Trump Lets Wife Take Brunt of Plagarism

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No one to be fired after Melania Trump speech plagiarism episode

By Gregory Krieg, Eric Bradner and Eugene Scott, CNN

 

Updated 4:50 PM ET, Tue July 19, 2016

 

 

 

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Story highlights

  • Melania Trump was the main speaker at the Republican National Convention Monday
  • Parts of Melania Trump's speech bear similarities to a similar speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008

 

(CNN)Donald Trump's presidential campaign doesn't plan to fire anybody or to take disciplinary action over the controversy surrounding Melania Trump's plagiarism of Michelle Obama, CNN learned Tuesday.

Trump's campaign hopes to simply move on without further addressing questions about the speech.

Aides to the presumptive Republican nominee are scrambling to move past the imbroglio after a passage in Melania Trump's speech Monday night, which headlined the Republican National Convention's opening night, closely mirrored a portion of Michelle Obama's address to the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

It's set off infighting and finger-pointing within Trump's campaign, and two sources told CNN that Donald Trump himself is furious about it.

Trump's aides chalked the controversy up to media bias and blamed Hillary Clinton's campaign -- even though the apparent plagiarism was discovered by an independent journalist and had gone viral before Clinton's allies and Democrats even weighed in.

In an interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day," campaign chairman Paul Manafort denied the allegations of plagiarism.

"To think that she would do something like that knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night is just really absurd," Manafort said.

Side-by-side of Melania Trump, Michelle Obama speeches

 

 

 

Side-by-side of Melania Trump, Michelle Obama speeches 01:42

Manafort said the words Melania used were not "cribbed" but are common words.

"There's no cribbing of Michelle Obama's speech. These were common words and values. She cares about her family," Manafort said. "To think that she'd be cribbing Michelle Obama's words is crazy."

Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee's chief strategist, invoked "My Little Pony" in defending the speech in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

"Melania Trump said, 'the strength of your dreams and willingness to work for them.' Twilight Sparkle from 'My Little Pony' said, 'This is your dream. Anything you can do in your dreams, you can do now,' " Spicer said.

He also compared passages of Trump's speech with phrases from musicians John Legend and Kid Rock.

"I mean if we want to take a bunch of phrases and run them through a Google and say, 'Hey, who else has said them,' I can do that in five minutes," Spicer said. "And that's what this is."

However, Trump's campaign faced criticism even from allies, who largely blamed staffers -- not Melania Trump.

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Tuesday that whoever is responsible for writing the should be fired.

"Whoever was the staff person who wrote this speech should be held accountable and should be fired," Lewandowski told CNN's John Berman and Kate Bolduan.

Lewandowski, who is a CNN contributor, was fired from the Trump campaign last month.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said at a Bloomberg Politics event Tuesday morning he'd "probably" fire whoever was responsible for including plagiarized quotes, though he added: "It all kinda depends on the circumstances and how these things are written."

The controversy quickly overshadowed the speech, which was to have been her introduction to voters. It focused on her immigration to the United States and her love for her husband.

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The Trump campaign released a statement on the speech after the similarities were uncovered, but it did not mention the plagiarism charge.

The Republican National Convention

Photos: The Republican National Convention

Melania Trump kisses her husband, Donald, after she spoke Monday on the first day of the convention. "If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he's the guy," she said of her husband. "He will never, ever give up. And most importantly, he will never, ever let you down."

Donald Trump walks to his wife after she delivered her speech.

Melania Trump claps during her speech.

Donald Trump comes out to the song "We Are the Champions" before introducing his wife.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani delivered a fiery speech before Melania Trump. Among his topics was the fight against terrorists. "We know who you are, and we're coming to get you!" he said.

A protester flashes a peace sign on the floor of the convention on Monday.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. salutes the crowd before speaking Monday. He got huge applause when he started off his speech by saying, "Blue lives matter!"

Patricia Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith, told the crowd in Cleveland, "I blame Hillary Clinton personally." Clinton, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, was secretary of state when the attack occurred in Libya in 2012.

President Barack Obama is seen on a screen as Smith leaves the stage Monday.

Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL who was awarded the Navy Cross for his service in Afghanistan, spoke about the need for an elite military. The convention's theme for Monday was "Make America Safe Again."

Actor Scott Baio gives two thumbs up during his speech on Monday. "Let's not just make America great again," he said, referring to Trump's  campaign slogan. "Let's make America America again!"

Willie Robertson, star of the hit TV show "Duck Dynasty," promised the crowd that Trump "will have your back."

