Scotland jived with Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country, spokesman Hope Hicks said that the ban would just apply to Muslims from countries with a history of terrorism. She would not, however, confirm that Muslims residing in peaceful countries would be exempt. NBC News has asked for further clarification.
Current position: Ban Muslims from entering the country, with some potential exceptions that the campaign won't articulate.
1. Build a wall, deport all undocumented immigrants.
At the core of Donald Trump’s campaign is a promise to build a wall across the United States' southern border and deport the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants with the help of a "deportation force."
2. Deport all undocumented immigrants but bring the 'good' ones back legally. Dreamers can maybe stay.
In a CNN interview in July, Trump said, "I want to move them out, and we’re going to move them back in and let them be legal, but they have to be in here legally."
Trump wavered on what to do with the Dreamers – young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents as children and are now afforded limited protection from deportation but no path to citizenship. When asked if Dreamers would have to go back, he said, “It depends.”
4. Dreamers cannot stay.
In August, that ambiguity was gone: “They have to go,” he said on "Meet the Press."
5. Trump might be flexible on actually deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants.
BuzzFeed reports that in off-the-record talks with the New York Times, Trump admitted this was just bluster and a starting point for negotiations, saying he might not deport the undocumented immigrants as he’s promised. Trump has refused calls to release the transcript, despite furious requests from his rival candidates.
6. Deport undocumented immigrants, but don't call it "mass deportations."
“President Obama has mass deported vast numbers of people -- the most ever, and it’s never reported. I think people are going to find that I have not only the best policies, but I will have the biggest heart of anybody,” Trump told Bloomberg News when pressed about his immigration policies.
When asked more about how he'd characterize the deportations at the center of his immigration policy, Trump said he "would not call it mass deportations."
Current position: Deport undocumented immigrants, just don't call it "mass deportations."
1. Get rid of gun-free zones
In a speech at the National Rifle Association convention on May 20, where Trump was endorsed by the country's most powerful gun group, Trump promised again to do away with gun-free zones, which include schools and military bases. At a campaign stop in Vermont, he had previously vowed to get rid of gun-free zones on his "first day."
2. No guns in classrooms, except maybe some guns in classrooms.
In an interview on May 22, the presumptive nominee advocated against, and then for, and then against, and then for guns in classrooms.
“I don’t want to have guns in classrooms, although in some cases, teachers should have guns in classrooms, frankly,” Trump said, offering up two distinct views in an interview days after he was endorsed the NRA. “Because teachers, you know — things that are going on in our schools are unbelievable.”
3. I'm not advocating for guns in classrooms, but wait, yes I am.
Trump walked back his view that teachers should have guns a second later, then reiterated that some teachers should have guns.
“I’m not advocating guns in classrooms,” he continued. “But remember, in some cases … trained teachers should be able to have guns in classrooms.”
4. Let's put trained gunmen in schools.
Forty-eight hours later, Trump sought to clarify his muddled remarks, saying he wanted "school resource officers" to have guns in schools while slamming rival Hillary Clinton's criticism of his stance.
"The way she said it meant like every student should be sitting there carrying guns," Trump said on CNN on May 24. "If trained people had guns, you wouldn't have the carnage that you've had.”
5. We should only get rid of some gun-free zones.
While he decried gun-free zones as "offering up candy to bad people," he backed away from axing all of them, telling CNN in the May 24 interview that they would only be eliminated "in some cases."
6. More guns would save lives.
Trump has repeatedly said that he wished there were other armed individuals present during terror attacks to fight back.
"I think it would've been a lot better if they had guns in that room, somebody could protect," Trump said after the San Bernardino shooting in December. "They could've protected themselves if they had guns."
In the wake of the deadly shooting in Orlando, Florida at a gay nightclub in June, Trump reiterated this view.
"It's too bad that some of the young people that were killed over the weekend didn't have guns, you know, attached to their hips, frankly, and you know where bullets could have flown in the opposite direction,” he said on the "Howie Carr Show" on June 13, one day after the attack. “It would have been a much different deal. I mean, it sounded like there were no guns. They had a security guard. Other than that there were no guns in the room. Had people been able to fire back, it would have been a much different outcome."
(Despite Trump’s assertions, there was an armed guard at the club who tried to stop the gunman, but he was unable to do so.)
