He has made various versions of the same basic claim, which is based off a few sentences in his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve”: that Osama bin Laden was a threat and would “do damage” to the United States. You can see how often, and how many ways, he’s repeated this in the video above.
Trump bases his claim that he “predicted Osama bin Laden” on two separate, single references to bin Laden and to the 1993 World Trade Center attack in his 2000 book.
Below is the lone reference to bin Laden in Trump’s 2000 book:
One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin-Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.
And below is the reference to the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center (Trump refers to the World Trade Center in a separate section of the book, but it is unrelated to terrorism):
I really am convinced we’re in danger of the sort of terrorist attacks that will make the bombing of the Trade Center look like kids playing with firecrackers. No sensible analyst rejects this possibility, and plenty of them, like me, are not wondering if but when it will happen.
In other words, Trump knew Osama bin Laden was a threat to America. And he thought America was at risk of a major terrorist attack. But he did not write about those two things as being intertwined.
Trump leaves himself the tiniest bit of wiggle room when discussing his “prediction” of bin Laden and terrorism: He never directly says he predicted the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but suggests it would have been prevented had the United States killed bin Laden. And he suggests he was unique in his intuition about this.
“I was the one that called Osama bin Laden,” Trump said on MSNBC on Dec. 8, 2015. “He — if I were — I would have had Osama bin Laden knocked out and maybe the World Trade Center, as it was, would have been standing right now.”
Except the United States conducted a raid in August 1998 to do just that, though bin Laden escaped. And as The Fact Checker’s Glenn Kessler noted, bin Laden had been a public target of the United States for years and was indicted by a federal grand jury in 1998 for his role in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In 1999, CNN ran a headline that read, “Bin Laden feared to be planning terrorist attack.”
And Trump did not predict that the World Trade Center would be hit, only that there would be an attack on a U.S. city in the future. (In a different chapter of that book, Trump suggested the attack could be carried out via an anthrax attack or a miniature nuclear device.)
“I have to say, if you look at Bill O’Reilly from a few weeks ago, if you look at Neil Cavuto from not so long ago, I said, ‘Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan,’” Trump said at the time.
Trump did mention bin Laden and Pakistan during an April 2011 appearance on Fox News’s “The O’Reilly Factor," but it was not quite how Trump described it.
“If Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan,” Trump told O’Reilly, “why are we paying them hundreds of billions of dollars a year?”
Eight years later, Trump is still lamenting that no one heeded a warning he didn’t actually give.