Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has escalated his criticism of President Barack Obama's policies in Iraq and Syria, calling Obama "the founder" of the Islamic State terror group.
Trump made the comment to a crowd of supporters during a campaign stop in Florida Wednesday night.
When asked about the comments Thursday morning on the cable news network CNBC, Trump reiterated his claim and then appeared to relate it to his previous opposition to the war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for the war when she was a U.S. senator. Obama, who was not in Congress at the time, publicly opposed the invasion.
WATCH: Trump on Obama, Clinton and IS
Trump has previously accused Democratic presidential nominee Clinton of backing policies that led to the terrorist group's creation. But he deepened his criticism Wednesday of the current U.S. administration, also saying of Islamic State militants, "in many respects, you know, they honor President Obama."
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq is widely seen as a destabilizing war that precipitated the current crisis in Syria. Some Republicans have criticized Obama and Hillary Clinton for not being aggressive enough in attacking the Islamic State group as it was seizing territory in Iraq and Syria two years ago. But no top Republican has gone so far as to accuse Obama of founding the group.
Trump's controversial statements and blunt attacks on his political opponents have divided the Republican party, with some leading party members denouncing his candidacy and calling him unfit to lead.
Opinion polls have showed his campaign is in danger, with Trump trailing Clinton in several key states and his support eroding in some traditional Republican strongholds.