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RECAP: The Fifth GOP Presidential Debate in Las Vegas

NBC's political unit live-blogged the fifth GOP presidential debate in prime-time, hosted by CNN in Las Vegas, Nevada. The showdown featured nine candidates on stage: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina and Rand Paul.

If you missed the debate, you can check out NBC's minute-by-minute coverage below, including top moments, fact-checks and analysis from NBC's political experts.

11:03pm ET: It's over! What did we learn from the fifth Republican presidential debate? Our top talent and other experts weigh in:

10:59pm ET: Closing statements

  • Paul: "I'm the only conservative on this stage."
  • Kasich: "Connect not just with people's heads, but with their hearts."
  • Christie: "I want the chance to protect you, your children and your families from the wars that are being brought to our doorstep."
  • Fiorina: "We need to unify our country, we need a real conservative in the White House and we need to defeat Hillary Clinton to take our country back."
  • Bush: "Ask yourself: Which candidate will keep our country stronger, safer and freer?"
  • Rubio: "I ask for your vote. If you do this, we will rebuild this country and together we will usher in a new American century."
  • Cruz: "America can win again, and we will win again."
  • Carson: "I'm not anxious to give away American values and principles for the sake of political correctness."
  • Trump: "Nothing works in our country. If I'm elected president, we will win again. And we will win a lot."

10:53pm ET: Trump gets a question about his occasional threats that he'll bolt the party and run as an independent: "I have great respect for the people I've met through this process. Says he is "totally committed" to the Republican Party. "I will do everything in my power to defeat Hillary Clinton." Big applause.

Carson is also asked about his threat to leave the party if there is a brokered convention. He says he's been assured that reports of conversations about such a move weren't reported accurately.

10:50pm ET: Cruz gets a question about his private comments regarding Trump's temperament. Says it's a "decision for every voter to make" but that every GOP candidate would be a better president than Clinton.

And before that exchange, Trump weighs in: "He has a wonderful temperament," Trump says of Cruz. "He's just fine." Pats Cruz on the back.

10:47pm ET: Trump gets a question about his priorities for the nuclear triad, doesn't seem to know what that refers to:"The biggest problem we have is nuclear proliferation."

Rubio helps out, explaining to "people at home" what the triad is. (The capacity to deliver a nuclear attack by sea, by land or by air. You can read more about it here by the way.)

10:43pm ET: Now on to questions about North Korea and Russia. Carson says "we should use our economic power" for leverage with Kim Jong Un and Putin.

10:34pm ET: A question from Facebook: How can we justify not accepting refugees?

Christie's first response: "The first job of the president of the United States is to protect your safety, your family's safety... We on this stage need to open our ears. The American people are screaming to us that it's our job to actually make this government work."

More than one candidate says that the FBI "cannot vet" Syrian refugees.

10:32pm ET: Rand Paul again goes after Rubio hard on immigration: "I guess he was more sympathetic to Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama than he was to conservatives."

10:25pm ET: Big policy dustup between Cruz and Rubio. Cruz: "He was fighting to grant amnesty, I was fighting to secure the border." Rubio cites Cruz's onetime proposal of an amendment that included legalization of some undocumented immigrants; Cruz has long said that move was part of an effort to scuttle the entire immigration bill.

Cruz: "I understand that Rubio wants to raise confusion."

Here's what Politifact had to say about Rubio's claims:

10:22pm ET: A moment of levity from Cruz, who says: "I will build a wall that works -- and I'll get Donald Trump to pay for it."

10:20pm ET: Carson now speaking about his demeanor: "I don't do a lot of talking, I do a lot of doing."

10:15pm ET: Burn! Jeb Bush references Trump's statement that he gets foreign policy advice from "the shows." Bush: "I don't know if that's Saturday morning or Sunday morning."

Trump comes back, complaining vociferously about CNN's "unprofessional" structuring of the debate.

And a visibly annoyed Trump also snaps at Bush: "I'm at 42 (percent) and you're at three, so I think I'm doing well so far."

10:14pmET: "If you're in favor of World War III, I think you have your candidate," says Paul, gesturing to Christie. And then he goes there on Bridgegate: "Someone who shut down a bridge..." Christie ignores him.

10:13pm ET: Chris Christie brands Obama a "feckless weakling" -- big cheers.