At a rally in Atlanta on June 15, Trump declared that the outcome would have been different if “some of those great people that were in that club that night had guns strapped to their waist or strapped to their ankle.”
7. I didn’t actually mean arming clubgoers.
After he spent a week advocating for arming more of the victims (who were predominantly clubgoers, in addition to several club employees), Trump tweeted on June 20 that he didn’t mean he wanted to arm clubgoers. Trump changed his stance just hours after the National Rifle Association pushed back against the idea of allowing people to bring weapons into nightclubs.
“I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees,” Trump tweeted.
Current position: More guns are better, though the details are murky and evolving on how many gun-free zones would be abolished.
2011 INTERVENTION IN LIBYA
1. The intervention in Libya by the U.S.-led coalition was a terrible idea.
Asked in October 2015 if he felt the Middle East would be more stable with Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi and Iraq's authoritarian leader Saddam Hussein still in power, Trump told NBC News' Chuck Todd, "Of course it would be. You wouldn't have had your Benghazi situation, which is one thing which was just a terrible situation...But of course, it would. Libya is — is not even — nobody even knows what's goin' on over there. It's not even a country anymore."
A few weeks later, he was pressed again on CNN to say whether he felt the two leaders of brutal regimes should have been left in power.
"100 percent," Trump said. "I mean, look at Libya. Look at Iraq. Iraq used to be no terrorists. [Hussein] would kill the terrorists immediately, which is like now it's the Harvard of terrorism."
He continued: "If you look at Iraq from years ago, I'm not saying he was a nice guy, he was a horrible guy, but it was a lot better than it is right now. Right now, Iraq is a training ground for terrorists. Right now, Libya, nobody even knows Libya - frankly, there is no Iraq and there is no Libya. It's all broken up. They have no control. Nobody knows what's going on."
2. I've never offered a different opinion on Libya.
When then-rival Sen. Ted Cruz brought up Trump's 2011 support for the intervention, which Trump offered at the time via a video blog, during a February debate, Trump denied having ever supported Gadhafi's ouster.
"He said I was in favor in Libya," he said. "I never discussed that subject. I was in favor of Libya? We would be so much better off if Gadhafi would be in charge right now."
3. I guess I did support an intervention.
When CBS actually played the video of Trump discussing the subject — and supporting an intervention — in front of Trump in early June 2016, the presumptive nominee changed his mind and acknowledged the past video.
"That's a big difference from what we're talking about," Trump said. "I was for something, but I wasn't for what we have right now."
4. I wanted a surgical intervention, not a "strong" intervention.
When pressed during the CBS interview, Trump said he was for "surgical" intervention, not a "strong intervention."
"I didn't mind surgical. And I said surgical. You do a surgical shot, and you take him out. But I wasn't for what happened. Look at the way - I mean, look at with Benghazi and with all of the problems that we've had. It was handled horribly," he said.
"I think since then you've said you were never for intervention, so it's confusing," CBS's John Dickerson countered.
"I was never for strong intervention. I could have seen surgical where you take out Gadhafi and his group," Trump responded.
Current position: As Trump put it, "I was for something, but I wasn't for what we have right now."
JAPAN AND NUKES
1. Japan should have nuclear weapons.
In March, Trump said the U.S. should reconsider its policy of not allowing Japan to have nuclear weapons. He reiterated that view in April.
"It's not like, gee whiz, nobody has them. So, North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea," Trump said on Fox News in April.
Host Chris Wallace followed up, asking, "With nukes?"
"Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes," Trump said.
2. I never said that!
But at a Sacramento rally in June, Trump accused Clinton of lying when she repeated his view as an example of his unfitness when it comes to matters of national security.
Clinton "made a speech, she's making another one tomorrow, and they sent me a copy of the speech. And it was such lies about my foreign policy, that they said I want Japan to get nuclear weapons. Give me a break," Trump said. "See they don't say it: I want Japan and Germany and Saudi Arabia and South Korea and many of the NATO states, nations, they owe us tremendously, we're taking care of all those people and what I want them to do is pay up."
Current position: It's unclear whether Trump would reverse U.S. policy to allow Japan to have nuclear weapons, but it's clear Trump doesn't like being reminded of positions he took eight weeks ago.
