WASHINGTON Potential presidential candidate Donald Trump, at or near the top of some recent polls of Republican contenders, said he might release his tax returns when President Barack Obama produces a birth certificate.
Trump made the comment in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, parts of which were aired and transcripts of which were released on Tuesday. The interview was conducted on Monday.
"Maybe I'm going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate ... I'd love to give my tax returns. I may tie my tax returns into Obama's birth certificate," Trump said.
A real estate tycoon and reality TV star with a colorful past that includes three marriages, the initial talk from Trump about possibly running for the Republican nomination was seen by some as little more than a publicity stunt.
But in a field where several potential candidates carry baggage of their own or are relative unknowns, Trump's high profile and outspoken comments -- on matters from getting tough on China over trade and OPEC over high oil prices to the so-called birther issue -- have gained traction for him.
A Public Policy Polling survey last week said Trump led the Republican field with 26 percent, followed by 17 percent for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and 15 percent for Massachusetts ex-governor Romney, with others trailing.
The birther issue centers around suggestions Obama was either born outside the United States or is trying to hide some damaging facet of his family background.
Most Republican candidates have ignored the subject or said they do not take the allegations seriously.
But Trump told Stephanopoulous: "There's a real question about the birth certificate. There's a real question about ...- his own citizenship.
There were reports of Obama's birth in Hawaii in local newspapers, Hawaiian officials have said they have the president's original birth certificate, and a certificate of life birth has been made public as well.
When Stephanopolous said the latter met the standards of the U.S. State Department, Trump said that was not the same as a birth certificate. When Stephanopolous continued to press him on the issue, he said: "George, they have co-opted you."
However, Trump also said the birth issue was "not a big focus of my campaign. It's the focus of the press."
"My big focus is China and OPEC and all of these countries that are just absolutely destroying the United States."
(Reporting by Jerry Norton; Editing by Greg McCune)