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Trump is lying about what he said before the Iraq War

Research by FactCheck.org shows that, contrary to Donald Trump’s recent boasts, he did not oppose the war in advance.

Never, through the end of 2003, did Donald Trump say that he opposed the war.
REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Donald Trump is lying, lying, lying about his prescience on the Iraq War.

You’ve probably seen by now various pieces taking issue with his claim that he opposed the Iraq War in advance and warned that it would destabilize the Mideast. But it’s worse than I previously thought, which is why I went for “lying, lying, lying” in the lede.

The excellent FactCheck.org, my favorite of the fact-checking outfits, published on Friday the most complete catalogue to date of Trump’s nine relevant public statements through the end of 2003.

They show that, contrary to his recent lying boasts, he did not oppose the war in advance. In the first of the statements, radio shock-jock Howard Stern asked Trump whether he favored going to war in Iraq. Trump replied: “Yeah, I guess so.”

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FactCheck found only one more instance, before the war started, when Trump discussed the possibility of the war, on Fox Business News Channel, in which he said “either you attack or you don’t attack,” but he was bothered by the degree of public discussion. It includes this:

“Well, he [President Bush] has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know. He’s under a lot of pressure. He’s — I think he’s doing a very good job. But, of course, if you look at the polls, a lot of people are getting a little tired. I think the Iraqi situation is a problem. And I think the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned.”

Those are the two statements he made before the war, which he now claims amount to clearly opposing the war and forecasting that a U.S. invasion would destabilize the Mideast.

So that’s “lying” No. 1.

After the war started

In the months that followed, Trump said some things that sound critical of the war. So, until I read FactCheck’s complete catalogue, I had believed that Trump was lying only about opposing the war in advance.

But no, even after the war began and began going badly, Trump did not declare the war to be a mistake, nor did he warn that the war would destabilize the Mideast. Never, through the end of 2003, did Trump say that he opposed the war. At times he complained about how the war was going, he complained that some of the money being spent on the war could be better spent on other things, he alluded, in semi-coherent asides, that there are people who wonder whether the war was a good thing. But he never said anything remotely close to: “This war is a mistake. We should never have gone into Iraq. It’s going to destabilize the whole region.” Not even close.

Click through to the FactCheck article if you want to check that assertion. But here’s one example:

Just after the U.S. troops found and captured Saddam Hussein, and the stock market went up the next day, Trump was back on Fox Business News Channel being interviewed by Neil Cavuto. A portion of the exchange went like this:

Cavuto: What if this had happened today, Donald, in the middle of the trading day? What would the reaction have been then?

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Trump: Oh, I think it probably would have been even more positive. But ultimately, over the next year, two years, 10 years and 20 years, this is just a great thing for the free world.

Cavuto: What if we got ahead of ourselves, though? What if, for example, the concerns of continued attacks in Iraq do not abate, that that’s still a factor with us and maybe drags on for some time?

Trump: Well, look, you have a lot of questions and a lot of people questioning the whole concept of going in, in the first place, Neil. But we are in, we went in, you had to find him. If he was alive, you had to find him. And you know, they fulfilled the pledge of finding Saddam Hussein.

So, compared to Trump’s claim that he strongly and clearly opposed the war (even after it started), that’s my backup for lying No. 2.

And lying No. 3 captures the whole sweep of the nine interviews referenced above. Trump’s claim that the reason no one can find any evidence of his claimed opposition to the war is that he was just a businessman at the time and people didn’t pay attention to what he said about the war.

But somehow or other, nine interviews of Trump talking about the war made it into the public record, and none of them back up his claim that, as he put it in one of the Republican debates:

“I’m the only one on this stage that said, ‘Do not go into Iraq. Do not attack Iraq.’… Nobody else on this stage said that. And I said it loud and strong. And I was in the private sector. I wasn’t a politician, fortunately. But I said it, and I said it loud and clear, ‘You’ll destabilize the Middle East.’”

Lying, lying, lying.