During an MSNBC town hall Wednesday evening, Donald Trump said he didn't know if Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in 2003, despite having claimed the country was developing a nuclear arsenal in his book three years prior.
SCARBOROUGH: I need to follow-up on the 9/11 comment there because I don't know if it's the same book but we talked about it this morning on the show. In 2000, you also said that you thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. What happened between 2000 when you wrote that --
TRUMP: So we were told they had weapons of mass destruction --
TRUMP: But he didn't have weapons of mass destruction. Now, the only question is did the government know he didn't? Why did they go in -- look, Iraq did not knock down and the Iraqis did not knock down the World Trade Center --
TRUMP: OK? So we attacked Iraq but they didn't knock down the World Trade Center. We attacked them for a reason. They didn't knock down the World Trade Center --
SCARBOROUGH: Did you believe in 2003 in March when we went to war that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction --
TRUMP: I didn't know. If you would have watched you would have probably thought they did but I didn't know. But the government should have known and they didn't have. And we attacked a country and destabilized the entire Middle East.
In his 2000 book, The America We Deserve, Trump laid out the case for attacking Iraq, saying they were developing weapons of mass destruction.
"The fact is, if we practiced a principled and tough policy toward this and other outlaw states, we wouldn't be in this situation. Even when we finally decide to go after a rogue state, we often stop well short of finishing the job. Consider Iraq. After each pounding from U.S. warplanes, Iraq has dusted itself off and gone right back to work developing a nuclear arsenal," Trump wrote in his book "Six years of tough talk and U.S. fireworks in Baghdad have done little to slow Iraq's crash program to become a nuclear power. They've got missiles capable of flying nine hundred kilometers— more than enough to reach Tel Aviv. They've got enriched uranium. All they need is the material for nuclear fission to complete the job, and, according to the Rumsfeld report, we don't even know for sure if they've laid their hands on that yet. That's what our last aerial assault on Iraq in 1999 was about."
Taking Iraq mission "to its conclusion" might not be crazy Trump wrote, saying they had an incentive to attack us.
"Saddam Hussein wouldn't let UN weapons inspectors examine certain sites where that material might be stored. The result when our bombing was over? We still don't know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons. I'm no warmonger. But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don't, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us."
Trump also repeated a his new excuse for why there is a lack of evidence that he opposed the Iraq War prior to the invasion. After saying in September he could provide "25 different stories" he was against Iraq before it began, Trump, said the lack of coverage of his opposition to Iraq was because he was merely a businessman.
A detailed search by BuzzFeed News in September (and other news organization in recent days) has produced zero evidence Trump opposed the war before the March 2003 start.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.