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Donald Trump Speaks At AIPAC Policy Conference


The nation's largest pro-Israel political organization heard from U.S. presidential candidates today. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, known as AIPAC, is holding its annual conference in Washington. This morning, Democrat Hillary Clinton delivered a speech with several thinly veiled attacks on Donald Trump. Trump spoke this evening along with his Republican rivals.

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has been at the AIPAC conference and joins us in the studio. Hey there, Don.


CORNISH: So what did Trump have to say?

GONYEA: He voiced his unequivocal, unapologetic support for the State of Israel. He basically made the point that they will never have had a better friend than they will have in Donald Trump in the White House.

He said things like he will move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That's something he's been kind of back and forth on - hedged on a little bit over the course of the campaign. He said he would tear up the Iran nuclear deal. He called it a catastrophe. Then, later in the same speech, he said he would enforce it like no deal has ever been enforced before. So there was a little bit of that.

But here was the strangest thing. He was very - he was restrained compared with what we're used to with Donald Trump. He had a script. He had a teleprompter, though he did occasionally embellish. But listen to this one moment.


DONALD TRUMP: With President Obama in his final year - yay...


GONYEA: So an attack on President Obama - a lot of that. But that part about Obama being in his final year was scripted. The yay was unscripted, as was what followed.


TRUMP: He may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel. Believe me. Believe me.


TRUMP: And you know it, and you know it better than anybody.

GONYEA: So a scripted speech, but that's kind of what it felt like right there.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, we heard that some people were planning to walk out of Donald Trump's speech today. Did that pan out?

GONYEA: Well, if people did walk out - and I heard there were some - it wasn't such a commotion that it disrupted him at all. There were protests outside. There were people who were complaining that he was still to boastful, that this wasn't presidential, that he didn't show any humility. But clearly there were people who were supporters.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton - as we said, she spoke this morning, and of course, Trump was on her mind as well. Tell us what happened.

GONYEA: She did not mention him by name. She was the first of the presidential candidates to speak today. It was in the 9-o'clock hour. Again, no specific mention of Trump, but it's clear who's she's talking about right here.


HILLARY CLINTON: Yes, we need steady hands, not a president who says he's neutral on Monday, pro-Israel on Tuesday and who-knows-what on Wednesday because everything's negotiable.


GONYEA: Again, she got plenty of applause. She was well-received this morning. That was her biggest applause line, probably. She said what Donald Trump stands for is not what America is. But again, it was clear who she was talking about, but she didn't mention his name.

CORNISH: Now, Clinton's opponent, Bernie Sanders, did not speak to AIPAC. He cited scheduling conflicts, as he's still campaigning. What about on the Republican side - Trump's rivals?

GONYEA: We had big speeches from John Kasich this evening and then another one from Ted Cruz. And again, each of them hit the main points that there will be no daylight between the United States and Israel when they are president. They will not allow countries to drive a wedge between them.

The one thing Ted Cruz did right off the bat was he came on right after Trump, and he poked a little but of fun at Trump. Trump kept talking about negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Cruz came out. The first thing he said is he'd like to remind the previous speaker that Palestine hasn't existed since 1948.

CORNISH: That's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea on the AIPAC Policy Conference here in Washington. Don, thanks so much.

GONYEA: It's a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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