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Fact-Checking Trump's Speech

Donald Trump delivered a speech Wednesday billed as a broadside attack on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds his bible while speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds his bible while speaking at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, September 19, 2015.Brian Frank / Reuters

Donald Trump delivered a speech Wednesday billed as a broadside attack on presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's foreign policy and economic record. Trump called the address an opportunity to "discuss the failed policies and bad judgment of Crooked Hillary Clinton."

NBC's political and investigative teams fact-checked some of the claims in Donald Trump's speech.

CLAIM: "Now, because I have pointed out why [TPP] would be such a disastrous deal, she is pretending that she is against it. She has even deleted this record of total support from her book."

The facts: Clinton walked back her support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership last October — saying the final deal wasn’t what she’d hoped for when she advocated for it during negotiations as Secretary of State. In April, several months before she reversed course on the deal, some passages supporting the partnership were edited out of the paperback version of her book, "Hard Choices." The cuts were part of 96 pages of cuts made to account for the paperback’s smaller size, according to a publisher’s note. But not all of them were cut: there’s still two pages praising the deal, or at least the idea of it. "It's safe to say that the TPP won't be perfect - no deal negotiated among a dozen countries ever will be — but its higher standards, if implemented and enforced, should benefit American businesses and workers,” she wrote.

Trump has adamantly opposed TPP since before his campaign began; there’s no indication that his remarks changed her mind.

CLAIM: Hillary Clinton "is a world class liar"

The facts: According to PolitiFact, 59% of Trump's checked claims have been deemed false or "Pants on Fire" false, versus 12% for Clinton.

Donald Trump:

  • True: 2%
  • Mostly True: 7%
  • Half True: 15%
  • Mostly False: 17%
  • False: 40%
  • Pants on Fire: 19%

Hillary Clinton:

  • True: 23%
  • Mostly True: 28%
  • Half True: 21%
  • Mostly False: 15%
  • False: 11%
  • Pants on Fire: 1%

CLAIM: "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."

The facts: Politifact ranks this oft-repeated claim False. More: In September 2002, Trump said he supported the Iraq invasion during an interview with Howard Stern. Then, in September 2003 — several months after the invasion, he said "It wasn’t a mistake to fight terrorism and fight it hard, and I guess maybe if I had to do it, I would have fought terrorism but not necessarily Iraq."

CLAIM: "Her server was easily hacked by foreign governments — perhaps even by her financial backers in Communist China — putting all of America in danger."

The facts: U.S. officials have told NBC News that there is no evidence of penetration of the servers by hackers, although there is evidence of phishing attempts. Clinton's campaign says that there is no evidence that her private server was ever hacked.

CLAIM: "Hillary Clinton took up to $25 million from Saudi Arabia, where being gay is also punishable by death. Hillary took millions from Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and many other countries that horribly abuse women and LGBT citizens."

As of March 2016, records showed that Saudi Arabia has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the foundation. Here's a list of everyone who has ever donated to the Clinton Foundation — as provided by the Clinton Foundation website.

This list is broken into the following categories:

  • Greater than $25 million (7 donors, including Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (Canada) & Frank Giustra, The Radcliffe Foundation)
  • $10 to $25 million (11 donors, including Saudi Arabia & Norway)
  • $5 to $10 million (17 donors, including Australia, Netherlands, Kuwait & a prominent Saudi businessman)
  • $1 to $5 million (133 donors, including Qatar, Oman, UAE)

By law, the foundation does not have to release the specific donors and amounts. They are required to give the list to the IRS but that info is redacted when released to the public — though the Clinton Foundation COULD release if it desired.

CLAIM: “She has pledged to grant mass amnesty and in her first 100 days, end virtually all immigration enforcement, and thus create totally open borders in the United States. The first victims of her radical policies will be poor African-American and Hispanic workers who need jobs. They are the ones she will hurt the most.”

The facts: Clinton has proposed some big changes to how the country enforces its immigration rules and who will be allowed to stay, but there aren’t likely going to be open borders or amnesty.

Clinton has vowed to defend the president’s existing executive actions — allowing young children brought here by their parents to stay and delaying the deportation for those with children here — as well as adding her own. She’s proposed stopping the deportations of peaceful undocumented immigrants and prioritizing the deportation of undocumented immigrants who commit crimes. She’s also proposed some changes to how the country handles refugees seeing asylum, particularly families. While it would expand the number of undocumented immigrants who are allowed to remain in the country illegally, it doesn’t mean the borders would be unguarded or open, nor is it amnesty, an official pardon from a crime. It would simply remove the threat of deportation for individuals who are already here.

