Story highlights

Trump on Clinton's message: 'Old and tired'

Speech took place as Trump tries to get back on offense

New York CNN  — 

Donald Trump sought to regain control of his campaign Wednesday, turning attention away from the turmoil roiling his operation with a blistering denunciation of the character, career and qualifications of Hillary Clinton.

After enduring weeks of self-inflicted wounds, the speech was Trump’s most professional political address since he became the presumptive nominee in early May. It seemed to fuse his volatile, off-the-cuff political style with a more traditional brand of political discourse that puts reasoned arguments before voters as they make their choice for President.

Speaking from a teleprompter, with occasional asides, Trump appeared to be road testing a more scripted, subdued style ahead of next month’s Republican National Convention – even as he was unsparing in his rebuke of Clinton.

The presumptive Democratic nominee is “a world-class liar,” Trump said during a 40 minute speech in New York in which he slammed Clinton for everything from using a private email server to backing free trade.

“Just look at her pathetic email and server statements … or her phony landing in Bosnia, where she said she was under attack but the attack turned out to be young girls handing her flowers.”

Trump fires back: His 15 nastiest zingers on Clinton

Painting Clinton as the candidate of inertia and the unsatisfactory status quo, he called her message “old and tired.”

“Her message is that things can’t change,” Trump said. “My message is that things have to change – and this is our one chance to do it and may be our only chance to do that change.”

In delivering the fiery speech against Clinton, firing campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and actively working to rebut Clinton’s remarks Tuesday in real time, Trump’s campaign is working to reassure Republicans the billionaire is up to the job. Republicans have expressed concern about and distanced themselves from his controversial comments of late and some GOP delegates are actively exploring ways to block Trump at the convention in Cleveland next month.

Clinton, who spent Tuesday firing off her own assault on Trump, hit back at his counter-attack during a visit to North Carolina, interrupting a speech on her economic policy to accuse the presumptive Republican nominee of attacking her because he lacks substance.

“I guess my speech yesterday must have gotten under his skin because right away he lashed out on Twitter with outlandish lies and conspiracy theories and he did the same in his speech today,” Clinton said.

Trump went further than he has before in laying the foundations of a governing agenda, promising in his first 100 days in office to appoint judges to uphold the Constitution, to change immigration rules to give good paying jobs to Americans and to stand up to countries that cheat on trade.

He said he would cancel regulations that send jobs overseas, lift restrictions on energy production and pass a “massive tax reform” to create millions of jobs.

“There is one common theme in all of these reforms,” he said. “It’s going to be America first.”

Trump also attempted to frame the kind of wider vision of national purpose that presidential candidates often attempt to give a more lofty thematic foundation to their campaigns.

He said he would get America working again and parents dreaming big for their children again and to help people believe in their country once more.

“We are going to make America rich again. We are going to make America safe again. We are going to make America Great Again,” he said.

Lambasting a “rigged” political system dominated by special interests, Trump also stressed his outsider credentials and urged Americans to approach the general election as jurors.

“Come November, the American people will have a chance to issue a verdict on the politicians that have sacrificed their security, betrayed their prosperity and sold out their country – and I mean totally sold out their country,” Trump said.

What Clinton learned from Trump’s GOP rivals

Trump’s speech aimed to dissect Clinton’s personality and positions on issues ranging from trade and foreign policy to paint the former secretary of state as someone who is out of touch with workers and has enriched herself “at America’s expense.”

Clinton, he said, “may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency of the United States.”

Trump accused Clinton of using the State Department as a “personal hedge fund” while she enriched herself and her husband former President Bill Clinton by in effect peddling influence for cash.

Without citing evidence, Trump accused Clinton for instance of giving “China millions of our best jobs and effectively let China completely rebuild itself. In return, Hillary Clinton got rich!”

He tied what he said was Clinton’s malfeasance while in office to an argument over trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement that were ratified during Bill Clinton’s administration.

He lambasted Clinton for her previous support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, a position she has since reversed, and and argued she would enact free trade policies as president that would upend the U.S. economy.

“We will lose jobs, we will lose employment, we will lose taxes,” Trump said. “We will lose everything. We will lose our country.”

“She has betrayed the American worker on trade at every single stage of her career,” he said.

Trump’s jeremiads over free trade deals were one of the most effective strategies that he adopted in his primary campaign and helped attract blue collar voters especially in rust belt states. Some Democrats are deeply concerned that he could damage the former secretary of state in Midwestern swing states if he is able to make equally successful use of the strategy in the general election.

Trump also lambasted Clinton on foreign policy, accusing her of “almost single-handedly destabilizing the entire Middle East” during her time as secretary of state. Clinton’s campaign sees her record as the top U.S. diplomat as an asset, but Republicans are convinced they can undermine her case to be commander-in-chief by pointing to failures on her watch, including the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi and the ill-fated “reset” of relations with Russia.

“The Hillary Clinton foreign policy has cost America thousands of lives and trillions of dollars – and unleashed ISIS across the world. No secretary of state has been more wrong, more often and in more places than Hillary Clinton,” Trump said.

The road to 270

“Her decisions spread death, destruction, and terrorism everywhere she touched,” Trump said, accusing Clinton of handing Libya to “ISIS barbarians” after a US-backed intervention and of helping Iran become the dominant power in the Middle East.

Once again, Trump falsely claimed to have argued against the war in Iraq before the U.S. invaded the country. Trump was publicly supportive of the war a month before Congress voted to authorize the use of military force and praised the war’s direction in the early months of the campaign.

And he said Clinton may be disqualified from the presidency on the basis that the emails on her private email server may have been hacked by foreign enemies – though there’s no evidence of such a breach.

“While we may not know what is in those deleted emails, our enemies probably know every single one of them,” Trump said of the emails Clinton deleted and did not hand over to the State Department.

After weeks of being on the receiving end of Clinton’s rhetoric, Trump sought to turn her words against her. Clinton frequently tells audiences Trump lacks the “temperament” for the presidency – a criticism Trump threw back at her.

“Hillary Clinton wants to be President,” he said. “But she doesn’t have the temperament, or, as Bernie Sanders’ said, the judgment, to be president. She believes she is entitled to the office.”

CNN’s Dana Bash contributed to this report.