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Fact-checking Donald Trump’s attack on Hillary Clinton

At a speech in New York on June 22, Republican presidential candidate called his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton a "world-class liar." (Video: Reuters, Photo: Mary Altaffer/Reuters)

Republican Donald Trump gave a speech on June 22 attacking Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, in back-to-back speeches by the two presumptive presidential nominees aimed at undermining each other’s credentials.

A large portion of his speech criticized Clinton’s record as secretary of state and donations given to the Clinton Foundation, as outlined in Peter Schweizer’s book, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.” One of the strongest charges Trump made was that Clinton “ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund, doing favors for oppressive regimes, and many others and really many, many others in exchange for cash.”

But Trump offered little evidence to back up this charge, which doesn’t make much sense beyond being an easy soundbite. It ignores the fact that the actions of Clinton and Clinton Foundation have been heavily scrutinized over the years, and that critics, including Schweizer, have not been able to prove quid pro quo.

We fact-checked 25 claims from Trump’s speech, including many that have been previously debunked. (See our fact-check on Clinton’s June 21 speech here.)

The quotes are in the order in which they were delivered. As is our custom in such roundups, we do not provide a Pinocchio rating.

“Just look at her pathetic email and server statements or her phony landing in Bosnia, where she said she was under attack, and the attack turned out to be young girls handing her flowers.”

The Fact Checker has run 10 fact checks on Clinton’s often-misleading email statements. Here’s a link to a summary of the fact checks.

What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at Trump Doral golf course in Miami, Florida, U.S. July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

As for Clinton’s Bosnia statement that she remembered “landing under sniper fire,” made during the 2008 campaign, The Fact Checker first exposed that, including the video of the flower greeting. Here’s a link to that fact check.

“I started off in Brooklyn, New York, not so long ago with a small loan and built a business that today is worth well over $10 billion.”

Trump repeatedly makes this false statement — that he started his business empire with just a $1 million loan from his father. But that is simply not credible, as we documented in a lengthy fact check.

Trump appears to have inherited about $40 million. He also benefited from numerous loans and loan guarantees, as well as his father’s connections, to make the move into Manhattan. His father set up lucrative trusts to provide steady income. When Trump became overextended in the casino business, his father bailed him out with a shady casino-chip loan — and Trump also borrowed $9 million against his future inheritance. While Trump often asserts “it has not been easy for me,” he glosses over the fact that his father paved the way for his success — and that his father bailed him out when he got into trouble.

“Together, she and Bill made $153 million giving speeches to lobbyists, CEOs and foreign governments in the years since 2001.”

This figure is about right. Bill and Hillary Clinton were personally paid $158.3 million from paid speeches between 2001 and 2015, according to Washington Post analysis of their financial disclosures. However, it’s unclear how many were given to lobbyists, chief executives or foreign governments, as the payment records do not reflect that level of detail.

“One of the first major bills that George Washington signed — was amazing when I saw this for the first time — the encouragement and protection of manufacturing in America.”

Trump is right, if he is referring to the second bill passed under the nation’s first president was a tariff act. The founders of the new nation were eager that the United States develop its own manufacturing component and not become dependent on Great Britain for manufactured goods. Interestingly, the free traders at the time resided in the deep South, where planters depended on selling raw materials (such as cotton) overseas.

Washington directed Alexander Hamilton as secretary of the Treasury to write a report on manufacturing, “Report on Manufactures,” which Hamilton delivered to Congress in December 1791. Washington was “certainly interested in manufacturing,” though the chief figure encouraging protection of manufacturing was Hamilton, said Julie Miller, early America historian at the Library of Congress.

“Hillary Clinton supported Bill Clinton’s disastrous NAFTA.”

Clinton did support her husband’s embrace of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. But it’s worth recalling the agreement was negotiated and signed by Clinton’s Republican predecessor George H.W. Bush — and approved by Congress with a majority of Republican votes.

Moreover, the Congressional Research Service in 2015 concluded the “net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP.”
Here’s a deeper look at Trump’s often-inaccurate trade rhetoric.