1. I don't believe in it.
"I don’t believe in climate change," he told CNN in September after a long history of calling it both a hoax and a Chinese invention to undermine U.S. business interests. In May 2016, he vowed to "renegotiate ... at a minimum" the Paris climate agreement, one of the Obama administration's landmark achievements.
2. Global warming is threatening one of my golf courses.
A statement of environmental impact filed by the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland, owned by the presumptive Republican nominee, cited rising sea levels and extreme weather due to global warming as the reason the company needed to build a seawall to protect its coastal resort, Politico reported Monday. The sea wall is necessary protect the course from “global warming and its effects.”
Current position: Global warming isn't real, unless it's threatening a Trump property.
RELATED: The United States of Trump
TAXING THE WEALTHY
1. The wealthy should pay more.
"I would take carried interest out, and I would let people making hundreds of millions of dollars a year pay some tax, because right now they are paying very little tax and I think it's outrageous," Trump told Bloomberg last August, noting that he'd be OK paying more taxes. "I want to lower taxes for the middle class."
2. Cut taxes for the wealthy big time.
But in September, he released a plan that silenced anti-tax critics with a proposal that slashed taxes for the wealthy, big time. A whopping 67 percent of the overall cost of his individual tax cuts would go to the top 20 percent of earners, while 35 percent of it would go to the top 1 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center’s analysis.
It's unclear how Trump would pay for such drastic cuts —estimated to add $10 trillion to the national debt and deficit over a decade (more on Trump's flip-flopping position on paying off the national debt below) — but Trump insisted he could do it by offering the vague promise of striking better deals and cutting government waste.
3. People like me should pay more.
Trump was asked again in April during a ”TODAY” town hall if he believed in raising taxes on the wealthy. Despite the big tax cuts for the wealthy outlined in his own tax plan, he said:
“I do, I do, including myself. I do."
In a series of interviews in early May, he claimed that his tax proposal was a starting point for negotiations and the taxes on the rich would go up.
On Sunday, May 8, Trump told ABC that taxes on the wealthy would “go up a little bit” in negotiations and that, as a wealthy person himself, he is personally OK with higher taxes. “I am willing to pay more. And you know what? Wealthy are willing to pay more. We’ve had a very good run,” he said.
He told NBC’s Chuck Todd something similar: It’s all negotiable.
“Under my proposal, it’s the biggest tax cut by far, of any candidate by far. But I’m not under the illusion that that’s going to pass. They’re going to come to me. They’re going to want to raise it for the rich. Frankly, they’re going to want to raise it for the rich more than anybody else,” Trump said. “But the middle class has to be protected. The rich is probably going to end up paying more. And business might have to pay a little bit more. But we’re giving a massive business tax cut.”
Pressed on that last, confusing point – that business might pay more but also get a tax cut – Trump said he meant more than his existing proposal: ”Excuse me. I said they might have to pay a little bit more than my proposal.”
He didn't offer such a qualification for the wealthy until the next day.
4. I never said that! Cut everyone's taxes!
On Monday, May 9, he went on CNN to refute what he'd said the day before.
“I said that I may have to increase on the wealthy — I’m not going to allow it to be increased on the middle class – now, if I increase it on the wealthy, that means they’re still going to be paying less than they’re paying now. I’m not increasing it from this point, I’m talking about increasing from my tax proposal,” Trump told CNN, insisting that overall there would be a tax decrease for the rich and middle class alike.
Current position: Tax cuts for everyone!
1. Get rid of the national debt in 8 years.
On March 31, Trump told the Washington Post that the country needed to eliminate the national debt and that he could do it "fairly quickly" without raising taxes.
"I would say over a period of eight years," he said, arguing he could do it simply by renegotiating the country's trade deals. "I’m renegotiating all of our deals, Bob. The big trade deals that we’re doing so badly on. With China, $505 billion this year in trade. We’re losing with everybody.”
2. Only pay down a little. Invest in infrastructure first.
Three weeks later, he told Fortune "you could pay off a percentage of it" in a decade but he wouldn't advise being too aggressive because the country's infrastructure needs to be rebuilt and it's a good time to borrow.
