DETROIT, Mich. — Former President Bill Clinton went after Donald Trump on Monday, charging that the GOP nominee "damaged America" with his trip to Mexico and subsequent hard-line immigration speech last week.
Clinton said he was "dumbfounded" when Trump went to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto last week and then returned to the U.S. and gave "the same old speech," a highly-touted immigration address that just reinforced many of Trump's most conservative policy proposals on immigration.
"I'm gonna tell you something folks. I've had that job. That damaged America and every serious country in the world, you cannot be the leader of a country, go down and … be nice to people, and then come home and dump on them for your own political benefit," Clinton said.
"It's a killer," he added, and went on to argue that "every country in the world was looking at that and saying, 'This is not the America I know.'"
Clinton also defended his charitable foundation, which has come under fire in recent weeks following the release of emails from Hillary Clinton's time as Secretary of State revealing how donors to the Clinton Foundation sought access to and support from Clinton and her aides. No evidence of any illegal activity or clear impropriety has been found, but the development provided fodder for Republicans to attack Clinton and Trump to declare the foundation a "criminal enterprise."
On Monday, Bill Clinton defended his foundation, saying it "has gotten the top ratings from every one of these rating agencies…and all we've done is save lives and create jobs all across America and all across the world."
In contrast, Clinton noted that Trump's own foundation has actually been fined by the IRS for illegally contributing funds to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi's re-election campaign.
Clinton made the remarks at a Labor Day picnic hosted by a Detroit branch of the UAW, where he was greeted warmly by supporters who cheered him as he recounted the success of his economic policies while in office.
"When you gave me the honor to serve … we had flat wages, we had rising inequality, we had rising poverty among working people, we had an all-out assault on the union movement, and we changed all that," he said.
The former president also offered a direct rebuttal to Trump's stump-speech refrain aimed at African-American voters: "What do you have to lose?"
The GOP candidate has focused his pitch around that question as he's worked to broaden his appeal to minorities in recent weeks, laying out a bleak portrait of the black experience which he argues is the result of failed Democratic leadership and policies in America's inner cities.
Trump's been criticized, however, for what some see as a tone-deaf appeal to a community with which he has little experience, made to largely white audiences in majority-white areas. To rebut those charges, Trump took his message to an African-American church in Detroit this weekend, where he was greeted warmly by the church's pastor and gave short remarks acknowledging and calling for a solution to the racism confronting the African-American community.
But on Monday, Clinton argued that following Trump's economic policies would be bad for the nation.
"I know when the last time we followed the same economic policies he's recommending — cut the taxes like crazy on the richest people in America, double the debt and have no money left over to invest, stop regulating the financial institutions, repeal the healthcare law with nothing to replace it, stop enforcing all these environmental laws, global warming is a hoax invented by China — Last time we did that kind of stuff, it didn't work out too well for us," he said.
Clinton later added: "What do we have to lose? Give me a break."