During the 11th GOP debate in Detroit, Donald Trump's rivals repeatedly called on him to authorize the release a secret, off-the-record interview he did with The New York Times. Trump repeatedly refused to do so. However, the questions themselves surely made many people wonder: What's on Donald Trump's secret New York Times tape?
BuzzFeed's Ben Smith reported earlier in the week that, in a taped, off-the-record conversation with The New York Times' editorial board, Trump had said things that "called into question whether he would stand by his own immigration views." Smith added that, according to his sources, the tape contains "something Trump said about the flexibility of his hardline anti-immigration stance." However, because the interview was conducted off-the-record, the Times can only release it if Trump explicitly gives them permission them to do so.
As of now, however, Smith's characterizations of the conversation are all we have to go by, but that BuzzFeed article may have some clues.
In it, Smith quoted a recent piece by New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who wrote that perhaps Trump "can’t explain how [he's] going to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants because it’s going to be the first bid in some future monster negotiation session." But Smith then said, according to his sources, that line wasn't purely hypothetical, but in fact "reflects, instead, something Trump said about the flexibility of his hardline anti-immigration stance" in the meeting.
We still can't say anything with certainty. The implication of these words, though, is that Trump indicated in his off-the-record meeting that he would be willing to back down on his pledge to deport the 11 million immigrants if, in some hypothetical future negotiating session, he were to receive something of value in exchange.
That said, Trump stated at the debate that he will not authorize the release of the interview. This means that unless somebody leaks it, we'll probably never know exactly what he told the Times editorial board. Still, this clearly isn't going to stop any of his opponents from reminding Republican primary voters of the existence of this tape at every opportunity. Ted Cruz has been hammering Trump on this for days, and even started a hashtag, #ReleaseTheTape, in an attempt to gin up conservative outrage.
The strategy is clear: Convince Trump voters that he's not as hardline on immigration as he presents himself, thus getting his supporters to sour on him. It's unclear if this will work, though, because let's face it: So far, nothing has worked against Trump this entire cycle.