"It depends on how aggressive you want to be. I’d rather not be so aggressive," he said. "Don’t forget: We have to rebuild the infrastructure of our country. We have to rebuild our military, which is being decimated by bad decisions. We have to do a lot of things. We have to reduce our debt, and the best thing we have going now is that interest rates are so low that lots of good things can be done that aren’t being done, amazingly."
It's an argument progressive liberal economists like Paul Krugman could have (and actually have) made. Not only is it far from his original position, it's far from his party's view on the issue.
3. Pay off the debt by getting America's creditors to accept less.
Despite the U.S. economy being fundamentally grounded in its ability to borrow at very low interest rates, Trump told CNBC that he would negotiate with creditors to get them to accept less than the full amount owed.
“I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal," Trump said.
Experts say this idea is pure fantasy, no matter how good Trump's deal-making skills are. In addition to imperiling the economy, the proposal could also be unconstitutional.
4. Don't worry about it — the U.S. can't default because we "print the money."
A week after suggesting that he could get U.S. creditors to accept less than the full amount, Trump defended his stance on CNN by calling himself "the king of debt" and railing against publications that reported his earlier proposal.
"People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, and I mean, these people are crazy. This is the United States government," he said on CNN on May 9." "First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, I hate to tell you, OK?"
He then advocated for buying back some of the government's debt at a discount, using interest rates to save the country money. It's a strategy that works may work for businesses but would be more difficult, if not impossible for the U.S. government, economists told the Washington Post.
"I understand debt better than probably anybody. I know how to deal with debt very well. I love debt — but you know, debt is tricky and it's dangerous, and you have to be careful and you have to know what you're doing," Trump said.
Current position: Despite taking up and then shedding several positions, it's still unclear how "the king of debt" might actually approach the national debt.
1. Criminalize women who have abortions.
Though Trump said in 1999 that he was "very pro-choice," Trump has consistently claimed that he's against abortion, except for in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother's life, since starting his bid last June.
But during an exclusive interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews just after 1 p.m., Trump struggled to define his views on abortion aside from describing himself as "pro-life." When continually pressed for how he'd handle women who violated a theoretical ban on abortion, Trump said the “answer is that there has to be some form of punishment, yeah.”
2. Let the states decide what to do about criminalizing abortion.
At 3:36, Trump put out a statement saying the issue is "unclear and should be put back into the states for determination."
3. Never mind. Don't punish the women.
He fully walked back his position that women should be punished for violating a theoretical abortion ban 80 minutes later, releasing a statement saying "the doctor or any other person performing this illegal act upon a woman would be held legally responsible, not the woman. The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb."
Current position: Ban abortions. But women won't be criminalized.
1. Nope. A wage hike would move jobs to China.
During the thick of the primaries, Trump repeatedly argued that raising the minimum would move jobs to countries like China. Speaking in the cold language of a businessman looking at his bottom line, Trump even seemed to indicate overall American wages, regardless of the law, were too generous already.
“Taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world,” Trump said in a November debate hosted by Fox Business. Trump clarified afterwards that he did not believe American wages were too high, but he did make crystal clear he was fundamentally opposed to a minimum wage increase.
2. Let's raise wages through economic growth.
Trump in an interview with CNBC in May said he would prefer to try to raise wages through economic growth. His abrupt move toward a possible increase that he opposed in tough terms is a significant general election shift.
3. People can't live at the minimum wage, so let's change it.
"I am looking at it, and I haven't decided in terms of numbers. But I think people have to get more," Trump said on ABC on May 8, acknowledging that his statement was a shift when pressed.
"Sure, it's a change. I'm allowed to change," he said. "But my real minimum wage is going to be — I'm going to bring companies back into this country, and they're going to make a lot more than the $15 even."
4. Get rid of the federal minimum wage, leave that to the states
On NBC on the same day, Trump said more specifically that he wanted states to mandate wages.
"Let me just tell you, I've been traveling the country for many months. Since June 16, I'm all over," he said. "I have seen what's going on. And I don't know how people make it on $7.25 an hour. Now, with that being said, I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I'd rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide. Because don't forget, the states have to compete with each other."
Current position: Let the states set a minimum wage that's an increase from the current federal minimum wage.