“We’ve lost nearly one-third of our manufacturing jobs since these two Hillary-backed agreements were signed, among the worst we’ve ever done, among the most destructive agreements we’ve ever signed.”

This was in reference to NAFTA, which took effect in January 1994, and China joining the World Trade Organization in December 2001. The raw numbers check out — there were 1.7 million manufacturing jobs in January 1994, 1.6 million in December 2001 and 1.2 million as of March 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But it’s more complex than that. Not all these jobs were lost due to trade; the manufacturing sector has declined as a source of jobs in the United States as productivity has risen. The Congressional Research Service found it is difficult to measure the exact impact of trade, compared to other variables that can affect the economy, such as inflation and economic growth.

“Our trade deficit with China soared 40 percent during Hillary Clinton’s time as secretary of state — a disgraceful performance, for which she should not be congratulated, but rather scorned.”

It is bit silly to blame a secretary of state for a trade deficit, which is mostly the result of decisions by businesses and consumers, but let’s check Trump’s math anyway.

The U.S. trade deficit with China was $268 billion in 2008 and increased to $315 billion in 2012, according to the Commerce Department — the period that would cover Clinton’s four years as secretary of state. That’s an increase of $47 billion, or 17.5 percent. So Trump overshoots the mark by more than double. (Some readers suggested Trump was measuring from 2009 to 2013. That does show an increase of 40 percent, in part because the Great Recession weakened trade in 2009. But that’s the wrong window of time, because it leaves off her first year as secretary of state and includes a year when she was not secretary.)

“Hillary Clinton has also been the biggest promoter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will ship millions more of our jobs overseas and give up congressional power to an international foreign commission.”

Clinton, as secretary of state, supported TPP negotiations but once the trade pact with 12 Asian rim nations was completed, she announced she opposed it. Any claims about either job gains or job losses from TPP should be taken with a grain of salt. There are going to be winners and losers, as in any trade deal, but the overall impact will be more modest than either supporters or opponents claims.

“She deleted the entire record [about TPP] from her book.”

Trump overstates this claim a bit. Clinton did remove a number of sections regarding TPP from the paperback version of her book, “Hard Choices,” supposedly for space reasons. (The Center for Economic and Policy Research has a detailed accounting.)

But references to TPP can still be found on pages 69-70, such as: “One of our most important tools for engaging with Vietnam was a proposed new trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would link markets throughout Asia and the Americas, lowering trade barriers while raising standards on labor, the environment, and intellectual property.”

“He [Ambassador Christopher Stevens] was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed.”

There is no evidence to back up Trump’s claim about the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012. Clinton did leave the State Department before 11 p.m., at which point it was fairly clear that Stevens had perished. By her own testimony before Congress, Clinton did not go to sleep that night and was in constant contact with State: “I had other equipment that kept me in touch with the State Department at all times. I did not sleep all night. I was very much focused on what we were doing.”

Our colleagues at have extensively looked at this dubious claim by Trump.

“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.”

As we have previously documented, no requests from Stevens for additional security went directly to Clinton. As for “hundreds and hundreds” of requests, this is likely an exaggerated figure. A figure of “600” circulated by the House Select Committee on Benghazi actually reflects “requests and concerns,” and Democrats say fewer than 200 requests can be catalogued. Moreover, while some requests were not fulfilled, others were acted on. Trump’s claims that all of the requests were ignored is wrong.

“To cover her tracks, Hillary lied about the video being the cause of death, the famous video, all a lie, another Hillary lie. Here’s what one of the victims’ mother had to say: ‘I want the whole world to know it, she lied to my face and you know, this person cannot be president. She cannot be president.’”

This has been a frequent GOP attack line but the victims’ families have disagreed strongly about what Clinton told them in the aftermath of the attacks. We reviewed as many transcripts of interviews as we could find and tracked down as many family members as possible. Clinton says that in speaking with the families, she did not blame the Benghazi attacks on the video. Most participants we interviewed (four out of six) back up her version, saying they do not recall her mentioning a video.

“Her invasion of Libya handed the country over to ISIS, the barbarians.”

