Rivals clash on defense at N.Y. forum
Clinton and Trump tackle questions on national security issues aboard Intrepid
Donald Trump sought to allay voter concerns about his temperament Wednesday as Hillary Clinton tried to assure Americans that her mistakes in handling national- security email should not undercut their trust in her capacity to lead the nation.
In a scrappy prelude to their upcoming debates, the rival presidential nominees appeared back-to-back at an NBC News town hall in New York, highlighting contrasts on turmoil in the Middle East and other matters of concern to the inperson military audience.
Trump renewed his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Republican, who has wavered on whether he would commit to defending NATO allies under attack by Russia, ar- gued that Putin was more effective than President Barack Obama and that the Russian leader’s compliments of Trump would not affect their relationship.
“The fact that he calls me brilliant or whatever he calls me is going to have zero impact,” Trump said. “If he says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. … Now it’s a very different system, and I don’t happen to like the system. But certainly in that system he’s been a leader, far more than our president has been a leader.”
Trump also stood by his 2013 comment on Twitter about the frequency of sexual assault in the military: “26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military — only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”
“It is a correct tweet,” Trump said when Matt Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took the stage first Wednesday night. Lauer, the “Today” show anchor who moderated the forum, asked about it. “There are many people that think that that’s absolutely correct.”
Trump was immediately slammed on social media for defending the tweet.
Asked whether the solution was to keep women from serving in the military, Trump said no.
Trump also stood by his inaccurate claims that he opposed U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Libya, and he defended his comment that he understands the Islamic State terrorist group better than U.S. general do. “Under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble,” Trump said. “They have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country.”
The Islamic State never would have gained power in Syria and Iraq if the U.S. had occupied Iraq’s oil fields at the end of the Iraq war, he argued.
“We spend 3 trillion dollars, we lose thousands and thousands of lives, and then, Matt, what happens is we get nothing,” Trump said. “It used to be to the victor belong the spoils. Now, there was no victor there, believe me. There was no victor. But I always said take the oil.”
Clinton, who appeared before Trump, spent the better part of her half-hour explaining how she handled classified materials during her four years as secretary of state. The Democratic presidential nominee expressed regret about using a private email server and insisted she never compro-