MONEY IN POLITICS
1. Accepting donations means a candidate is controlled by special interests.
Trump announced that he'd self-fund his campaign when he announced his presidential bid. This, he said, time and time again would help him better serve the country against the corrupting force of money in politics.
“By self-funding my campaign, I am not controlled by my donors, special interests or lobbyists. I am only working for the people of the U.S.!” he wrote in a September 5 Facebook post.
2. People can donate to me as long as they don't want anything in return.
Despite the self-funding promise, the Trump campaign quietly sent out fundraising emails, put a glossy donate option on its website and raked in millions. Still, Trump insists, it's about investment in the campaign — not the cash itself.
"I actually like the idea of investing in a campaign, but it has to be no strings attached," he said in a CBS interview.
3. The Trump campaign will not fully self-fund.
As the presumptive nominee, Trump has said he won't self-fund like he did in the primary.
“I’ll be putting up money, but won’t be completely self-funding," he told the Wall Street Journal in a May 4 interview, noting that he's created a finance committee and will tap his base for money going into the general election. He's hired Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs partner who has a history of political donations across both sides of the aisle, to head up the committee.
This is a reversal, but only in rhetorical terms, since Trump isn't exactly self-funding his primary campaign, despite his loud protestations to the contrary. PolitiFact dubs his claim "half true" because Trump is pulling in big bucks from donors and most of his own contributions are technically loans or in-kind contributions, signaling that he may want to recoup those costs eventually.
Current position: Political donations are fine when those donations benefit the Trump campaign.
1. Maybe send troops in. Definitely go after the oil fields.
In Trump’s first interview after announcing his bid, he signaled that he’d both send in ground troops to Iraq and not send in ground troops.
“You bomb the hell out of them, and then you encircle it, and then you go in,” he told Bill O’Reilly, who remarked that the plan necessitated ground forces. “I disagree, I say that you can defeat ISIS by taking their wealth — their wealth is the oil.”
2. Bomb the oil fields. Send some troops in.
On CNN, Trump said, “I would bomb the hell out of those oil fields. I wouldn’t send many troops because you won’t need them by the time I’m finished.”
3. Send troops to defeat ISIS. Don't forget about the oil fields.
In a single August interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," he offered three solutions for what to do with the oil field profits: keep them, give them to veterans and their families, or, when pressed, perhaps give some to the Iraqi people.
Months later, in a March debate, Trump ballparked the number of troops he would need to send in to defeat ISIS.
“We really have no choice, we have to knock out ISIS,” Trump said. “I would listen to the generals, but I’m hearing numbers of 20,000-30,000.”
4. Destroy the oil. Let our regional allies send ground troops. If they don't, stop buying their oil.
In a foreign-policy focused interview with the New York Times published March 26, Trump said that the U.S. should "take" ISIS' oil, but then said the U.S. should "knock the hell out of the oil and do it because it’s a primary source of money for ISIS." Trump also ruled out sending in U.S. troops, saying that other countries in the region — "regional Arab partners" such as Saudi Arabia — should provide the ground troops. If these countries did not, the United States would stop buying their oil and withhold "protection" in the region.
Current position: To defeat ISIS, Trump would destroy the oil fields controlled by the militant group. U.S. allies in the region must commit ground troops to defeat the Islamic State.
VIOLATING US AND INTERNATIONAL LAWS WITH REGARD TO TORTURE, TERRORISM
1. The military will obey potentially illegal orders.
In December, Trump started demanding that the US target the families of ISIS members in addition to “bombing the sh*t” out of the terrorist organization. He went further in February, advocating for torture as a method of interrogation.
“I would bring back waterboarding, and I'd bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” Trump declared in the February debate just ahead of the New Hampshire primary. Calls for bringing torture back became a regular applause line at rallies, despite the likelihood that both of these ideas would require the American military to obey orders that violate international laws and federal anti-torture statutes.
Pressed at a debate on March 3 over whether the American military would obey his order to violate international laws and the Geneva Convention to do such things, Trump insisted they’d listen to him, despite condemnation from military leaders and conservatives.
“Frankly, when I say they’ll do as I tell them, they’ll do as I tell them," he said.
2. The military shouldn't break the law, after all.
He then reversed this position the very next day, on March 4, in a statement to the Wall Street Journal, saying he “will not order military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.”
