Donald Trump attempted to relaunch his troubled campaign Wednesday with a scripted speech fusing his anti-trade economic message with a series of attacks on Hillary Clinton that ran the gamut from harsh, to unprovable to false.
It was in many ways two speeches, with one designed to show a more disciplined politician who could capitalize on Americans’ economic anxieties over globalism with promises to restore manufacturing jobs and protect blue-collar workers from what Trump characterized as a threat from immigrant labor.
The second major aspect of the speech, the attack on Clinton, mixed controversies in her career and serious questions about her record with allegations that came largely from a book, “Clinton Cash,” which chronicled various scandals but draws some conclusions that go beyond the available evidence.
The unifying theme was the allegation that Clinton has personally benefited from trade deals that have hurt the American economy.
“We got here because we switched from a policy of Americanism — focusing on what’s good for America’s middle class — to a policy of globalism, focusing on how to make money for large corporations who can move their wealth and workers to foreign countries all to the detriment of the American worker and the American economy,” Trump said, reading from a teleprompter in one of his New York properties.
Put more succinctly: “She gets rich making you poor.”
Trump’s accusations drew on Clinton’s years in the public eye, and he made broader assertions about U.S. policy as well.
Among Trump’s falsehoods: the U.S. is the highest-taxed country in the world; he opposed the war in Iraq before it started; the trade deficit with China increased 40% under Clinton’s tenure as secretary of State; and America has no system for vetting refugees.
Among the unsubstantiated allegations: the private server Clinton used for email could have been hacked by agents of other countries who could have found dirty laundry and subjected her to blackmail; Clinton made money as a direct result of running the State Department; Clinton is lying about her opposition to a Pacific Rim trade agreement.
Among the facts: Clinton falsely recounted landing in Bosnia under sniper fire; Clinton has been paid millions in speaking fees by Wall Street and has not released the transcripts of those speeches; the Clinton Foundation took millions of dollars from oppressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia that treat women and gays harshly.
“Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” he said.
Clinton, responding at a rally in Raleigh, N.C., on Wednesday, said Trump’s attacks were an indication of his lack of substance.
“All he can do is try to distract us,” she said.
She also defended her family’s foundation with a dig at Trump.
“The Clinton Foundation helps poor people around the world get access to lifesaving AIDS medicine,” she said. “Donald Trump uses poor people around the world to produce his line of suits and ties.”
Trump aimed his speech at multiple audiences. He tried to reassure core Republican leaders and donors that he can deliver a disciplined attack on Clinton and highlight the economic message that propelled his success in the primaries. He offered them an assortment of red meat, including oft-repeated – and disputed – critiques of her culpability in the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.
He tried to court independents who supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Democratic candidacy by calling out the “rigged” system that benefits elites and corporate interests.
“It’s not just the political system that’s rigged,” he said, in one of several lines that overlapped with Sanders’ message. “It’s the whole economy.”
Trump also tried to enlist Sanders to validate his broader case that Clinton is unfit for the job.
”She doesn’t have the temperament, or, as Bernie Sanders said, the ‘judgment, to be president,’” Trump said.
Trump also wanted to win over mainstream general election voters who care about security and “jobs, jobs, jobs,” but may be turned off by some of his more inflammatory statements. For them, he softened some of his sharpest rhetoric and spoke frequently about helping African Americans, protecting gays and rebuilding inner cities.
Only a week ago, Trump renewed his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the country and blamed them for not reporting terrorist threats within their community. Wednesday’s speech notably cast Muslims in a different light, as vulnerable to Islamic State extremists.
“ISIS also threatens peaceful Muslims across the Middle East and peaceful Muslims across the world, who have been terribly victimized by horrible brutality — and who only want to raise their kids in peace and safety,” Trump said, using an alternative acronym for the terrorist group.
Trump also spoke in the traditional political oratory that he has scorned – allusions to Presidents Washington and Lincoln, along with lofty appeals to America’s frontier past, the building of the Panama Canal and the Space Age to assert that the country has lost its mojo. The departure from Trump’s usual casual and improvisational style was jarring.
Trump has been trying to reassure party leaders that he has the ability and appetite to raise money, hire staff and run something closer to a modern campaign operation. He announced several staff hires Tuesday and began sending out more news releases, some of them mundane by Trump standards, including an unglamorous announcement Wednesday that he had received the endorsement of a former director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Trump had planned to deliver the speech last week. But he postponed it in the wake of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando that killed 49 people and wounded dozens more.
Times staff writer Michael A. Memoli in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.
Staff writer Michael Memoli contributed from Raleigh, NC.
1:47 p.m.: This story was updated with comments from Hillary Clinton.
This story was originally published at 10:50 a.m.