President Donald Trump is rumored to have once encouraged notorious conservative filmmaker James O’Keefe to “get inside” Columbia University and get his hands on the private school records of then President Barack Obama.
CNN reports the stunning allegation is revealed in O’Keefe’s new book, American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News, set to hit store bookshelves early next week.
Trump is alleged to have suggested the criminal act during a 2013 meeting he had with O’Keefe in New York City, where he also praised him for some of his past work, including once posing as a pimp as part of a sting operation at the offices of the ACORN organization.
According to O’Keefe, Trump was convinced Obama had entered Columbia, and maybe even Harvard, under the application guidelines of a foreign student and “perhaps picked up a few scholarships along the way.”
“‘Nobody else can get this information,'” O’Keefe quoted Trump as saying. “‘Do you think you could get inside Columbia?'”
While O’Keefe claims he expressed hesitancy to the idea, he added Trump ended the meeting by again imploring him to “do Columbia.”
Trump has long been perceived as one of the unspoken leaders of the so-called birther movement, which centers on the mostly debunked conspiracy theory that Obama was not born in the U.S., and thus should have never been eligible to become president.
Obama graduated from Columbia in 1983 and alleged conspiracy theorists like Trump have often hinted they are convinced records from the school may offer some evidence of his true origin.
During his 2016 campaign run, Trump held a meeting where he appeared to finally back off his hardline stance, publicly admitting that he knew Obama was born in the U.S. Trump’s concession came more than five years after Obama had publicly released his long-form birth certificate from Hawaii.
But as recently as last November, the New York Times reported Trump was again privately questioning if the birth certificate released by Obama was authentic.
O’Keefe writes that the Trump meeting was arranged by GOP political operative Sam Nunberg, who has since confirmed he set it up and that Trump was attracted to the idea at least partly based on the number of retweets he thought it would get on Twitter.
“I recall that the Columbia records were brought up,” Nunberg told CNN. “I in no way recall Trump asking James to do something illegal…. He did not ask him to go in there and break in and get the records. Trump was saying something along the lines of, ‘Try to find somebody you can talk to that’s saying we are hiding the records.’ Something along those lines.”