President Donald Trump, called out by former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt for his rally remarks concerning Sweden, was merely referring to "rising crime" in Sweden, according to a White House official on Sunday.
"He was talking about rising crime and recent incidents in general and not referring to a specific incident," Sarah Huckabee Sanders, principal deputy press secretary, said in a statement to "CNN Newsroom" with Fredricka Whitfield.
Trump echoed the explanation on Twitter:
During a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump said "look what's happening last night in Sweden," as AP reported Saturday.
The comment was seized on by Trump critics Saturday night on Twitter, and Bildt tweeted a suggestion Trump was "smoking" something in purportedly making up a terror attack that never happened in Sweden.
"Here's the bottom line: We have to keep our country safe," Trump said in Saturday's Melbourne, Fla., rally, per ABC News. "When you look at what's happening in Germany, when you look at what's happening last night in Sweden – Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers, they're having problems like they never thought possible."
The remarks were made in reference to refugee policies in Europe, before he pivoted to listing non-Swedish cities in Europe that have been exposed to actual terror attacks.
The reference to "last night" was an unexplained point to a Friday Fox News documentary clip from "Tucker Carlson Tonight" by Ami Horowitz on "what the US could learn from Sweden's refugee crisis."
The State Department had been contacted by Sweden's embassy in Washington, D.C., asking for a clarification from the Trump administration, Sweden's ministry of foreign affairs spokeswoman Catarina Axelsson told ABC News.
"We just contacted the State Department just to get some clarification of what he's referring to," she said, according to the report.
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