As President Trump’s poll numbers have slipped and the economy has slowed, Trump has returned his focus to a central tenet of his 2016 campaign: building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey report:

When aides have suggested that some orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said. … Asked for comment, a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Trump is joking when he makes such statements about pardons.

Notably, the White House is not denying that Trump floated pardons for administration officials who break the law; it just explained that Trump was “joking” when he did it.

Over the past four years, Trump or his allies have downplayed his remarks at least 15 times with some variation of suggesting he was joking, kidding or being sarcastic. You can see examples in the video above, which was originally published in April after then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed Trump was joking when he repeatedly praised WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign for releasing emails from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

As I noted on the Fix then, it is an ambiguity Trump and his allies have embraced and a deflection they routinely employ to counter potentially negative stories. Among the remarks Trump or his allies have downplayed by suggesting he was joking include:

  • Inviting Russia to find and release Hillary Clinton’s emails
  • Praising the release of hacked emails by WikiLeaks
  • Shooting someone on Fifth Avenue and not losing voters
  • Suggesting “Second Amendment people” could stop Hillary Clinton from appointing judges
  • Calling former president Barack Obama the “founder of ISIS”
  • Asking Americans to “sit up at attention” when he speaks
  • Suggesting he could be “president for life”
  • Calling Democrats’ refusal to cheer at his State of the Union address “treasonous”
  • Telling police officers to not “be too nice” with suspects
  • Praising a congressman for assaulting a reporter
  • Saying it would be “easy” to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act
  • Floating becoming more “presidential”
  • Touting a higher IQ than that of his secretary of state
  • Calling himself “the chosen one” in trade negotiations with China
  • Floating pardons to administration officials who break the law

The day after The Washington Post reported on Trump floating pardons to aides, Trump undercut his aides and denied the report on Twitter.

“The Amazon Washington Post and @CNN just did a Fake Interview on Pardons for Aids on the Wall,” Trump tweeted.