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Trump’s Clinton critique combines evidence with exaggerations

🕐 7 min read

Donald Trump’s much-anticipated critique of rival Hillary Clinton was a display of the presumptive Republican nominee’s willingness to dive deep into the former secretary of state’s long history in the public eye — and his penchant for colorful exaggeration.

Trump, in a speech delivered to a friendly crowd at his SoHo hotel, offered some well-sourced and long-established criticisms of Clinton, from her history of collecting high-priced speaking fees to working closely with foreign governments with questionable human rights records that also donated to her family’s foundation. He highlighted past Clinton misstatements and argued that she was emblematic of a broken political system.

But the real estate mogul uttered some mistruths of his own, echoing conspiracy theories about Clinton and the deadly attacks on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, and mischaracterizing the cost of refugee settlement programs she supports.

Here are some examples of Trump statements that were based on evidence and others that were not:

– Clinton in Bosnia. Trump blasted Clinton as a “world-class liar” for telling a story about a “phony landing in Bosnia where she said she was under attack and the attack turned out to be young girls handing her flowers.”

The presumptive Republican nominee was referencing an incident during the 2008 campaign, when Clinton said that during her tenure as first lady, she landed in Tulza, Bosnia under sniper fire. Video of the event that surfaced after fact-checkers questioned her account showed that Clinton arrived on the tarmac and was greeted by a child who offered her a copy of a poem.

Clinton subsequently apologized for the remarks, telling the Philadelphia Daily News editorial board that she “misspoke,” but that she had been told there was a threat of sniper fire in the area. The next day on the campaign trail, Clinton dismissed it as a “mistake.”

– Benghazi. On Benghazi, a topic that has become a staple of Republican attacks on Clinton and the subject of numerous congressional hearings, Trump repeatedly strayed from the facts. According to Trump, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens was “left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton slept soundly in bed.”

“When the phone rang, Hillary Clinton was sleeping,” he said.

The initial alert to State Department headquarters in Washington about the attack on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi came at 3:45 p.m. Washington time, according to a Senate report on the incident. Clinton said she immediately contacted the White House, and multiple congressional investigations have detailed efforts she undertook to monitor and respond to the crisis.

Clinton did eventually head home that evening, but said in congressional testimony she continued to work throughout the night.

Trump also said Clinton “lied about a video being the cause” of the death of U.S. personnel in Benghazi.

Clinton never made that connection in public. Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that the attack on the compound grew out of a “spontaneous” protest over an anti-Muslim video that was “hijacked” by extremists. At least two family members of the four U.S. personnel who died in Benghazi have claimed Clinton made the link privately, but Clinton has repeatedly denied doing so and others have said they don’t recall her mentioning the video.

– Clinton’s Speaking Fees. Trump borrowed a familiar refrain from supporters of Bernie Sanders, who hammered Clinton during the primary campaign over the speaking fees she commanded after leaving office.

Clinton “made $21.6 million giving speeches to Wall Street banks and other special interests” that “she does not want to reveal to the public,” Trump said. “Together, she and Bill made $153 million giving speeches to lobbyists, CEOs, and foreign governments in the years since 2001.”

Disclosure documents reveal Clinton did make $21.6 million from speaking between 2013 and 2015, including appearances at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Fidelity Investments. She also collected fees for appearances before a variety of other companies and institutions, including Gap, Xerox, EBay and the American Jewish University in California.

The $153 million figure was reported in a CNN analysis of the amount the Clintons collected before she launched her presidential campaign. The pair gave 729 paid speeches averaging more than $210,000 per address, according to CNN. During the Democratic primary, Clinton said she would “look into” releasing her speech transcripts, but has yet to make them public.

– Middle East. Trump laid the blame for the turmoil in the Middle East at the feet of the former secretary of state.

“Hillary Clinton’s tryout for the presidency has produced one deadly foreign policy disaster after another,” Trump said.

While measuring her full influence over U.S. policy in the region is impossible, while in the Senate Clinton joined the majority of lawmakers to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and advocated as secretary of state for the U.S. to support a European intervention to protect Libyans who had risen up against dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq left the country fractured, and after American troops left, Islamic State arose to exploit the vacuum. Critics have blamed the Obama administration’s decision, and Clinton’s support specifically, for Libya’s current sectarian divisions that have become an incubator for terrorism. Obama has said the absence of a clear plan for post-Qaddafi Libya was one of the major mistakes of his presidency while blaming the lack of follow-through on European allies.

Trump repeated his false claim that he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq from the beginning. He also was on record, in a video unearthed by BuzzFeed, advocating for the U.S. to intervene in Libya.

– Refugee Costs. Trump engaged in some hyperbole when suggesting Clinton wanted to spend “hundreds of billions” to resettle Middle Eastern refugees to the United States.

“For the amount of money Hillary Clinton would like to spend on refugees, we could rebuild every inner city in America,” he said.

In 2015, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement had a budget of $1.56 billion, according to the nonpartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. But a significant chunk of that money was used to resettle unaccompanied children who crossed the Mexican border.

Clinton has called for the admission of 65,000 refugees from Syria — which would amount to nearly doubling the 70,000 refugees from all over the world the U.S. accepted in 2015. But even if the refugee budget doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, it would not begin to approach “hundreds of billions of dollars” in cost.

It would also be difficult to imagine the sum being sufficient to rebuild American inner cities. The city of New York alone has an $82.1 billion budget this year.

– Sultan of Brunei. Trump criticized Clinton as perhaps “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” noting that she accepted $58,000 in jewelry from the government of Brunei when she was secretary of state.

“The Sultan of Brunei has pushed oppressive Sharia law, including the punishment of death by stoning for being gay,” Trump said. “The government of Brunei also stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Hillary’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she would absolutely approve if given the chance.”

U.S. officials are routinely presented with lavish gifts from foreign governments, but they aren’t allowed to keep them under federal law. The Sultan of Brunei two years ago presented first lady Michelle Obama flower-shaped white gold earrings, a ring and necklace with diamonds and yellow sapphires valued at $71,468.

But federal ethics rules require all gifts to be turned over to the government for official use and storage. Officials can buy the gifts back, but must spend their own money. Clinton has also said she opposes the final form of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade accord with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

The Clinton Foundation, however, did report between $1 million and $5 million in donations from Brunei — a point on which Trump was correct.

Ben Brody contributed.

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