He was referring to a January 2003 interview on Fox Business, about two months before the invasion. During it, Trump gave a lukewarm reaction to the Iraq invasion and urged then-President George W. Bush to make a decision. Below is the context for that claim. As readers can see, Trump did not weigh in on whether the United States should attack or not (“either you attack or you don’t attack”).
Cavuto: If you had to sort of break down for the president, if you were advising him, how much time do you commit to Iraq versus how much time you commit to the economy, what would you say?
Trump: Well, I’m starting to think that people are much more focused now on the economy. They are getting a little bit tired of hearing, we’re going in, we’re not going in, the — you know, whatever happened to the days of the Douglas MacArthur. He would go and attack. He wouldn’t talk. We have to — you know, it’s sort like either do it or don’t do it. When I watch Dan Rather explaining how we are going to be attacking, where we’re going to attack, what routes we’re taking, what kind of planes we’re using, how to stop them, how to stop us, it is a little bit disconcerting. I’ve never seen this, where newscasters are telling you how — telling the enemy how we’re going about it, we have just found out this and that. It is ridiculous.
Cavuto: Well, the problem right there.
Trump: Either you attack or you don’t attack.
Cavuto: The problem there, Donald, is you’re watching Dan Rather. Maybe you should just be watching Fox.
Trump: Well, no, I watch Dan Rather, but not necessarily fondly. But I happened to see it the other night. And I must tell you it was rather amazing as they were explaining the different — I don’t know if it is fact or if it is fiction, but the concept of a newscaster talking about the routes is — just seems ridiculous. So the point is either you do it or you don’t do it, or you — but I just — or if you don’t do it, just don’t talk about it. When you do it, you start talking about it.
Cavuto: So you’re saying the leash on this is getting kind of short here, that the president has got to do something presumably sooner rather than later and stringing this along could ultimately hurt us.
Trump: Well, he has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know. He’s under a lot of pressure. He’s — I think he’s doing a very good job. But, of course, if you look at the polls, a lot of people are getting a little tired. I think the Iraqi situation is a problem. And I think the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned.
“In August of 2004, very early, right after the conflict, I made a detailed statement to Esquire magazine in an interview [opposing the invasion].”
Trump clearly was outspoken about his opposition to the Iraq War starting in 2004, the year he reportedly considered a presidential bid. (Instead, he launched his popular TV series, “The Apprentice.”) Trump did sharply criticize the war in Iraq in the August 2004 cover story of Esquire magazine. But this was nearly 18 months after the invasion in March 2003.
Trump also has pointed several times to a July 2004 Reuters article as proof he opposed the war from the outset. The Reuters article is a preview of the August 2004 Esquire cover story. Somehow, in Trump’s mind, 2004 has turned into 2003, and Trump now says he “was against the war from the very beginning,” even prior to the March 2003 invasion.
“But I have been just as clear in saying what a catastrophic mistake Hillary Clinton and President Obama made with the reckless way in which they pulled out.”
Trump criticizes the 2011 withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq, saying Obama “got us out the wrong way.” But Trump supported rapid withdrawal as early as March 2007, saying the United States should “declare victory and leave.” So once again Trump criticizes Obama and Clinton for taking action he advocated.
“I have long said that we should have kept the oil in Iraq.”
This is nonsensical. The Bush administration invested a lot of diplomatic effort in assuring Middle Eastern allies that the United States was not invading because of Iraq’s oil fields. Moreover, oil revenue was crucial to ensuring a functioning Iraqi state — which is why insurgents often targeted the oil sector in Iraq.
In any event, seizing the oil of a sovereign nation after invading it would be considered a “grave breach” of the Geneva Conventions, one of the cornerstones of international law, as well as other international agreements. Maybe Trump’s staff should arrange a tutorial on international law.
“I had previously said that NATO was obsolete because it failed to deal adequately with terrorism. Since my comments, they have changed their policy and now have a new division focused on terror threats.”
NATO has disputed Trump’s repeated claim that NATO created a new assistant secretary general for intelligence because of his critique. “There’s no connection to any national election campaign,” NATO said, noting that the post had been under consideration several years before Trump began saying the organization was obsolete. NATO first committed to increased counterterrorism activities at a summit in Wales in 2012.
“Unlike Hillary Clinton, who has risked so many lives with her careless handling of sensitive information, my administration will not telegraph exactly military plans and what they are.”
Tellingly, Trump’s prepared text offered no footnote for this claim. There is little evidence that Clinton disclosed military plans through use of a private email server for State Department communications.
There indeed was sensitive information in Clinton’s emails, as the FBI found in its investigation into her use of her private server. Some of the emails were in reference to specific drone strikes being planned, the Wall Street Journal reported. But Trump exaggerates to say they “telegraph exactly military plans and what they are.”
Rather, these were vaguely worded emails forwarded by Clinton’s aides to her private email account. The Journal reported that the emails “were written within the often-narrow time frame in which State Department officials had to decide whether or not to object to drone strikes before the CIA pulled the trigger, officials said. Law-enforcement and intelligence officials said State Department deliberations about the covert CIA drone program should have been conducted over a more secure government computer system designed to handle classified information.”
“We admit about 100,000 permanent immigrants from the Middle East every year.”
Trump overstates the figure here. The number of people seeking lawful permanent resident status (“a green card”) adds up to about 76,000 people if you include the Arab countries in the Levant, Persian Gulf and North Africa, according to 2014 Department of Homeland Security figures.
You get to around 100,000 only by including Afghanistan and Pakistan, which of course are outside the traditional “Middle East.” Other Muslim countries, such as Indonesia (2,139) and Somalia (5,190), do not significantly add to the total.
“The United States subcommittee on Immigration estimates that Hillary Clinton’s plan would mean roughly 620,000 refugees from all current refugee-sending nations in her first term, assuming no cuts to other refugee programs.”
This figure stems from the unverified assumption that Clinton, who has called for 55,000 additional refugees from Syria, would continue at that pace for every year of her first term, on top of the Obama administration’s proposal for 100,000 refugees for fiscal year 2017. The committee then multiples 155,000 times four years to reach 620,000 refugees. Clinton has never proposed such a “plan,” so this is an invented figure. Clinton only has proposed an increase of 55,000 refugees for one year.
“A neighbor saw suspicious behavior. Bombs on the floor and other things, but didn’t warn authorities because they said they didn’t want to be accused of racial profiling.”
There is no evidence this was the case. There have been unconfirmed second- or third-hand reports — a friend of a friend of a neighbor — that a neighbor claimed to have noticed suspicious activity but did not report anything for fear of doing racial profiling. The religion of this supposed neighbor is unknown, but presumably a fear of racial profiling would suggest the neighbor was not Muslim.
Trump ad-libbed the phrase about “bombs on the floor.” Even the secondhand reports don’t suggest a neighbor saw “bombs on the floor” — just that they received numerous packages at their home and were in their garage late at night.