Donald Trump escalated his attacks on Hillary Clinton during a lengthy speech in New York on Wednesday, calling the presumptive Democratic nominee a “world-class liar” and potentially “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.”
Trump claimed Clinton had “perfected the politics of personal profit and even theft,” accusing her of taking money from banks, special interests, and “financial backers in Communist China” in return for influence. He slammed her for ignoring “radical Islam” and allowing American diplomats to be killed in Benghazi in 2012. “She lacks the temperament, the judgment, and the competence to lead,” he said.
A large chunk of Trump’s case against Clinton rested on items pulled from Clinton Cash, a book by conservative academic and Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer. The book alleges that Clinton used her position as secretary of state to funnel money to herself and the Clinton Foundation in return for friendly treatment for foreign governments including Russia, China, and Persian Gulf countries that Trump said “horribly abuse women and LGBT citizens.” Trump also claimed that Clinton’s use of private email server was an attempt to hide such corruption from public view.
Trump also blamed Clinton for toppling friendly governments in the Middle East and allowing the rise of ISIS by (unsuccessfully) supporting military action against the Syrian government. “In just four years, Secretary Clinton managed to almost single-handedly destabilize the entire Middle East,” Trump charged. “ISIS threatens us today because of the decisions Hillary Clinton has made.”
The presumptive GOP nominee made a direct plea to Bernie Sanders supporters, casting Clinton as a corrupt insider being challenged by another pro-working class, anti-Washington populist. The speech was filled with Sanders-like references to a “rigged system” and attacks on Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street firms and her support for major trade deals including NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, both of which Trump said harm American workers and enrich large banks and corporations. “The insiders wrote the rules of the game to keep themselves in power and in the money,” Trump said. “That’s why we’re asking Bernie Sanders’ voters to join our movement, so together we can fix the system for all Americans.”
For all of the sharp attacks on Clinton, the speech was maybe Trump’s most measured public appearance of the campaign. Trump stuck to his prepared text and included the kind of standard-issue political platitudes—”everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be”—that he rarely employs at his rallies and press conferences.
Yet the speech contained numerous falsehoods. Trump claimed again that the United States was the highest-taxed nation in the world; lied about opposing the war in Iraq before it started; claimed the government spends “hundreds of billions” on bringing refugees to America; said hundreds of immigrants have been convicted of terrorist activity; charged that Clinton would “end virtually all immigration enforcement;” and said that Clinton’s email server had been hacked by foreign governments.
The speech seemed to represent the dramatic shift that’s apparently taken place in the Trump campaign this week since Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who reportedly encouraged Trump’s penchant for offensive, off-the-cuff remarks and blocked attempts to expand Trump’s staff. Reporters noted an immediate change in the campaign’s tactics on Tuesday, with Trump’s staff sending out fundraising appeals and hitting back at comments by Clinton with “rapid response” email blasts to reporters rather than tweets by Trump himself. Both are considered standard campaign actions, but Trump hadn’t used either before this week.