Donald Trump moderated his tone even as he doubled down on the substance of his attacks on Hillary Clinton, accusing the former Secretary of State of outright corruption, suggesting she could be blackmailed as president and quoting a supporter who said she should go to prison.
In a speech at the Trump Soho in New York, the presumptive Republican nominee attacked Clinton’s record on foreign policy and trade, arguing that her decisions were made on self-interest and unduly influenced by foreign governments.
“She ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund–doing favors for oppressive regimes, and many others, in exchange for cash,” he said. Later, he added, “She gets rich making you poor.”
That portion of Trump’s speech leaned heavily on a 2015 book by Peter Schweizer, “Clinton Cash,” which asserts that foreign governments that made payments to the Clinton Foundation and hired former President Bill Clinton to give speeches received favorable treatment from the State Department under Hillary Clinton in exchange.
The book and a related documentary have raised uncomfortable questions about the donations, though both rely on some leaps of logic in making their case that Clinton’s decisions were based on them.
Standing before a lectern in a room with six glittering chandeliers, Trump read the speech off a teleprompter while his campaign made the text available shortly after it began, a recent trend as he has focused more on the general election.
But while his delivery was more restrained, his attacks were as barbed as ever.
“Her campaign slogan is ‘I’m with her.’ You know what my response to that is? I’m with you: the American people,” Trump said. “She thinks it’s all about her.”
One of Trump’s main lines of attack was on Clinton’s position on the Trans Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal that would link the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations. “If she becomes president she will adopt the Trans Pacific Partnership,” Trump argued.
Clinton, who helped negotiate parts of the TPP during her tenure as secretary of State, has worked to distance herself from the deal since October and has said that she would not support it. President Obama signed the TPP in February and Congress is expected to ratify it before he leaves office early next year.
The trade deal is poised to become a contentious issue in this election cycle, as it pits establishment Republicans and centrist Democrats, who largely support the deal, against the populist wings of both parties.
Trump also criticized Clinton’s foreign policy decisions, bringing up the invasion of Libya and saying the rise of terrorist groups can be traced to her decisions. “In just four years, Secretary Clinton managed to almost single-handedly destabilize the entire Middle East,” he said.
“ISIS threatens us today because of the decisions Hillary Clinton has made,” he continued.
While bashing Clinton on specific economic and foreign policies, Trump also painted her as a shady leader with a dangerous temperament.
“Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency,” Trump said. He read a letter he said his campaign received from a woman whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant, in which the writer said that Clinton “needs to go to prison to pay for the crimes she has already committed against this country.”
He also argued that Clinton’s private email server may have been hacked—”perhaps even by her financial backers in Communist China”—who he argued “probably now have a blackmail file over someone who wants to be President of the United States.”
With reporting by Charlotte Alter in New York and Haley Sweetland Edwards.
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