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, the GOP's presidential nominee in 1996, waves after listening to a speech on Monday.

Marlana VanHoose performs the national anthem prior to Monday's evening session.

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, center, was among the delegates shouting for a roll call vote Monday on the rules of the Republican National Convention. GOP officials <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/18/politics/rnc-procedural-votes-rules-committee/index.html" target="_blank">dismissed the move,</a> saying there were not enough signatures to force a roll call vote. While it's unlikely a roll call vote would have rejected the rules package, it could have been an embarrassing protest vote against Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Virginia delegate Waverly Woods protests on the floor of the convention.

Delegates from Texas protest.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, bangs a gavel as resolutions are adopted at the start of the convention.

Delegates stand and turn toward the camera for an official photo on Monday.

People walk in front of a screen displaying the American flag.

Donald Trump addresses the crowd Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. "We're going to make America great again," he said shortly after winning the GOP's presidential nomination. "Have a fantastic evening. I'll see you tomorrow night, I'll see you Thursday night, and we will win in November."

Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate, speaks on stage Tuesday. He said Trump skeptics who would vote for Hillary Clinton are "not using their God-given brain to think about what they're saying. ... She'll be appointing people who will have an effect on us for generations. And America may never recover."

A member of the activist group Code Pink protests inside the arena during Carson's speech.

Donald Trump Jr. delivers a speech Tuesday. "We need to elect a man who has a track record of accomplishing the impossible," he said of his father.

Members of the Trump family watch as Donald Trump Jr. gives his speech.

Donald Trump's daughter Tiffany addresses the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena. "Whatever (my father) does, he gives it all and does it well," she said on Tuesday. "His desire for excellence is contagious. He possesses a unique gift for bringing that out in others."

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst waves as she stands with other first-term senators on Tuesday.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers a speech that was heavily critical of the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee. "It is our obligation to stop Hillary Clinton now and never let her within 10 miles of the White House again," Christie said of the former secretary of state. "It is time to come together and make sure that Donald Trump is our next President. I am proud to be part of this team. Now let's go win this thing."

Delegates fill the floor of the arena on Tuesday.

Four of Donald Trump's children -- from left, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump -- celebrate on the floor of the convention, where Donald Trump Jr. announced the New York delegates that clinched the nomination for his father.

A delegate shows support for Donald Trump's wife, Melania, on Tuesday.

Delegates celebrate Trump's nomination on Tuesday.

A delegate whistles as roll call votes are cast on Tuesday.

A delegate cheers during the roll call of states.

State delegations hold up signs during the roll call vote.

Delegates take a photo with Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, center, on Tuesday.

A Florida delegate holds a "Hillary for prison" sign on the floor of the arena.

A convention attendee wears American-themed shoes on Tuesday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan bangs the gavel to open the second day of the convention on Tuesday.

Melania Trump kisses her husband, Donald, after she spoke Monday on the first day of the convention. "If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he's the guy," she said of her husband. "He will never, ever give up. And most importantly, he will never, ever let you down."

Donald Trump walks to his wife after she delivered her speech.

Melania Trump claps during her speech.

Donald Trump comes out to the song "We Are the Champions" before introducing his wife.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani delivered a fiery speech before Melania Trump. Among his topics was the fight against terrorists. "We know who you are, and we're coming to get you!" he said.

A protester flashes a peace sign on the floor of the convention on Monday.

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. salutes the crowd before speaking Monday. He got huge applause when he started off his speech by saying, "Blue lives matter!"

Patricia Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith, told the crowd in Cleveland, "I blame Hillary Clinton personally." Clinton, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, was secretary of state when the attack occurred in Libya in 2012.

President Barack Obama is seen on a screen as Smith leaves the stage Monday.

Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL who was awarded the Navy Cross for his service in Afghanistan, spoke about the need for an elite military. The convention's theme for Monday was "Make America Safe Again."

Actor Scott Baio gives two thumbs up during his speech on Monday. "Let's not just make America great again," he said, referring to Trump's  campaign slogan. "Let's make America America again!"

Willie Robertson, star of the hit TV show "Duck Dynasty," promised the crowd that Trump "will have your back."

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, the GOP's presidential nominee in 1996, waves after listening to a speech on Monday.

Marlana VanHoose performs the national anthem prior to Monday's evening session.

Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, center, was among the delegates shouting for a roll call vote Monday on the rules of the Republican National Convention. GOP officials <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/18/politics/rnc-procedural-votes-rules-committee/index.html" target="_blank">dismissed the move,</a> saying there were not enough signatures to force a roll call vote. While it's unlikely a roll call vote would have rejected the rules package, it could have been an embarrassing protest vote against Trump and the Republican National Committee.

Virginia delegate Waverly Woods protests on the floor of the convention.

Delegates from Texas protest.

Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, bangs a gavel as resolutions are adopted at the start of the convention.

Delegates stand and turn toward the camera for an official photo on Monday.

People walk in front of a screen displaying the American flag.

Donald Trump addresses the crowd Tuesday at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. "We're going to make America great again," he said shortly after winning the GOP's presidential nomination. "Have a fantastic evening. I'll see you tomorrow night, I'll see you Thursday night, and we will win in November."

Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate, speaks on stage Tuesday. He said Trump skeptics who would vote for Hillary Clinton are "not using their God-given brain to think about what they're saying. ... She'll be appointing people who will have an effect on us for generations. And America may never recover."

A member of the activist group Code Pink protests inside the arena during Carson's speech.

Donald Trump Jr. delivers a speech Tuesday. "We need to elect a man who has a track record of accomplishing the impossible," he said of his father.

Members of the Trump family watch as Donald Trump Jr. gives his speech.

Donald Trump's daughter Tiffany addresses the crowd at Quicken Loans Arena. "Whatever (my father) does, he gives it all and does it well," she said on Tuesday. "His desire for excellence is contagious. He possesses a unique gift for bringing that out in others."

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst waves as she stands with other first-term senators on Tuesday.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie delivers a speech that was heavily critical of the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee. "It is our obligation to stop Hillary Clinton now and never let her within 10 miles of the White House again," Christie said of the former secretary of state. "It is time to come together and make sure that Donald Trump is our next President. I am proud to be part of this team. Now let's go win this thing."

Delegates fill the floor of the arena on Tuesday.

Four of Donald Trump's children -- from left, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Tiffany Trump -- celebrate on the floor of the convention, where Donald Trump Jr. announced the New York delegates that clinched the nomination for his father.

A delegate shows support for Donald Trump's wife, Melania, on Tuesday.

Delegates celebrate Trump's nomination on Tuesday.

A delegate whistles as roll call votes are cast on Tuesday.

A delegate cheers during the roll call of states.

State delegations hold up signs during the roll call vote.

Delegates take a photo with Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, center, on Tuesday.

A Florida delegate holds a "Hillary for prison" sign on the floor of the arena.

A convention attendee wears American-themed shoes on Tuesday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan bangs the gavel to open the second day of the convention on Tuesday.

Melania Trump kisses her husband, Donald, after she spoke Monday on the first day of the convention. "If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he's the guy," she said of her husband. "He will never, ever give up. And most importantly, he will never, ever let you down."

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"In writing her beautiful speech, Melania's team of writers took notes on her life's inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking. Melania's immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success," according to Jason Miller, the senior communications adviser.

New Jersey governor and Donald Trump ally Chris Christie defended the speech, saying, "There's no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama's speech."

Begala: A very Trump convention -- mess, undisciplined, angry

"I just don't see it," Christie told CNN's Jamie Gangel in an interview Tuesday, adding later, "If we're talking about 7% of a speech, that was really, universally considered to be a good performance by Melania. I know her. There's no way that Melania Trump was plagiarizing Michelle Obama's speech."

Who wrote the speech?

Side-by-side comparisons of the transcripts show the text in Trump's address following, nearly to the word, the would-be future first lady's own from the first night of the Democratic convention in Denver nearly eight years ago.

There were a lot of questions about who wrote the speech -- but little clarity.

Sources familiar with the campaign's handling of Melania Trump's speech identify top Manafort deputy Rick Gates as the person inside the campaign who oversaw the entire speech process for Melania Trump.

Sign up for CNN Politics' Nightcap newsletter, serving up today's best and tomorrow's essentials in politics.

Gates is denying he oversaw the process of putting together the speech.

When CNN's Jim Acosta asked Gates if he oversaw the Melania Trump speech process, he said "absolutely not."

Miller also denied Gates' involvement.

"Rick's not a speechwriter and he doesn't have a role in the campaign's speechwriting process -- we have other people for that," he said. "Anybody saying differently is being intentionally misleading."

Manafort: Plagiarism accusations are crazy

 

 

 

Manafort: Plagiarism accusations are crazy 01:30

Democrats' role

Manafort, on CNN's "New Day," said the scrutiny over Melania Trump's speech was the work of Clinton's campaign.