Clinton was a backer of intervention in Libya, but so was Donald Trump. As BuzzFeed reported, Trump said this in a video blog in February 2011:

“I can’t believe what our country is doing. Qaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people, nobody knows how bad it is, and we’re sitting around we have soldiers all over the Middle East, and we’re not bringing them in to stop this horrible carnage and that’s what it is: It’s a carnage…Now we should go in, we should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick. We could do it surgically, stop him from doing it, and save these lives. This is absolutely nuts. We don’t want to get involved and you’re gonna end up with something like you’ve never seen before.”

“Thanks to Hillary Clinton, Iran is now the dominant Islamic power in the Middle East and on the road to nuclear weapons.”

Many experts would argue that Iran gained influence in the region when the United States, under President George W. Bush, toppled the Iraqi regime headed by Saddam Hussein, a key enemy of the Islamic state. (Clinton, as a senator, voted to authorize an invasion.) As for the international agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, that is supposed to thwart Tehran’s path to a weapon.

“It all started with her bad judgment in supporting the war in Iraq in the first place. Though I was not in government service, I was among the earliest to criticize the rush to war. And yes, even before the war ever started.”

Trump has repeatedly and falsely claimed he was against the Iraq war. There is no evidence that is the case. Instead, there is far more evidence that he supported the invasion. There is nothing in the public record that shows he opposed the war until more than a year after the war started — and the U.S. occupation started to run into trouble.

“In the words of a Secret Service agent posted outside the Oval Office, somebody that saw her a lot and knows her probably better than almost anybody, she simply lacks the integrity and temperament to serve in the office.”

There is a book by a former Secret Service agent due to be released on June 28 that supposedly makes this allegation. But several former Secret Service agents, including the president of the Association of Former Agents of the United States Secret Service, told Politico that the author was too low-ranking to have seen any of what he claims.

“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.”

Trump has repeatedly made this “hundreds of thousands” claim, usually referring to Syria, but it’s false. The Obama administration said it would accept a total of 85,000 refugees in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017. That’s from all countries, of which 10,000 would be from Syria in 2016. (In September Clinton said she would like to move toward as many as 65,000 in 2017.) In fiscal 2013, about 30 percent came from the Middle East, mostly from Iraq. So no matter how you calculate it, it does not add up to “hundreds of thousands.”

Trump also falsely claims there is “no way to screen” refugees. The process actually takes two more years, after vetting that starts with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and then continues with checks by U.S. intelligence and security agencies.

“Already hundreds of recent immigrants and their children have been convicted of terrorist activity inside the United States.”

This is a revised Trump talking point on migrants convicted of terrorist activity, to include migrants “and their children.” (We previously awarded him Four Pinocchios for claiming that “scores” of “recent migrants” were charged with terrorism.) We’re not sure exactly where Trump is getting this information, but he is still not accurate.

We reviewed cases from 2014 and 2015 involving 76 people charged with activities relating to foreign terrorist organizations. The majority of those cases involved naturalized U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. There were both naturalized and natural-born U.S. citizens (including those of Caucasian, African American or Hispanic descent). Many of the naturalized citizens had arrived in the country as children, and therefore, not “recent” immigrants.

Since 9/11, there have been 140 non-U.S. born individuals and 151 U.S.-born citizens charged with jihadist terrorism-related crime in the United States, according to analysis by the New America Foundation.

“A foreign telecom giant faced possible State Department sanctions for providing technology to Iran and other oppressive regimes. So what did this company do? For first time ever, they decided to pay Bill Clinton $750,000 for a single speech. The Clintons got their cash, the telecom company escaped all sanctions.”

Trump repeats a claim from “Clinton Cash,” in reference to a November 2011 speech that Bill Clinton gave to the Swedish telecom company Ericsson for $750,000. Earlier that year, Ericsson was named in an April 2011 State Department report for selling telecom equipment to oppressive regimes, and the State Department was coming up with new sanctions for Iran, Schweizer wrote. When the Obama administration revealed its sanctions for Iran a week after Bill Clinton’s speech, telecom was not on the list.

