Trump Assails Clinton as "Corrupt," "World-Class Liar"
NEW YORK -- Donald Trump continued his presidential campaign reset Wednesday with an uncharacteristically prepared and cohesive speech hitting his party members’ common adversary -- Hillary Clinton.
In his remarks, he called the presumptive Democratic nominee a “world-class liar” and possibly “the most corrupt person to ever seek the presidency” while pitching himself to certain segments of her base.
The presumptive GOP standard-bearer took particular aim at Clinton’s service as secretary of state, in which he exaggerated the causes of a series of foreign policy events to blame her for a destabilized Middle East, the rise of ISIS, and the feeling of insecurity at home.
Attacking on another front, Trump criticized his opponent’s personal wealth, tying it to the candidate’s family foundation and its donors and her paid speeches, in arguing that Clinton is not looking out for the middle class.
“She thinks it’s all about her. I know it’s all about you,” Trump said, riffing off Clinton’s “I’m With Her” campaign slogan. “She gets rich while making you poor.”
“This election will decide whether we are ruled by the people, or by the politicians,” he said in a ballroom at his hotel in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
The 40-minute speech, delivered with the help of a teleprompter and heavily reliant on excerpts from a widely panned book about the Clintons, comes amid a high-level shake-up in the Trump campaign. Behind in the polls after clinching the nomination, enmeshed in a series of self-inflicted controversies, and struggling to raise money and form an organization befitting a presidential candidate, Trump began the week by firing his longtime campaign manager.
His anti-Clinton speech was slated to be given last week, but was shelved after the massacre in Orlando shifted the gears of both presidential campaigns.
But the new timing of the address came at another critical juncture in which members of the GOP are hoping to see real changes in the Trump campaign after the departure of Corey Lewandowski. Republicans appeared to breathe a sigh of relief after Trump’s speech, as he delivered a critique of Clinton that figured to animate and possibly unite the party base while returning to his own central economic themes. And it comes a day after Clinton delivered her own critique of Trump in the battleground state of Ohio, where she argued that her opponent is fraudulent and can’t be trusted given his wildly varying promises, policy proposals, and past business dealings.
Whether this new version of Trump lasts -- and whether voters can look past the multitude of past controversies, including charges of racism, bigotry and misogyny -- are ongoing questions. If there is a benefit from the shift, the presumptive nominee won’t have time to capitalize on it here at home this week, as he heads to Scotland Thursday to re-open a golf resort there.
For now, Republicans might find hope in the campaign’s ability to get the candidate onto a general election message. Trump struck at the heart of Clinton’s vulnerabilities Wednesday: trustworthiness and honesty, as recorded in the polls.
“Hillary Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and theft,” Trump said.
The billionaire businessman also made a direct appeal to supporters of Bernie Sanders, who has not officially exited the Democratic primary race, with promises of fixing a “rigged” economy and political system, as well as hitting on concerns about the fairness of trade deals for the American voter.
He also recycled Sanders’ own criticisms of his opponent: “Hillary Clinton wants to be president. But she doesn't have the temperament, or, as Bernie Sanders said, the judgment, to be president.”
Trump offered red meat to his GOP base as well, taking aim at the killing of four Americans in Benghazi and increased ISIS activity.
Trump claimed that Clinton “slept in her bed” as U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens “was left helpless to die,” an assertion that has been debunked by fact checkers.
“Secretary Clinton managed to almost single-handedly destabilize the entire Middle East,” Trump said. “Her invasion of Libya handed the country over to the ISIS barbarians.” He continued: “ISIS threatens us today because of the decisions Hillary Clinton has made.”
Trump’s own position regarding the intervention in Libya is scattered. He has criticized the decision to remove Moammar Gaddafi from power, but has also said he would have intervened but in a different way. Trump also hammered Clinton for voting for the war in Iraq while claiming he was against that intervention before the war started, though there is virtually no evidence to support that statement. Trump has been on record as being against the war -- in interviews conducted after it started.
Clinton’s foreign policy is more conservative than the preferences of her current Democratic base, and Trump’s GOP primary opponents and party leaders have argued for a more aggressive and robust approach than their nominee has promoted. But Trump figures to gain traction among Republicans for criticizing Clinton’s judgment as secretary of state, as many in the party believe her record is thin and speckled with failures.
Trump also gave a generic and ambitious glimpse into the first 100 days of a Trump presidency, pledging to appoint conservative judges, change immigration laws to favor American workers, hold to account countries that cheat on trade pacts, “cancel” regulations that send jobs overseas, repeal and replace Obamacare, pass “massive tax reform,” and “impose tough new ethics rules to restore dignity to the office of secretary of state.”
Clinton laid out her own economic proposals in North Carolina on Wednesday afternoon in a speech that was expected to include a response to Trump’s assertions.
Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is expected to make additional hires. And on Tuesday night, the candidate held a joint fundraiser with the Republican National Committee at a restaurant in Manhattan.
One other sign of change this week is that the campaign has started to send out fundraising emails to attract grassroots donors and build a database of contacts vital for the general election. After Trump’s speech Wednesday, his eldest son emailed supporters to capitalize on the event. “Crooked Hillary has corrupt, deep-pocketed donors backing her,” he wrote. “That's why your involvement and financial support is so important.”