Former President Donald Trump blamed President Joe Biden for this weekend’s Hamas assault on Israel during Monday remarks to a crowd in the resort town of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire.
The war, in which Israel is now laying siege to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, “happened for three reasons,” Trump said: Iran reaping oil revenue from relaxed sanctions enforcement, “our country’s perceived weakness” during Biden’s term, and the U.S. freeing up $6 billion in Iranian funds for humanitarian efforts as part of a prisoner swap.
Saying that Biden is “laughed at all over the world,” Trump pointed to his own sanctions enforcement and unilateral withdrawal from the multination Iran nuclear deal as evidence that he would be tougher on Iran if Americans elect him instead of Biden in 2024.
At the same time, he portrayed Biden and his administration as being out of touch, noting that national security adviser Jake Sullivan said less than two weeks ago that the Middle East is “quieter today than it has been in two decades.”
Biden administration officials and Democrats have said that Iran accelerated its development of a nuclear weapon after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. Trump’s imposition of sanctions also failed to curb Iran’s development of its nuclear capability. And that none of the $6 billion in funds, which are payments for oil purchases that belong to Iran, have been released.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a national co-chair of Biden’s re-election campaign pushed back on Trump.
“With each and every lie, Donald Trump further proves he is too dangerous to lead the United States on the world stage,” Duckworth, who is a veteran and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement released by the Biden campaign.
“The generals and other military leaders who served under Trump — those in a position to know — have repeatedly said he made our country less safe, not more,” she said. “Day in and day out, he continuously disrespects the Veterans and servicemembers who committed their lives to protecting our fellow Americans, and we shouldn’t take his disgusting and transparently self serving comments as anything more than what they are: lies.”
The favorite for the Republican presidential nomination, Trump’s rhetoric aligns with that of most of the GOP candidates for president, who have been quick to lay responsibility at Biden’s feet. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said on Fox News this weekend that the war presents a “great opportunity” for GOP candidates to draw a contrast with Biden.
The multipronged attack was carried out primarily by Hamas, a group that the U.S. has designated a terrorist organization and which gained control of the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip after winning elections there in 2006. Hamas is a longtime recipient of support from Iran, and former U.S. officials say the attack bears hallmarks of an Iranian-backed mission.
The Biden administration condemned the attack, maintains sanctions against Hamas and has promised to provide aid to Israel. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Pentagon is moving an aircraft carrier strike group and warplanes closer to Israel to show support for the American ally.
U.S. officials told NBC News on Monday that the deployment of those forces was also intended to send an explicit message to Iran to “stand down” — specifically when it comes to any considerations by Tehran of unleashing the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah against northern Israel.
During his remarks Monday, Trump repeatedly portrayed Biden as the central actor in a “crooked” family criminal enterprise — despite a lack of evidence that Biden has committed any crime — and, conversely, as “mentally incapacitated,” “dumb as a rock” and a puppet of former President Barack Obama.
Emphasizing Obama’s middle name, Trump said the problems underlying the war in Israel were “caused in my opinion by his boss, Barack HUSSEIN Obama.”
Both in his speech and on his Truth Social account, Trump wondered about the possibility that terrorist attacks could be launched on U.S. soil.
“The same people that raided Israel are pouring into our once beautiful USA, through our TOTALLY OPEN SOUTHERN BORDER, at Record Numbers,” he wrote. “Are they planning an attack within our Country? Crooked Joe Biden and his BOSS, Barack Hussein Obama, did this to us!”
A senior U.S. official who is familiar with this area said this claim was false. While the exact number of people crossing the U.S. southern border who may have ties to Hamas remains classified, the official said the idea that Hamas is “pouring” across the border or has increased in numbers recently is demonstrably false.
Trump made little secret of his broader disdain for Biden, accusing the president again — without evidence — of marshaling prosecutions against him. Trump, who faces four separate trials in federal and state courts, said explicitly that his situation would justify him using the power of the presidency to go after political adversaries.
“That means I could do that if I win,” he said.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com