Schweizer notes that in April 2012, Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on telecom sales to Iran and Syria, but did not cover Ericsson’s work in Iran. Hillary Clinton’s spokesman told Yahoo News that the sanctions were imposed through executive action by Obama, not by Clinton, and that the April 2012 executive order was “directed at the users of technology who sought to stifle dissidents, as opposed to the equipment manufacturers like Ericsson.”

“Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20 percent of America’s uranium holdings to Russia while nine investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation — $145 million.”

An entire chapter is dedicated to this uranium deal in “Clinton Cash.” In the book, Schweizer reveals ties between the Clinton Foundation and investors who stood to gain from a deal that required State Department approval.

Clinton’s aides said she did not intervene in the deal. Trump’s claim suggests the State Department had sole approval authority, but the department is one of nine agencies in the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States to vet and sign off on all U.S. transactions involving foreign governments. As noted, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission also needed to approve, and did approve, the transfer.

“Hillary Clinton accepted $58,000 in jewelry from the government of Brunei when she was secretary of state plus millions more for her foundation. … The government of Brunei also stands to be one of the biggest beneficiary of Hillary’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she would absolutely approve if given the chance.”

Top U.S. officials may accept gifts on behalf of the U.S. government, in circumstances where not accepting the gift would cause embarrassment to the donor and to the U.S. government. Clinton accepted a gold, sapphire and diamond necklace worth $58,000 from Brunei’s queen. The government of Brunei donated between $1 million to $5 million over the years to the Clinton Foundation.

But federal law requires most gifts to be transferred to the National Archives or General Services Administration. The necklace was recorded in the Federal Register and transferred to the General Services Administration. Clinton has said she would oppose a vote on the trade accord if elected president.

“Hillary took $25 million from Saudi Arabia and much more from others, where being gay is also punishable by death. Hillary took millions from Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and many other countries that horribly abuse women and the LGBT citizens.”

The Clinton Foundation has accepted millions from countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, despite their poor human rights record. The Washington Post has covered foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation in detail, and found that foreign sources made up a third of those who gave the foundation more than $1 million over time. The foundation said the donations went to fund the organization’s philanthropic work around the world.

She’s pledged to grant mass amnesty and in a first 100 days, end virtually all immigration enforcement and thus create totally open borders for the United States, totally open borders.”

“Amnesty” is a rhetorical term for granting undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship — which Clinton does support. But Trump exaggerates on immigration enforcement; Clinton proposes focusing immigration resources on detaining and deporting those “who pose a threat to public safety.”

[Update: Hacked emails released on Oct. 7 showed Clinton apparently said in a paid closed-door speech to a Brazilian bank: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders,” through green energy.

The Clinton campaign has refused to authenticate the hacked emails, but campaign manager Robby Mook said in an Oct. 9 CBS “Face the Nation” interview that Clinton was “talking about integrating green energy between North and South America. … If the question is, ‘Does Hillary Clinton support throwing open our borders?’ Absolutely not. And she is going to do everything she can to fight to protect the interests of workers in this country.”]

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

This is questionable. There’s not a definitive figure for the cost of Clinton’s plans for refugees, but she has proposed $15 million for immigrant integration services and creating a national office of immigrant affairs.

The Obama administration has requested roughly $2.2 billion for fiscal 2017 for refugee assistance, as PolitiFact noted. Clinton’s request would be higher, as she supports accepting more Syrian refugees than Obama. PolitiFact rated Trump’s claim “Pants on Fire,” after estimating Clinton’s plan could cost around $3 billion or $4 billion. While it’s not clear how Trump wants to “rebuild” inner cities, but the backlog to repair substandard housing alone in American cities would cost at least $26 billion.

“We are, by the way, the highest taxed nation in the world.”

Trump loves to say this, but that doesn’t make it any truer than the last time it was fact checked. The statistics don’t lie — the United States isn’t anywhere near the top among industrialized nations.

In 2014, according to comparative tables of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), revenue as a percentage of the gross domestic product — the broadest measure of the economy — was 26 percent for the United States.

Out of 34 countries, that put the United States in the bottom third — and well below the OECD average of 34.4 percent.

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