NEW YORK — Donald Trump launched a blistering attack Wednesday on Hillary Clinton's record and character, slamming his presidential rival as a "world class liar" who raked in personal profits from her tenure at the State Department. The billionaire businessman claimed, "She gets rich making you poor."
Trump's broadside marked his opening salvo in a general election faceoff with Clinton that has already turned bruising and deeply personal. The presumptive Republican nominee called Clinton the "most corrupt" person to ever run for president and accused of her of spreading "death, destruction and terrorism" while serving as the nation's top diplomat.
Clinton, campaigning in North Carolina, called Trump's charges "outlandish lies."
"He's going after me personally because he has no answers on the substance," Clinton said. "All he can try to do is try to distract us."
Trump's tone was pointed yet measured as he ticked through several of Republicans' favorite critiques of Clinton, including her use of private email as secretary of state and her role in responding to the attacks on Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Several of his claims were inaccurate or exaggerated, including incorrectly saying she wants to spend hundreds of billions to resettle Middle Eastern refugees in the United States.
Wednesday's address came at a pivotal moment for Trump's presidential campaign. The political novice has struggled with the transition to a general election race, getting bogged down by self-created controversies and failing to invest in the staff and infrastructure needed for the fall campaign.
Earlier this week, Trump abruptly fired his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, a move widely viewed as an acknowledgment of a need to recalibrate his organization. A new fundraising report released hours after Lewandowski's firing underscored how much ground Trump has to make up: He started June with just $1.3 million in the bank, a stunningly paltry amount for a major party nominee.
Even as Trump blasted Clinton, he returned to some of the core themes that first powered his surprising presidential campaign. He railed against professional politicians and urged Americans to seize an opportunity to shake up a "rigged" system.
"This election will decide whether we're ruled by the people or the politicians," Trump said, standing before a friendly audience in a ballroom at his hotel in New York's SoHo neighborhood.
While he assailed Hillary Clinton in personal terms, Trump did not make any mention of former President Bill Clinton's indiscretions, despite raising those issues earlier in the campaign.
The real estate mogul did make a direct appeal to supporters of Clinton's primary rival Bernie Sanders, reminding voters that the Vermont senator, too, has raised questions about her judgment. Like Trump, Sanders also generated enormous enthusiasm among voters frustrated with Washington.
Turning to his own plans as president, Trump argued that his opposition to a major Asia Pacific trade pact and his hard-line immigration position would be more beneficial than Clinton's for blacks and Hispanics, two groups that have overwhelmingly voted for Democrats in recent presidential elections.
The Republican said Clinton has pledged to "end virtually all immigration enforcement and thus create totally open borders in the United States." While Clinton has called for a pathway to citizenship for millions of people living in the U.S. illegally, she has also called for focusing enforcement on "detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety."
Trump frequently referenced sources of information that have been widely questioned, including the book "Clinton Cash" by Peter Schweizer. The book argues Clinton and her husband used the State Department to enrich their family, but it does not provide evidence of direct connections between business dealings by foreign interests, sometimes involving the Clinton Foundation, and decisions by Clinton when she was secretary of state.
An Associated Press review of State Department calendars did show that she opened her office to dozens of influential Democratic party fundraisers, Clinton loyalists and corporate donors to her family's global charity. The AP found no evidence of legal or ethical conflicts in Clinton's meetings.
Trump's remarks came one day after Clinton launched her own blistering attacks on her White House rival. She moved to undercut Trump's argument that his business record would help him create jobs as president, arguing instead that he had been "reckless" with his companies and "shouldn't have his hands on our economy."
Pace reported from Washington. AP writers Jonathan Lemire in New York and Ken Thomas in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed.