The statement represents the most aggressive comments yet from the billionaire Republican presidential candidate.

By Eli Stokols and Daniel Strauss
12/07/15 – 04:48 PM EST
Updated 12/07/15 – 08:07 PM EST

Donald Trump on Monday said there should be a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” a surprising escalation of rhetoric—even for him.

The brash GOP front-runner, increasingly desperate to hold on to his position atop the field, emailed out the statement just hours after a new poll showed Ted Cruz overtaking him for the first time in Iowa, where the first-in-the-nation caucuses are less than two months away (a second poll of likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers released Monday afternoon showed Trump maintaining his lead in Iowa).

Doubling down on the signature demagoguery that has enraged liberals and many moderate Republicans but endeared him to the conservative base, Trump said that the U.S. should stop all Muslims from entering the country in response to the ISIL-coordinated attacks in Paris and last week’s ISIL-inspired shooting in San Bernardino carried out by a Muslim husband and wife who became radicalized.

Trump’s statement, without citing a study, said that Pew Research had found that “there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population.” Trump’s aides promoted the statement on Twitter.

“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension,” Trump said. “Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until recently we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life. If I win the election for President, we are going to Make America Great Again.”

Even though Trump aide Daniel Scavino had tweeted the statement, Trump’s campaign fielded a number of calls from reporters wanting to confirm that the statement was real—a sign of the outlandish nature of this latest proposal, even from a candidate who has been uniquely audacious in stretching the boundaries of political decorum and the standard Republican orthodoxies on policy.

But the statement, Trump’s campaign confirmed, was true. A spokeswoman, when asked what inspired the comments, said Trump commented, “death.”

To clear up any doubts, Trump himself tweeted moments later: “Just put out a very important policy statement regarding the influx of hatred and danger coming into out country. We must be vigilant.”

Once again, Trump’s extreme positioning on an issue forced his GOP rivals to weigh in, further fanning attention Trump’s way.

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