"This is once again an example of when a woman threatens Hillary Clinton, she seeks out to demean her and take her down. It's not going to work," he said.

However, Trump's aides haven't pointed to any evidence of Democrats' involvement in fanning the controversy.

The Clinton campaign's communications director Jennifer Palmieri said Manafort's comments about Clinton's involvement were untrue.

"Nice try, not true. @PaulManafort, blaming Hillary Clinton isn't the answer for ever Trump campaign problem," Palmieri tweeted.

Clinton's campaign on Tuesday focused instead on bashing Republicans for other speeches Monday night, including the mother of a Benghazi attack victim saying she'd like to see Clinton imprisoned and the crowd chanting at another point, "Lock her up!" In a fundraising email to supporters, Clinton's campaign said "there's a difference between drawing a contrast and baselessly saying your opponent belongs in jail."

Melania's moment

Melania Trump's unexpected moment

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday that President Barack Obama did not watch Monday night's speeches.

"As it relates to Mrs. Trump's speech, I'll let all of you weigh in on all of that and try to learn more about how exactly it was written," Earnest said. "What I can say that in 2008, when Mrs. Obama spoke, she received an enthusiastic reception and strong reviews because of her words, her life story, and the values that she and her husband deeply believe in and try to instill in their kids."

Fact checking the speeches

Christie on Melania plagiarism: 'I just don't see it'

 

 

 

Christie on Melania plagiarism: 'I just don't see it' 01:05

 Follow

CNN Politics ?@CNNPolitics

Similarities between Melania Trump's  speech and Michelle Obama's in 2008 http://cnn.it/2abCvma 

9:35 PM - 18 Jul 2016

Earlier in the day, Melania Trump told NBC's Matt Lauer: "I read once over it, that's all, because I wrote it ... with (as) little help as possible."

A viewer's guide to the RNC

Here is Trump, on Monday:

"From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son," Trump said.

And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

And here is Obama, on August 25, 2008:

"And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you're going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don't know them, and even if you don't agree with them.

And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children -- and all children in this nation -- to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

The reaction:

"(To be honest), I was more offended by just about every other speech than Melania's plagiarized paragraphs," former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau jokingly tweeted as the accusations went viral hours after Trump's address.

 Follow

Jon Favreau ?@jonfavs

Tbh, I was more offended by just about every other speech than Melania's plagiarized paragraphs.

9:15 PM - 18 Jul 2016

Journalist Jarrett Hill seems to have been one of the first to notice the similarities on Twitter.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

 Follow

Jarrett Hill @JarrettHill

Melania must’ve liked Michelle Obama’s 2008 Convention speech, since she plagiarized it. 

7:40 PM - 18 Jul 2016

He's a big fan of the Obamas, and told CNN over the phone that one particular line from Michelle Obama's 2008 speech really spoke to him: "To know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them."

When he heard Melania Trump start saying "the only limit to your achievements," he knew something was wrong.

Hill said he then Googled Michelle Obama's speech and saw the similar lines.

"It was kind of a total recall moment," he said.

After he posted the comparison on Twitter, his tweet garnered 16,000 retweets.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

 Follow

Jarrett Hill @JarrettHill

CORRECTION: Melania stole a whole graph from Michelle's speech.  
WATCH: https://youtu.be/53Ei2dSDsFY?t=2m4s …

8:26 PM - 18 Jul 2016

 Follow

Jarrett Hill @JarrettHill

Um. This is becoming a thing.

9:17 PM - 18 Jul 2016

"Um. This is becoming a thing," he later tweeted.

Never gonna let you down?

In an even stranger twist, some on social media posited that Trump surreptitiously Rickrolled -- a common Internet meme involving singer Rick Astley -- everyone in the middle of her speech.

"He will never give up," she said of her husband. "And most importantly, he will never, ever let you down."

The chorus of the 80s classic sounds very similar: "Never gonna give you up/ Never gonna let you down/ Never gonna run around and desert you."

A bit of background -- Rickrolling is where you get someone to unwittingly click on a link to the video of the Astley song "Never Gonna Give You Up."

So, for example, if someone were to tell you to click here, saying it's another article about Melania Trump, and you click on that link, you would be taken to an Astley video and thus have been Rickrolled.

CNN's Jim Acosta, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jamie Gangel, MJ Lee, Kevin Liptak, Josh Berlinger, Maeve Reston, Phil Mattingly and Gloria Borger contributed to this report.