WASHINGTON - U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump unleashed a scathing attack on Hillary Clinton Wednesday, saying his Democratic opponent "may be the most corrupt person ever" to seek the U.S. presidency, while Clinton responded in equal measure, calling his charges "outlandish lies."
In his most pointed broadside yet against Clinton, Trump accused the former U.S. secretary of state of supporting U.S. policies overseas that led to "death, destruction and terrorism" while serving as the country's top diplomat from 2009 to 2013, and then enriching herself by making millions of dollars from speeches after leaving office.
In a speech before cheering supporters in New York, the billionaire real estate mogul said Clinton "has perfected the politics of personal profit and theft." At another point, he called her a "world-class liar."
He said Clinton, seeking to become the first female U.S. president, "ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund, doing favors for oppressive regimes and many others, in exchange for cash."
He said donors made contributions to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation based on her decisions as secretary of state.
Trump said that after leaving office, Clinton collected nearly $21 million in speaking fees from Wall Street banks and other special interests, and then refused to divulge the content of the speeches she made. It was similar to the charge that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders leveled against her in his long, ultimately unsuccessful, campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Trump's attack on Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, came a day after she denounced his credentials as a businessman, recalling his four corporate bankruptcies while he opened casinos in New Jersey, and numerous other failed business ventures.
Later Wednesday at a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, Clinton defended her family's foundation against attacks from Trump, saying it had saved the lives of people around the world, while pointedly noting that Trump has had several Trump-branded products manufactured overseas to take advantage of cheaper labor.
Clinton ridiculed Trump, again calling him the "self-proclaimed king of debt" with a "hollow sales pitch" who threatens to bankrupt the U.S. economy.
"Donald hates it when anyone points out how hollow his sales pitch really is. I guess my speech yesterday must have got under his skin," Clinton said. "He's going after me personally because he has no answers on the substance. All he can do is try to distract us."
Trump, 70, seeking elected office for the first time, has often rambled through his unscripted campaign speeches, but the text of Wednesday's 40-minute speech was handed out to reporters ahead of time.
He blamed Clinton, 68, for the rise of Islamic State terrorism in the Middle East, for allegedly lying about the circumstances surrounding the 2012 attack on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, and overseas trade deals that he said have cost the jobs of U.S. workers.
"In short, Hillary Clinton's tryout for the presidency has produced one deadly foreign policy disaster after another, and one by one they're all bad," Trump said. "She lacks the temperament, the judgment and competence to lead our country. She should not be president under any circumstances."
Stances on Muslims, Hispanics
But Trump avoided any mention of his most controversial proposals, temporarily banning Muslims from entering the U.S. to try to thwart another terrorist attack, deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the country, and building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to halt the stream of more migrants into the country.
In his speech, Trump said he will bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, but he made no mention of his products.
Clinton continued her attack from Tuesday on Trump's economic proposals, saying he would "drive America back into recession." She said he has no plan to create jobs, improve the country's transportation system or provide for a debt free college education for American students.
"He has no real strategy for creating jobs, just a string of empty promises," she added.
National political surveys in the U.S. show Clinton with an 5.8 percentage point edge over Trump, five months ahead of the November 8 election to replace President Barack Obama when he leaves office next January.