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Presumptive Republican presidential Donald Trump keeps selling the myth that he was against Iraq War even before the war started.
In a policy speech June 22, 2016, in New York, Trump tried to contrast himself with his likely fall opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
"In short, Hillary Clinton’s tryout for the presidency has produced one deadly foreign policy disaster after another," Trump said. "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," Trump said.
Trump is correct that Clinton supported the war in Iraq. But Trump is wrong to suggest he opposed the war before it started.
We searched newspaper articles and television transcripts from 2002 and 2003 amid the debate leading up to the Iraq War. We didn’t find any examples of Trump unequivocally denouncing the war until a year after the war began.
Most damning to Trump’s claim is a September 2002 interview in which Trump said he supported the Iraq invasion.
Shock jock Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported the looming invasion.
Trump responded, "Yeah, I guess so."
This goes directly against Trump’s claims that he criticized the rush to war before the war began.
On Jan. 28, 2003, just under three months before the invasion, Fox News’ Neil Cavuto asked Trump whether President George W. Bush should be more focused on Iraq or the economy.
Speaking of Iraq, Trump said, "Well, he 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. 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."
Trump’s comment here suggests he was skeptical of the mission in Iraq, and he said the economy should be a higher priority.
But does this prove Trump prove was "among the earliest to criticize the rush to war"?
A week after the United States invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003, Trump gave differing takes. At an Academy Awards after-party, Trump said that "the war’s a mess," according to the Washington Post. He told Fox News that because of the war, "The market’s going to go up like a rocket."
Trump’s harshest criticism came more than a year into the war, in an August 2004 article in Esquire:
"Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we're in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the country? C'mon. Two minutes after we leave, there's going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he'll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn't have.
"What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who've been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing!"
He told CNN’s Larry King in November 2004, "I do not believe that we made the right decision going into Iraq, but, you know, hopefully, we'll be getting out."
Clearly Trump opposed the Iraq War in its early years. There’s no evidence, though, that he advocated against the war in the first place, or that he was among the earliest to criticize the rush to war.
On the Iraq War, Trump said, "I was among the earliest to criticize the rush to war, and yes, even before the war ever started."
The record just doesn’t support this.
We could only find one example of Trump commenting on the Iraq War before the invasion where he seemed apprehensive but not vehemently opposed to the operation. In another interview, Trump said he supported the invasion.
This claim rates False.
Nexis archive search of transcripts and newspaper articles January 2002 through March 2003, conducted Feb. 6, 2016
Washington Post, "Donald Trump’s baseless claim that the Bush White House tried to ‘silence’ his Iraq War opposition in 2003," Oct. 21, 2015
Huffington Post, "Donald Trump's Anti-Iraq War Position Wasn't As Prophetic As He Thinks," Sept. 14, 2015
Buzzfeed, "Despite Claims, There’s No Record Of Donald Trump Being Against The Iraq War Before It Started," Sept. 16, 2015
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