10:12pm ET: Fiorina gets a big response from the audience for firm outline of how she'll take on Russia and cut off money to Iran.

10:10pm ET: Kasich says "It's time that we punched the Russians in the nose."

10:08pm ET: Reports coming in from the debate hall that a protester has been escorted out of the auditorium. Trump appeared to pause during the interruption earlier.

10:06pm ET: Trump on taking on ISIS and Assad at the same time: "We have to get rid of ISIS first. After we get rid of ISIS, we'll start thinking about it, but we can't be fighting Assad." But he acknowledges the Assad is "a very bad guy."

10:04pm ET: Asked about the mistakes of the last Iraq War, Jeb Bush: "The focus ought to be that Hillary Clinton wants to double down on a failed foreign policy, and we ought to unite to defeat that."

10:02pm ET: Trump, who at one point in the campaign suggested that Carson has a "pathological" problem akin to a child molester, takes time out of the debate to say of him "you will not find a finer man."

9:56pm ET: Another ideological divide on foreign policy is on display: Cruz stands by his stance to keep Assad in power for now. "If we topple Assad, the result will be ISIS will take over Syria" and worsen security for the U.S.

"Anti-American dictators like Assad.. if they go I will not shed a tear," Rubio responds.

9:53pm ET: We're at our first commercial break. Happening far outside the debate hall: According to the AP, House Speaker Paul Ryan has announced a year-end spending bill, sure to prompt plenty of debate in Congress as lawmakers work to keep the government funded.

9:51pm ET: Social media check-in: Observers say that Carson really fading. Bad move to decline to weigh in on big ideological NSA debate.

9:48pm ET: Fiorina names a series of generals she has worked with while talking about her plan for the Middle East. Quotes Thatcher: "If you want something talked about, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman."

9:47pm ET: Rubio offering a history lesson on the rise of ISIS: "Assad is one of the main reasons that ISIS even exists."

Earlier in the debate, Rubio also suggested that there hasn't been any documented abuse of the NSA data collection program:

9:44pm ET: Rand Paul again plays the role of attack dog, calling Trump unserious for his backing of "closing down" parts of the internet. Mixes of boos and cheers as the two argue about targeting ISIS online. Trump: "These are people who are trying to kill us."

Candidates Voice Ideas to Defeat ISIS at Debate 1:36

9:42pm ET: Carson makes argument that in war it is "merciful" to finish the job instead of "death by a thousand pricks." An incredulous Hugh Hewitt asks him to clarify if he accepts the deaths of innocent women and children. A chorus of boos comes from the audience, as Carson smiles, points to the crowd and says "You got it.... The job of the president is to protect the people of this country by any means necessary."

9:39pm ET: Jeb Bush and Donald Trump really getting into it. Trump demands apology for Bush interrupting him, knocks him for "trying to build up his energy."

Bush replies: "You are not going to be able to insult your way to the presidency." Audience seems to be on Bush's side here. Lots of cheers.

9:36pm ET: Asked about his suggestion that the U.S. should target the families of terrorists, Trump doubles down to say that it would "make people think twice."

Jeb Bush counters: "This is another example of a lack of seriousness."

9:32pm ET: Rubio counters Cruz, saying that air power will not be enough to defeat ISIS. He also hits Cruz for voting against defense authorization bill that boosts military, Iron Dome.

9:30pm ET: Asked about his strategy to "carpet-bomb" the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, where many civilians live. Cruz first pivots to saying that "political correctness is killing people." Pressed further, he says: "You would carpetbomb where ISIS is, not a city."

9:27pm ET: Trump asked about his indications that he'd be open to "closing" parts of the internet to fight ISIS. "We should be using our most brilliant minds to figure out a way that ISIS cannot use the internet... We can do that if we use our good people," he says. "I don't want them using our internet."

9:25pm ET: Fiorina also alludes to bureaucratic malfunctions in fight against ISIS, says private sector must be included much more.

9:21pm ET: Ben Carson complains that he hasn't spoken enough. But then he won't answer a question about who was right in debate about balancing civil liberties and protecting against terror.

9:20pm ET: Christie takes on all three senators, saying that regular Americans don't care "which one of these bills these guys like more." Says focus should be on the best way to lead and keep America safe.

