Cleveland, Ohio (CNN) — Donald Trump on Thursday once again sought to convince the public that he opposed the Iraq War by pointing to statements he made after the U.S. had already invaded the country.
But interviews Trump gave before and after the war prove that he was publicly supportive of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Trump only began questioning the merits of the war several months later, as U.S. forces became mired in a war against Iraqi insurgents.
Just days after President George W. Bush announced U.S. forces had begun invading Iraq, Trump said in an interview on Fox that the war “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.”
Pressed Thursday by CNN on that praise for the invasion, Trump retorted, “You know what that meant.”
He ignored follow-up questions asking for clarification.
Moments earlier, Trump insisted in scripted remarks as he has repeatedly during his presidential campaign that he “was opposed to the war from the beginning” and said that he would have voted against invading Iraq had he been in Congress at the time.
Trump first publicly stated his support for the Iraq War one month before Congress voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq, when radio host Howard Stern asked him if he favored invading Iraq.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Trump said. “You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
Trump said that comment was “long before” the war started, even though it came in the heat of the debate on the Iraq War as Congress prepared to vote on the issue.
“It was the first time anybody ever asked me about Iraq and I said, ‘Well, I don’t know,'” Trump said Thursday, adding those comments were “superseded” by his late comments against the war.
Trump on Thursday pointed to comments he made three months after Congress voted in favor of military action in Iraq, when he told Neil Cavuto of Fox News that “the Iraqi situation is a problem,” but that “the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned.” He did not say he was opposed to the invasion.
Trump’s first and most extensive comments against the Iraq War came in an interview with Esquire magazine in August 2004, one year and five months after the U.S. invasion, which Trump described as “very early in the conflict, extremely early in the conflict, right at the beginning” of the war.
But Trump insisted Thursday that “Iraq is one of the biggest differences in this race,” pointing to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s October 2002 vote to authorize military force in Iraq when she was a U.S. senator from New York, which Trump called “a big mistake.”
Trump has repeatedly called into question Clinton’s “judgment” over her Iraq War vote, even though his own vice presidential nominee Mike Pence also voted in favor of military action as a member of the House of Representatives at the time.
The Republican nominee made his case that he was against the Iraq War by pointing to comments he made in the first months of the Iraq War as “yet more evidence that I had opposed the war from the start.”
Trump on Thursday pointed to comments he made to the Washington Post four days after he called the invasion a “tremendous success” in which he called the war a “mess.”
But Trump’s comments on March 25, 2003, at a post-Oscar party appeared to be a reference to a friendly fire incident that day in which a U.S. missile downed a British fighter jet, causing the stock market to drop more than 300 points.
“If they keep fighting in the way they did today, they’re going to have a real problem,” Trump said then. “The war’s a mess.”
Trump also noted that in July 2003 he said on MSNBC that he would like to see some of the money being spent on the war effort go to “New York City and some of the cities and some of the states … because you know, they really need it and they need it badly.”
He did not say he opposed the war in that interview.