3. The laws forbidding torture should be changed so no one has to break them.
Not long after terrorist attacks in Brussels killed at least 28 people and injured dozens more on March 22, Trump called in to CNN to expand on his call to legalize waterboarding.
"Look, I think we have to change our law on the waterboarding thing, where they can chop off heads and drown people in cages, in heavy steel cages and we can't water board," Trump told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "We have to change our laws and we have to be able to fight at least on almost equal basis."
When Blitzer reminded Trump that military leaders don't support torture and that it violates international agreements that the United States has signed, Trump called opposition to torture a "political decision."
"I would say that the eggheads that came up with this international law should turn on their television and watch CNN right now, because I'm looking at scenes on CNN right now as I'm speaking to you that are absolutely atrocious," Trump said. "And I would be willing to bet, when I am seeing all of the bodies laying all over the floor, including young, beautiful children laying dead on the floor, I would say if they watched that, maybe, just maybe they'll approve of waterboarding and other things."
Current position: Trump says he's against violating international laws or ordering others to do so, but wants to change the laws to legalize, at minimum, waterboarding.
VISAS FOR HIGH-SKILLED WORKERS
1. H-1B visas are bad for American workers.
Trump’s immigration plan was published on his website in July: it opposed the H-1B program, which allows non-immigrant visas for specialty occupations, arguing then that it was bad for American workers.
2. H-1B visas are good.
At the CNBC debate in October, Trump denied that he’d been critical about the program. “I am all in favor of keeping these talented people here so they can go to work in Silicon Valley,” he said.
3. H-1B visas are still bad, according to Trump's unchanged website.
At the Fox News debate on March 3, some five months later, Fox News host Megyn Kelly pressed Trump on which of these conflicting views he supports.
4. H-1B visas are necessary: 'I'm changing.'
"I'm changing. I'm changing. We need highly skilled people in this country. If we can't do it, we will get them in. And we do need in Silicon Valley, we absolutely have to have. So we do need highly skilled," he said.
5. H-1B visas are definitely bad.
His campaign later released a statement reversing this shortly after the March 3 debate ended.
"Megyn Kelly asked about highly skilled immigration. The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: These are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay,” Trump wrote in a statement. “I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions."
He reaffirmed this position in the GOP debate on March 10, one week later, vowing to end the program that he noted he uses himself as a businessman.
Current position: Back where he started — against the H-1B visa program.
BORDER CONTROL AND THE REFUGEE CRISIS
1. The US has a 'humanitarian' obligation to take in some Syrian refugees.
Trump initially said the country should absorb Syrian refugees.
"I hate the concept of it, but on a humanitarian basis, you have to," Trump told Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on a Tuesday night in September. "But you know, it's living in hell in Syria. There's no question about it. They're living in hell, and something has to be done."
2. The US cannot and should not accept Syrian refugees.
The next day, Trump said the country couldn’t welcome refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war.
“Look, from a humanitarian standpoint, I’d love to help. But we have our own problems,” he said on Fox on Wednesday night.
During the March debate, Trump defended his changing view.
“First time the question had been put to me, it was very early on. The migration had just started. And I had heard that the number was a very, very small number. By the second day, two or three days later, I heard the number was going to be thousands and thousands of people. You know, when they originally heard about it, they were talking about bringing very, very small numbers in, and I said, begrudgingly, well, I guess maybe that’s OK,” Trump said. “By the time I went back and studied it, and they were talking about bringing thousands and thousands, I changed my tune. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
3. Close the border.
“I’d close up our borders to people until we figure out what is going on,” Trump said on Fox News the morning of the Brussels attacks claimed by ISIS that killed at least 28 and injured more than 270.
4. Don't close the border, just be careful.
"I didn't say shut it down — I said you have to be very careful, you have to be careful on who's coming into our country," he said the same day as the Fox News interview on CBSN, reiterating that people from Syria without papers shouldn't be allowed in.
Current position: Against closing the borders entirely. Against accepting Syrian refugees in the United States.
KU KLUX KLAN AND DAVID DUKE
1. 'I disavow, OK?'
After former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and white nationalist David Duke began encouraging his followers to vote for the Republican front-runner, including making a plea on his radio show on February 25, Trump initially disavowed Duke's support in a press conference on February 26.