CLAIM: "In fact, Hillary Clinton supports a radical 550% increase in Syrian refugees coming into the United States, and that's an increase over President Obama's already very high number. 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 or what they believe.”

The facts: Clinton does support a 550% increase over the existing number of Syrian refugees she’d allow — that much is true — but there are significant screening measures. Refugees are subject to the highest level of security checks of any visitors to the U.S., and the process historically takes up to 16-24 months. It involves the United Nations, National Counterterrorism Center, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and State Department.

"It would be a cruel irony indeed if ISIS can force families from their homes and then also prevent them from finding new ones,” she said in a December speech. "So after rigorous screening, we should welcome families fleeing Syria."

CLAIM: "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 facts: U.S. law requires that government officials report high-value gifts. The federal register notes that the jewelry, which was valued at $58,000, was given to Clinton on September 7, 2012. But she didn't keep it; the records show it headed to the General Services Administration, which is where most foreign gifts end up. In fact, as Yahoo notes, presidents can only take gifts with them when they leave office if they will be displayed or stored at their presidential libraries. Clinton also didn't have the option of turning the gift down, for diplomatic reasons. The register notes that "Non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S. Government."

CLAIM: "Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved the transfer of 20% of America’s uranium holdings to Russia, while 9 investors in the deal funneled $145 million to the Clinton Foundation."

The facts: Hillary Clinton’s State Department was one of nine U.S. agencies to approve of the transfer of the 20% of the U.S. Uranium reserves to Russia. The State Department was not the sole approver. The stakes of this deal came at a time in which the Obama Administration was efforting a “reset” in relations with Russia — this was pre-Crimea/Ukraine invasion. Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, acknowledged multiple times to NBC that there was no quid pro quo found on this or any other supposed arrangement between Clinton, her State Department, Bill Clinton and the Foundation.

CLAIM: "Here is a quote from the book: 'At the center of US policy toward China was Hillary Clinton…at this critical time for US-china relations, Bill Clinton gave a number of speeches that were underwritten by the Chinese government and its supporters.' These funds were paid to the Clinton bank account while Hillary was negotiating with China on behalf of the United States.She sold out our workers, and our country, for Beijing."

The facts: In October 2011, Bill Clinton received $200,000 for a speech in Santa Clara, California, underwritten by the Chinese government and supporters. In November, he received $550,000 for a speech in Shanghai, funded by a Chinese billionaire. In November, Hillary Clinton described a U.S. "pivot" toward Asia, including China, using the phrase "America's Pacific Century."

Would this policy toward China have been the case without Bill Clinton’s acceptance of money for the speeches? Probably. Obama had hoped his foreign policy “pivot” toward Asia would shift U.S. government attention away from trouble spots like Afghanistan and Iraq and toward a region brimming with economic opportunities. Also, under Clinton family’s agreement with State Department upon Clinton taking position as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton had to notify the State Department of his speeches. Though NBC does not have these records, the State Department is not believed to have objected to any of his speech proposals.

CLAIM: "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 the first time ever, they decided to pay Bill Clinton $750,000 for a single speech. The Clintons got their cash, the telecom company escaped sanctions."

The facts: On November 19, a week after Bill Clinton delivered a speech to telecom giant Ericsson, the State Department unveiled its new sanctions list for Iran. Telecom was not on the list. In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on telecom sales to Iran and Syria — the sanctions did not cover Ericsson's work in Iran.

CLAIM: "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 or what they believe."

The facts: A screening system is in place that usually takes about two years, according to federal authorities. More, from Politifact: "While there are concerns about information gaps, a system does exist and has existed since 1980. It involves multiple federal intelligence and security agencies as well as the United Nations. Refugee vetting typically takes one to two years and includes numerous rounds of security checks."

CLAIM: "She ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund — doing favors for oppressive regimes, and many others, in exchange for cash."

The facts: Trump is citing the claim by "Clinton Cash" author Peter Schweizer, who alleged that Clinton took direct action to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor from sale of a uranium mining company. But as Schweizer told NBC's Savannah Guthrie in April 2015, he had not direct evidence of a quid-pro-quo. "No, we don't have direct evidence. But it warrants further investigation because, again, … this is part of the broader pattern. You either have to come to the conclusion that these are all coincidences or something else is afoot."

CLAIM: "If I am elected President, I will end the special-interest monopoly in Washington, D.C."

The facts: The person who is now leading Trump's campaign, Paul Manafort, is founder of the former lobbying/public affairs firm Davis Manafort. (Manafort also has deep ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.) What's more, Bloomberg News recently reported that Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner approached GOP megadonor Robert Mercer to establish an anti-Clinton Super PAC.