Donald Trump claimed in the presidential debates (September 26th 2016) that he had always been against the Iraq war. Most others claim he supported it.
Is there documentary evidence of him expressing support for the war in Iraq?
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Factcheck.org covers this: "Donald Trump and the Iraq War", FactCheck.Org
On September 11, 2002:
Howard Stern asks Trump if he supports invading Iraq. Trump answers hesitantly. “Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish it was, I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
Whether that is "support" is a semantic argument, so I just present the facts about what he said.
Factcheck.org couldn't find any more expressions of support for the war, and said:
Trump expressed concerns about the cost of the war soon after it started. If Trump did support the war, he turned on it quickly.
The evidence is that he didn't begin to publicly voice opposition to the war in Iraq until about a year after it began. Before that he expressed support for it.
We have found no evidence of his early opposition to the invasion. Trump expressed lukewarm support the first time he was asked about it on Sept. 11, 2002, and was not clearly against it until he was quoted in the August 2004 Esquire cover story titled “Donald Trump: How I’d Run the Country (Better).”
But by the middle of 2004, many Americans had turned against the war, making Trump’s position not particularly unique. In light of Trump’s repeated false claim, Esquire has added an editor’s note to its August 2004 story, saying, “The Iraq War began in March 2003, more than a year before this story ran, thus nullifying Trump’s timeline.”
We have awarded this claim Four Pinocchios, compiled a timeline of all of Trump’s comments prior to the invasion in March 2003, and even a video documenting how this is a bogus claim.
FactCheck.org has a lot more detail on the claim that Trump "Says he “fought very, very hard against us … going into Iraq,” claiming he could provide “25 different stories” to prove his opposition" (made in the Republican presidential debate – Wednesday, September 16, 2015):
Donald Trump has repeated throughout his presidential campaign that he opposed the Iraq war before the March 19, 2003 invasion, often taking credit for his judgement and vision — claiming he knew it would destabilize the Middle East.
On Feb. 13, in the most recent debate, Trump said: “I said it loud and clear, ‘You’ll destabilize the Middle East.'” In the Sept. 16, 2015 debate, Trump claimed that he “fought very, very hard against us … going into Iraq,” saying he could provide “25 different stories” to prove his opposition.
Trump has even said that he was “visited by people from the White House” in attempt to silence him, because, he said, he was getting “a disproportionate amount of publicity” for his opposition to the war.
There is no evidence that we could find, however, that he spoke against the war before it started, although we did find he expressed early concerns about the cost and direction of the war a few months after it started.
Others have looked, but no one else — including PolitiFact and the Washington Post Fact Checker — has been able to find any evidence to support his claims, either. Now, BuzzFeed reports that Trump indicated his support for war in a radio interview with shock jock Howard Stern on Sept. 11, 2002 — a little more than six months before the war started.
Stern asked Trump directly if he supported going to war with Iraq, and Trump hesitantly responded, “Yeah, I guess so.”
We don’t know if Trump still felt the same way in March of 2003. We do, however, know two things after having reviewed multiple news archival services in search of Trump’s position on the war:
Trump had a financial interest in opposing the war in the weeks leading up to the war. The Newark Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, reported on March 12, 2003 that Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts planned “to sell $485 million in junk-grade bonds this week in an effort to avoid a cash crunch later this year.”
The uncertainty of war complicated Trump’s bond sale.
The company began planning for the sale of the bonds in December, and it was completed March 13,2003 — six days before the war started. The Star-Ledger reported that “the growing threat of war with Iraq”and a proposal to “raise casino taxes and install video slot machines at New Jersey’s racetracks … made it more difficult for the company to find willing investors.”
After the sale of the bonds was completed, Trump issued a statement on March 13 saying he was pleased with the results “despite difficult capital market conditions and the looming threat of war.”
Trump expressed concerns about the cost of the war soon after it started. If Trump did support the war, he turned on it quickly. As the timeline below shows, Trump in July said that he wished the money being spent in Iraq could be spent in New York City. By November, he talked about the “tremendous cost” of the war and the “very, very unpleasant surprises in Iraq.”
By 2004, Trump’s opposition to the war was well documented.
That page also includes a detailed timeline of Trump's public statements on the war.
A detailed search by BuzzFeed News in September (and other news organization in recent days) did not produce evidence at all Trump opposed the war before the March 2003 start.
The week the war started Trump was quoted as saying it was turning into a “mess” but also said the war would positively impact the stock market, causing it “to go up like a rocket.”
Similarly his 2000 book, The America We Deserve Trump noted Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction and targeted Iraq strikes had little impact on their overall capabilities. The Donald said the best course might be against Iraq to “carry the mission to its conclusion.”
We searched newspaper articles and television transcripts from 2002 and 2003, during the debate leading up to the Iraq War. We didn’t find any examples of Trump unequivocally denouncing the war until a year after the war began.
Huffington Post couldn't find his supposed public opposition to the war either:
Trump may have privately opposed the war prior to the March 2003 invasion, but no public evidence of his opposition could be found through a Lexis-Nexis search of news articles and transcripts.
The New York Times makes a similar point:
Donald J. Trump took a moment to separate himself from his rivals by declaring that he had gone on the record with his opposition of the Iraq war some 11 years ago — in July 2004.
The claim, however, left out the reality that his opposition came well after the war was already underway. The war began in March 2003.
It was that next year that Mr. Trump spoke against the war, in interviews with Esquire and Larry King.
Snopes.com classifies Trump's claim that he was always against the war as 'FALSE':
STERN: Are you for invading Iraq?
TRUMP: Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly.
The record shows that Donald Trump's public stand against the Iraq War did not occur until August 2004, long after the war was underway, and only after he had on multiple previous occasions expressed either support for the war or non-committal opinions about its merits. The record does not support his contention that he was against the Iraq War "from the beginning."