“I didn’t even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? OK, all right. I disavow, OK?” Trump said.
2. 'I don't know anything about David Duke. OK?'
After disavowing David Duke on a Friday, Trump was asked about the Ku Klux Klan and Duke by CNN's Jake Tapper on Sunday. Trump claimed to know nothing of Duke or the KKK.
“I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about,” Trump said, refusing three times to unequivocally condemn the support of white supremacists until he knew more about them.
3. 'I disavow, OK?' — part two.
After that cagey song and dance-like interview sparked outrage on Sunday, Trump took to Twitter to clarify, tweeting a video of his Friday press conference in which he did disavow Duke.
That Monday on NBC's "Today," Trump blamed his refusal to condemn Duke and the KKK on a lousy earpiece but continued to hedge against disavowing the support of "groups" he doesn't know anything about, despite Savannah Guthrie’s reminder that in the interview in question, Trump had been only been asked about the KKK and Duke.
Current position: Trump has disavowed Duke, despite a lengthy back-and-forth about whether he knows about him or not.
THE IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
1. Keep the current deal with Iran, police it.
Trump was one of the few Republicans who didn't immediately promise to rip up the Iranian nuclear deal. The author of "The Art of the Deal" told his supporters that while it was the worst deal ever, they'd probably have to live with it.
“It's very hard to say, "We're ripping it up.' And the problem is by the time I got in there, they will have already received the $150 billion,” Trump said, referring to a high estimate of how many of Iran’s assets will be unfrozen as part of the deal (the White House says after Iran's debts are paid, it’s closer to $56 billion).
“But I will police that deal,” he said, touting his handling of business contracts. “I would police that contract so tough that they don't have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract.”
2. Renegotiate the nuclear deal with Iran.
In September, he went further.
“When I am elected president, I will renegotiate with Iran — right after I enable the immediate release of our American prisoners and ask Congress to impose new sanctions that stop Iran from having the ability to sponsor terrorism around the world,” he wrote in an op-od for USA Today.
Current position: Renegotiate the deal.
1. Repeal Obamacare. Look to Canada for inspiration.
In August, Trump was asked repeatedly if he still supported the single-payer health care he'd touted in the past. He said America should have a private system but repeatedly praised Canada and Scotland's socialized system.
"As far as single-payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland. It could have worked in a different age, which is the age you’re talking about here," Trump said. "What I’d like to see is a private system without the artificial lines around every state ... Get rid of the artificial lines, and you will have yourself great plans. And then we have to take care of the people that can’t take care of themselves. And I will do that through a different system."
2. Repeal Obamacare. Cover everybody.
"I am going to take care of everybody," Trump told CBS in September. "I don’t care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now."
3. Repeal Obamacare, but 'I like the mandate'
During a CNN town hall on February 18, Trump started to answer a question about how he'd replace the Affordable Care Act with health savings accounts, "which are great," but interrupted himself to talk at length about how he's "a self-funder." When pressed by interviewer Anderson Cooper about what would happen when Obamacare is repealed and the mandate disappeared, therefore allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, Trump said:
"Well, I like the mandate. OK. So here's where I'm a little bit different. I don't want people dying on the streets and I say this all the time."
4. Repeal Obamacare. Replace it with something.
Trump was mocked in the February 25 debate for being vague about how he would replace Obamacare.
"You'll have many different plans. You'll have competition, you'll have so many different plans," he said at the debate, earning derision from Sen. Marco Rubio.
5. Repeal Obamacare. Not everyone will be covered.
His health care plan, finally released online in March, has far more in common with the kind of boilerplate health care proposals the rest of the Republican party touts than his earlier praise for Canada suggested it might.
It would likely cause 21 million people to lose their health insurance and cost about $270 billion over 10 years, according to the nonpartisan budget advocacy group Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB).
It offers up unspecified amounts of grants to states to replace Medicaid, but it's not clear how or what those would look like, or how they would cover the millions of people that Trump's plan lets fall through the cracks. CRFB noted that block grants "could generate a wide range of savings" to the federal budget, but without details on them, it is "impossible to score any savings" from his plan.
Current position: Repeal Obamacare. Replace it with something.
MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin contributed to this report.