In a recalibrating of his campaign for president, Donald Trump has opened a new line of assault against Hillary Clinton, accusing her of using her tenure as Secretary of State to enrich herself, while seemingly sidelining past pledges to ban Muslim migrants and build a wall on the Mexican border.
Addressing an invited audience of supporters as well as reporters in the Trump Soho Hotel in Manhattan, Mr Trump called Ms Clinton a “world class liar” and “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency”. He made the remarks one day after Ms Clinton in Ohio launched her own attack against his economic proposals and his record as a businessman.
Most striking, however, was Trump‘s failure to make any mention of his previously trumpeted plan to build a wall on the US-Mexico border and deport 11 million illegal immigrants. Nor did he offer more than the most fleeting of references to his proposal to restrict immigration, limiting himself instead only to accusing Ms Clinton of supporting a “radical 550 per cent increase in Syrian refugees coming into the United States”. Saying nothing specific of Muslims, he said: “I only want to admit people who share our values and love our people.”
The change of tone and substance came two days after the firing of his long-term campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and seemed to be a deliberate effort to answer the calls from the top of the Republican Party – and from donors – to step away from his most controversial proposals, like the Mexican wall, and attempt a more uplifting, less divisive, message.
“I think what appears to be occurring over the past 24 hours is a moment in a direction that could be very, very positive,” Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, observed in Washington DC after viewing Mr Trump’s speech.
Using a teleprompter and speaking with none of the pantomime theatrics usual at his rallies, a ponderous Mr Trump also attempted to personalise his now familiar vision of making America great again – the message on his hats – by emphasising what it will mean for ordinary voters.
“Americans are the people that tamed the West, that dug out the Panama Canal, that sent satellites across the solar system, that built the great dams,” he said. “Then we started thinking small. We stopped believing in what America could do, and became reliant on other countries, other people, and other institutions. We lost our sense of purpose, and daring.
"But that’s not who we are,” he offered. “Come this November, we can bring America back – bigger and better, and stronger than ever.” He wound up: “Americans are going to start believing in the future or our country. We are going to make America rich again.We are going to make America safe again. We are going to make America great again – and great again for everyone.”
That not does mean, however, that as soon as Mr Trump gets back on the campaign trail and away from the formal setting of a prepared speech in New York, he won’t get back to all of his old antics, leading chants to “build the wall” and even detouring into tirades against his own party.
Nor, clearly, did it mean that he would be easing up on Ms Clinton. Rather, he unleashed a torrent of allegations against her, many that might not easily stand up to scrutiny. They ranged over terrain that has now become familiar grist to critics of Ms Clinton, from her failure to prevent the killing of the US ambassador in Benghazi in 2012, to her support of her husband signing the Nafta trade deal in the 1990s and her use of a private email server.
In his speech, Mr Trump focused more than before on her time as Secretary of State, repeatedly citing the 2015 New York Times best-selling book by Peter Schweitzer, called Clinton Cash, to make the claim that the former First Lady and her husband were corrupt, taking cash from regimes and other individuals in return for favours.
“She gets rich making you poor,” Mr Trump said of his rival for the White House. “Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.” He claimed she had done favours for “many many” people “in exchange for cash. Pure and simple”.
He also sought to link the ongoing investigation into her use of the private email server while Secretary of State with her alleged corruption. “To cover-up her corrupt dealings, Hillary Clinton illegally stashed her State Department emails on a private server,” Mr Trump said, before also suggesting that enemy powers probably gained access to 30,000 emails she deleted before showing investigators.
As for the Benghazi attacks, Mr Trump was similarly blunt, if arguably careless with the facts. “Among the victims is our late ambassador, Chris Stevens,” he said. “He was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed – that's right, when the phone rang at 3 o'clock in the morning… she was sleeping… She started the war that put him in Libya, denied him the security he asked for, then left him there to die.”
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