Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used a familiar turn of phrase Monday evening to suggest without evidence a possible link between the execution of an Iranian nuclear scientist and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails, saying that “many people” were drawing a connection between the two.
But Trump didn’t say who the people were. His campaign staff didn’t, either. “Mr. Trump’s tweets speak for themselves,” said Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks.
By late Monday night, the hashtag #ManyPeopleAreSaying was trending on Twitter, a sign that the mogul’s word choice, which he has used to perpetuate other unsubstantiated claims, had attracted widespread attention.
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“Many people are saying that the Iranians killed the scientist who helped the U.S. because of Hillary Clinton’s hacked emails,” Trump tweeted.
He dispatched a similar tweet on Saturday, retweeting a Drudge Report link to an article about the matter.
Iran executed nuclear scientist Shahram Amiri, as first reported over the weekend. A top Iranian prosecutor told reporters he was convicted of spying and had “provided the enemy with vital information of the country.”
There are conflicting accounts of the circumstances of Amiri’s arrival in the United States after disappearing during a 2009 trip to Saudi Arabia. He claimed he was taken by U.S. officials. U.S. officials said he was there voluntarily and was offered money in exchange for information about Iran’s nuclear program. He later returned to Iran.
There are apparent references to Amiri in emails sent to Clinton when she was secretary of state. The emails were later released when Clinton’s use of a private email server as the nation’s top diplomat came under intense scrutiny.
But no evidence has surfaced indicating that Clinton’s emails were hacked.
And as Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin recently noted, Clinton spoke publicly about Amiri’s travels back in 2010, well before her emails were released publicly.
Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Lehrich told Rogin: “It’s pretty remarkable to baselessly claim that Hillary Clinton is responsible for this tragic death.”
As the Washington Post has reported, Trump has used some variation of “many people are saying” to couch controversial comments or gossip.
For example, Trump said in January that he was not concerned about GOP rival Ted Cruz’s Canadian birth becoming a problem for his presidential bid, but others were.
“I’d hate to see something like that get in his way, but a lot of people are talking about it,” said Trump.
On Twitter Monday, users incorporated the hashtag #ManyPeopleAreSaying in a variety of ways, some by critics intended to attack Trump.
Others were intended to criticize Clinton or as part of a humorous aside.