Barack Obama’s unprecedented attack on Donald Trump laid bare

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Before Mr Trump, all the former US presidents appeared to get along, even across the partisan divide, out of respect for the institution of the presidency. It does not appear to be that way anymore. The relationship between Mr Obama and Mr Trump in particular, has never been anything less than acrimonious.

Throughout Mr Obama’s presidency, and afterwards, a number of conspiracy theories asserted that he was ineligible because he was not a natural-born US citizen.

Mr Trump served as a leading proponent of the now discredited “birther movement” and never apologised for spreading such claims, even after the former US President published his birth certificate.

He only publicly acknowledged that Mr Obama was a US citizen in 2016.

In return, Mr Obama memorably roasted the former TV reality star in a speech at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner, during which Mr Trump sat and glowered.

Their relationship reached historic levels of “nastiness” in 2018, though, when Mr Obama returned to the political spotlight for the first time since leaving the White House.

Ahead of the midterm elections, the former US President accused Mr Trump of “cosying up” to Vladimir Putin and adopting the “politics of fear and resentment”.

In a fiery speech at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Mr Obama delivered a series of attacks against Mr Trump’s most controversial policies – from tax cuts for the “wealthiest Americans” to repealing climate change legislation.

Mr Obama criticised Mr Trump’s response to a violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, asking a crowd at the University of Ilinois: “How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”

Mr Trump said there were some “very fine” people on both sides of the protests, in which neo-Nazis clashed with anti-racism demonstrators leaving one woman dead and several injured.

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Mr Trump claimed the “alt-left” bore some responsibility for the violence and refused to condemn the “alt-right” activists.

In a reference to the incident, Mr Obama told the audience: “We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination. And we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up, clearly and unequivocally, to Nazi sympathisers. How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”

Mr Obama also poked fun on the issue Mr Trump frequently heralds as one of his greatest achievements: a strong economy.

Mr Obama reminded voters that the economic recovery – one of Mr Trump’s favourite talking points – actually began “in 2015” under his presidency.

He said: “When you hear how great the economy’s doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started.”

The former US President also hit out at the current face of the Republican Party, calling it a “radical” organisation which has embraced conspiracy theories, attacked voting rights and rejected climate change.

He said: “What happened to the Republican Party?

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“Its central organising principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism and now they’re cosying up to the former head of the KGB, actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack.

“What happened?”

He also launched an attack on the administration’s repeal of climate change legislation, saying: “They’ve made it so that the only nation on earth to pull out of the global climate agreement, it’s not North Korea, it’s not Syria, it’s not Russia or Saudi Arabia.

“It’s us. The only country.”

When asked about it, Mr Trump dismissed the speech of his predecessor.

During a fundraiser in North Dakota, he said: “I’m sorry, I watched it but I fell asleep.

“I found that he’s very, very good for sleeping.

“I think he was trying to take some credit, he was trying to take credit for this incredible thing that’s happening to our country.

“If the Democrats got in, I have to say this to President Obama, and it wasn’t him, but would have been the same thing – if the Democrats got in with their agenda in November of almost two years ago, instead of having 4.2 up, I believe honestly you’d have 4.2 down, you’d be negative, you’d be in negative numbers right now. You’d be in negative numbers.”

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