9:17pm ET: Rand Paul goes hard after Rubio on immigration, saying the Gang of Eight bill weakened America. "I want more rules and more scrunity. To defend the country you have to defend the border."

9:14pm ET: Ted Cruz asked about his support of the USA Freedom Act, which ended bulk government collection of phone metadata. He replies that the bipartisan bill protected civil liberties and also gave law enforcement more authority to track terrorists' cell phones and other communications.

Rubio, who voted against the USA Freedom Act, laments losing the "valuable tool" of bulk metadata. Cruz hits back referencing a Mark Levin column that called Rubio's line of questioning "Alinsky-like."

Rubio: "There is nothing that we are allowed to do under this bill that we could not do before." Gets a huge response from the audience for his defense of NSA metadata collection.

9:08pm ET: Christie hammers Obama/Clinton on terror: "We have people across this country who are scared to death."

9:06pm ET: Cruz pressed on whether he disagrees with Donald Trump's Muslim ban. Says he "understands" why Trump proposed it but that his own idea is more directed. "It's not a war on a faith, it's a war on a political and theocratic ideology that wants to kill us."

9:04pm ET: Rubio points out that one of the San Bernardino terrorists was U.S.-born. "The president has left us unsafe." Says Obama "made things worse" by speaking about ISIS threat earlier this week.

9:01pm ET: Bush on Trump's ban: "Look, this is not a serious proposal." Says Trump is a "chaos candidate and he would be a chaos president."

Trump shoots back that Bush is only criticizing him because "he has failed in this campaign."

"Nobody cares."

Bush, Trump Trade Verbal Jabs at Debate 0:40

9:00pm ET: The first question to Trump is about his call to ban Muslim immigration and build a wall at the southern border. "We're not talking about isolation, we're talking about security. We are not talking about religion, we're talking about isolation," he says.

8:58pm ET: Trump's opening statement: "People like what I say, people respect what I say, and we've opened up a very big discussion that needed to be opened up."

8:57pm ET: Ben Carson's opening statement (after a moment of silence for the victims of San Bernardino): "Right now the United States of America is the patient and the patient is in critical condition. And the patient will not be cured by political correctness."

8:56pm ET: Ted Cruz's opening statement: "We need a president who understands the first obligation of a commander-in-chief is to keep America safe."

8:55pm ET: Marco Rubio's opening statement: "Today you have millions of Americans who feel out of place in their own country."

8:54pm ET: Jeb Bush's opening statement: "As president, I will keep you and our country safe, secure and free."

8:52pm ET: Carly Fiorina's opening statement: "It is time to take our country back from the political class, from the media, from the liberal elites. It can be done, it must be done."

8:51pm ET: Chris Christie's opening statement invokes today's school closure scare in Los Angeles. "America has been betrayed" by the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, he says.

8:50pm ET: John Kasich's opening statement: "I believe we need to unify in so many ways to rebuild our country... and for America to secure its place in the world for us, for our children and for the next generation."

8:48pm ET: Opening statements have begun.

Rand Paul: "I think if we ban certain religions, if we censor the internet, I think that at that point the terrorists will have won." Goes after Trump right out of the gate.

8:42pm ET: All the GOP candidates participating in the prime-time debate are now on stage. Frontrunner Donald Trump stands in the center, with four candidates on each side of him. He's flanked by his two closest competitors, Ted Cruz (who's on his way up in the polls) and Ben Carson (who's on his way down.)

8:38pm ET: The candidates are backstage and about to head out to the podiums. If you're looking for some guidance on what to watch for during tonight's clash, check out this morning's First Read from the NBC Politics team.

8:30pm ET: CNN also held an "undercard" debate at 6pm ET for candidates whose poll numbers were not strong enough to qualify for the prime-time event. Those candidates were Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham, Rick Santorum and George Pataki.

You can read a full report on the undercard debate here.

The undercard debate featured a heavy focus on national security, with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham taking the most aggressive aim at Donald Trump for the real estate mogul's recent comments about Muslims.

"I'm sorry," Graham said, addressing Muslim allies of the U.S. "He does not represent us."

And Graham also slammed Cruz's stance on Syria by referencing the Texas senator's favorite film, The Princess Bride.

Watch Lindsey Graham Deliver 'Princess Buttercup' Line at Debate 0:37