How Donald Trump’s speech attacking Hillary Clinton compares with the facts

Donald Trump speaks Wednesday in New York.
(Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s allegations against Hillary Clinton in an address Wednesday included assertions about her personally, her family foundation and the administration she served in. Some of his claims, like the millions of dollars the Clinton Foundation accepted from authoritarian foreign governments, were accurate. Other points, like the decline of manufacturing jobs since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, revealed only a small part of a larger story. Others, like Trump’s assertion that the U.S. has the world’s highest taxes, were outright false.

Here are some of his remarks and how they stack up compared with the facts:

‘I was among the earliest to criticize the rush to war [in Iraq], and, yes, even before the war ever started.’

Independent fact-checkers have been unable to find any evidence that Trump opposed the war in Iraq before it began in 2003. BuzzFeed unearthed a 2002 interview with Howard Stern in which Trump said, “Yeah, I guess so,” when asked whether he supported the invasion. “I wish the first time it was done correctly,” he added, alluding to the 1991 Persian Gulf War and President George H.W. Bush’s decision not to try to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Trump’s criticisms of the Iraq war came later, and he has repeatedly said while campaigning that he opposed the war.

‘We are, by the way, the highest-taxed nation in the world.’

Trump has made this claim several times, and it has been repeatedly debunked. The line appeared to be improvised Wednesday; it was not in his prepared remarks. He was not specific about whether he was referring to corporate, personal income or other taxes. 

The U.S. is among the least taxed of 30 countries surveyed by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Only Mexico (19.5%), Chile (19.8%) and South Korea (24.6%) were taxed less than the U.S., which collected 26% of gross domestic product in revenue in 2014.

‘Hillary Clinton supports a radical 550% increase in Syrian refugees coming into the United States. … Under her plan, we would admit hundreds of thousands of refugees from the most dangerous countries on Earth, with no way to screen who they are, what they are, what they believe, where they come from.’

The first portion of Trump’s assertion, while accurate, is misleading, given the scale of the crisis. Clinton said last year that the U.S. should resettle 65,000 Syrian refugees, which would be a 550% increase from the Obama administration’s goal of resettling 10,000 refugees this fiscal year.

Human rights groups have urged much higher numbers. 

The U.S. has settled 4,766 Syrian refugees since Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, according to the Refugee Processing Center operated by the State Department. An agency spokesman said Wednesday that the administration expects the rate of refugee admissions will increase. 

By comparison, Turkey has taken in 2.5 million refugees. Amnesty International estimates that Turkey and four other countries in the Middle East have taken in 4.5 million Syrians altogether. Hundreds of thousands more have fled to Germany and other European countries, creating the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II. 

As far as for those who are let into the U.S., the State Department says its screenings include reviews from multiple federal agencies, including the National Counterterrorism Center. They examine applications, conduct in-person interviews and health screenings, and require local sponsorship from an experienced resettlement agency

Federal officials, however, have acknowledged that they can’t “offer anybody an absolute assurance that there’s no risk associated with this.”



June 23, 1:45 p.m.: An earlier version of this article said that Hillary Clinton advocated admitting 10,000-65,000 Syrian refugees into the country. Clinton has advocated admitting 65,000, not a range.


‘Hillary took $25 million from Saudi Arabia.’

Trump appeared to be referring to the Clinton Foundation, which has accepted $10 million to $25 million from Saudi Arabia. A private foundation accepting donations from foreign governments is perfectly legal. Trump’s accusation implied wrongdoing, particularly when considered alongside controversies surrounding the foundation that have been widely chronicled.  

‘I started off in Brooklyn, N.Y., not so long ago with a small loan and built a business that today is worth well over $10 billion.’

Trump has used this line regularly in stump speeches and in television interviews to tout his business background. Indeed, he began working for his father’s real estate company, but in the 1970s set his sights on the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan. How was that possible? Trump often describes the “small” loan from his father. But the loan was for $1 million, which may seem small to Trump, but for the middle-class voters he’s wooing, is an amount they’ll probably never see.

‘Hillary Clinton supported Bill Clinton's ... totally disastrous NAFTA, just like she supported China's entrance into the World Trade Organization. We've lost nearly one-third of our manufacturing jobs since these two Hillary-backed agreements were signed.’

Clinton’s support of the  North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s and of China joining the World Trade Organization has become fodder for her rivals, dating to the bitter 2008 Democratic primary. During that campaign, she backed off her support of free trade, saying it “hurt a lot of American workers.”

 NAFTA was negotiated and signed by George H.W. Bush in 1992. Bill Clinton endorsed it, campaigned for Congress to approve it, and signed the enabling legislation in 1993.

As Trump seeks to make inroads with white working-class voters from Rust Belt states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, where trade is a major issue, he’s relentlessly highlighting Hillary Clinton’s past support in stump speeches and on social media.

But the notion that “nearly one-third” of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the wake of NAFTA is misleading.

Employment in the manufacturing sector peaked in 1979 at just short of 20 million workers. By the time NAFTA was signed, manufacturing employment had dropped to roughly 16.9 million. It increased slightly during Clinton’s tenure as president, then began falling steeply in the early 2000s, according to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Manufacturing employment currently stands at about 12.3 million.

Some of the decline comes from jobs being moved to other countries, but much of the decline involves technology that allows goods to be made with fewer workers.

‘Ambassador Stevens and his staff in Libya made hundreds and hundreds of requests for security. They were desperate. They needed help. Hillary Clinton's State Department refused them all.’

Trump targeted Clinton over the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, in the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, when Clinton was secretary of State. Clinton has faced scrutiny for security lapses at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, where Stevens was killed. 

Before the attack, the State Department was asked repeatedly for additional U.S. security staff in Libya, according to PolitiFact. Yet there was no evidence that Clinton herself was made aware of those requests.

Bierman reported from Washington and Lee from Los Angeles.

Twitter: @noahbierman, @kurtisalee



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8:59 a.m.: This article was updated to clarify the roles of George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton in enacting the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The article was initially published at 3 a.m.