Thursday at CNN’s Republican town hall, host Anderson Cooper and audience member Orrin Smith confronted Donald Trump several times over whether he believes George W. Bush lied to get America to invade Iraq.
Transcript as follows:
COOPER: I want to you meet Orrin Smith, he’s a Republican from Leesville. He says he’s undecided. Orrin, welcome.
QUESTION: First of all, hello, good to see you again.
TRUMP: Hello, Orrin. Nice to see you.
QUESTION: I think it’s about five years ago I sat in your office and you said you were thinking about running for president then, and you didn’t run then. But man, are you running…
TRUMP: I should have done it. We would have had Obama for four years instead of for eight years. Right?
QUESTION: … right, right. Well, man, are you running now.
TRUMP: I am running. I am running.
QUESTION: Yes, and…
TRUMP: Actually, this may be better timing for me if you (inaudible).
QUESTION: … right, and you’ve made a lot of statements about a lot of issues. You’ve covered a lot of ground in…
QUESTION: … in a very short period of time. One statement you made, I’m really having trouble getting over, frankly…
QUESTION: … and I wanted to ask you about it.
QUESTION: As a matter of fact, when I was watching the debate, and you made this statement, I had to apologize to my children for the words that came out of my mouth when you said what you said. And that was — and I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so correct me if I’m wrong…
TRUMP: Go ahead. Sure.
QUESTION: … when you said that George W. Bush, which was our last Republican president, a man I respect greatly, a person that we really fought for when he was up against a lot of pressure — that — that he lied to get us in the war in Iraq.
That — that — that stung me very deeply.
QUESTION: I don’t — I don’t believe that. I’m just wondering, given some time passing — perhaps you’ve rethought that. Would you be willing to rethink that?
TRUMP: Well, a lot of people agree with what I said. And I’m not talking about lying, I’m not talking about not lying. Nobody really knows why we went into Iraq. The Iraqis did not knock down — it was not Saddam Hussein that knocked down the World Trade Center, OK? That’s…
QUESTION: What was — just — what you said was, “they lied, they said there were weapons of mass destruction, and there were none, and they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction.”
TRUMP: Well, there are a lot of people that think that. There are a lot of people that think — look, bottom line, there were no weapons of mass destruction. They said, “there are weapons of mass destruction.” I was against the war when it started.
QUESTION: So — so do you think — do you think the president of the United States, George W. Bush, lied to the American people?
TRUMP: Well, look, I’m not going to get your vote, but that’s OK. Let me just (inaudible).
QUESTION: I’m just giving you another shot at it.
TRUMP: Let me — let me tell you something. I’ll tell you it very simply. It may have been the worst decision — going into Iraq may have been the worst decision anybody has made, any president has made in the history of this country. That’s how bad it is, OK?
The migration that you see today, the destruction of Europe, with Angela Merkel allowing millions of people coming into Germany. I have people from Germany — they want to leave Germany.
These are people, two years ago, that would — who’d do nothing but talk about how they love their country, Germany. They’re gonna leave Germany. Many, many people are leaving Germany. You’re gonna end up with big problems in Germany.
You look at Sweden, the other day — you look at Brussels — I was in Brussels years ago. It was one of the most beautiful — now it’s like an armed camp. So crazy, what they’ve done.
All of this is the — everything that’s happening started with stupidly going into the war in Iraq. Now, Iraq — we have — and people talk about me with the button — I’m the one that doesn’t want do this, OK? I’m the one, from 2002, 2003, said you shouldn’t be doing it.
Here’s — here’s what happens. We have spent $2 trillion in Iraq — in fighting Iraq. Two trillion. Two trillion. Thousands of lives, right. We have wounded warriors, who I love, all over the place, who say the most incredible — these are braver than all of us in this room put together.
I look at the attitude, and I work with them, and these are great people. We got nothing. We have nothing. We’re not even there — we can’t even make a phone call right now…
COOPER: But to his question, do you believe…
QUESTION: I’m trying to separate — yeah.
TRUMP: Let me tell you, do I know?
COOPER: Do you believe he lied, or do you…
TRUMP: I can tell you this. I can — I don’t — whether he lied or not, he went into Iraq. It was a horrible decision, OK. And Iraq did not knock down the World Trade Center.
Where did these people go when they got on the airplanes? You know where they went? Do you know where they went? They went — a lot of them went to Saudi Arabia, OK? They didn’t go back to Iraq. They went to Saudi Arabia.
Now, there are sealed documents right now that nobody wants to allow to be opened that talk very much about this subject. I’d like to see what it says.
I will say this — Bush felt very — and Saddam Hussein overplayed his hand, because he was — you know, he — senior Bush did the right thing. He knocked the heck out of him, and then he pulled back, OK? He didn’t get into the quagmire. And that was OK to do.
The problem is Saddam Hussein said, “I drove them back. I drove the Americans back.” He really overplayed his hand. And frankly, I think the son, being loyal to the father — I think he really wanted to go into Iraq, even if it wasn’t the right thing to do.
TRUMP: He went into Iraq. He started something that destroyed the Middle East. And I said, “Don’t go in because you’re going to ruin the balance in the Middle East; you’re going to have a total imbalance; you’re going to have Iran taking over Iraq.” Everything I said turned out to be true.
Iran is now taking over Iraq. So — and they wanted to do it for years and years years. They’re going to walk in.
So, not only do we make a horrible, horrible deal where we’re giving Iran $150 billion. We got nothing for it. We get our prisoners back. They should have been given back to us three years ago, four years ago. We shouldn’t have even started negotiating until we got our prisoners back. And we would have had it that way.
But here’s the problem. So, we make all bad deals. The war in Iraq started the whole destabilization of the Middle East. It started ISIS. It started Libya. It started Syria. That was one of the worst decisions ever made by any government at any time.
In all fairness, Bush made the decision. Just one thing. And Barack Obama — Barack Obama, as bad as he is, and he’s bad — but he got us out the wrong way. He should have left people there. And he should have done it differently. And he shouldn’t have said, “We’re getting out at a specific time.”
He gave a specific date, as you know, to get out. So bad. So bad.
COOPER: Just to his question — one more chance. Either — you believe he either lied or did not lie. Are you willing to say which?
TRUMP: I don’t know what he did. I just know it was a terrible mistake.
COOPER: So, was it a mistake for you to say in that debate that you thought he lied?
TRUMP: I’d have to see the exact words. Look, I don’t know. I would probably say that something was going on. I don’t know why he went in. I don’t know why he went in. Because honestly, there was no reason to go in. They didn’t knock down the World Trade Center. It wasn’t Iraq that knocked it down.
COOPER: You would not say again that George W. Bush lied.
TRUMP: I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’d have to look at some documents.
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