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Fact-Checking Clinton and Trump at the Commander-in-Chief Forum

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton talked about Iraq, the VA and more in the NBC News Commander-in-Chief forum, here's how they stacked up to the facts.
Donald Trump Speaks On Immigration At Rally In Phoenix
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks out over the crowd of supporters during a campaign rally on August 31, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.Ralph Freso / Getty Images

In Wednesday night's NBC News Commander-in-Chief forum, both candidates offered up a series of inaccuracies and half-truths to national security questions.

NBC News took a look at the facts behind each candidate's claims — from who supported which military interventions over the last decade to reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs. Here's how they stacked up to the facts:

Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton

CLINTON CLAIM: “Classified material has a header — top secret, secret, confidential — and nothing, I will repeat, this is verified in the report by Department Of Justice, none of the emails sent or received by me had that header,” Clinton said.

THE FACTS: Header aside, Clinton is dodging the question. According to the FBI Director James Comey, his agency found that 110 emails in 52 email chains contained classified information at the time they were sent or received. Another 2,000 emails were later “up-classified” to make them confidential after the time they were sent, Comey added.

CLINTON CLAIM: “I took it very seriously,” Clinton said during the forum highlighting her use of a separate server for classified information and other precautions she took to protect national security. “I did exactly what I should have done, and I take it very seriously.”

THE FACTS: Comey disagrees.

“Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” he said of his review of her.

CLINTON CLAIM: “There is no evidence my system was hacked," she said of her private email server.

FACTS: True, as the FBI said it's unlikely hackers would leave such evidence.

Comey said the FBI “did not find direct evidence” because it’s “unlikely” that it would be possible to “see such direct evidence.” Comey added that the FBI did “assess that hostile actors gained access” to email accounts that Clinton communicated with via email.

“Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account,” Comey said.

CLINTON CLAIM: “With respect to Libya, there’s no difference between my opponent and myself.”

THE FACTS: Back in 2011, Trump and Clinton were on the same page — Trump recorded a video supporting the kind of intervention Clinton advocated for while Secretary of State — but Trump later tried to rewrite his past statements in a February debate by insisting he “never discussed that subject” and that “we would be so much better off if Gadhafi were in charge right now.”

Later, Trump acknowledged his past support and said he didn’t like the results. "I was for something, but I wasn't for what we have right now,” he said.

CLINTON CLAIM: “He supported it. He told Howard Stern he supported it. So he supported it before it happened, he supported it as it was happening and he is on record as supporting it after it happened.”

THE FACTS: She’s technically correct -- Trump supported the war before, and 48 hours after the invasion although he began questioning it within a week and has been steadfast in his opposition since.

"Yeah, I guess so," Trump said in a 2002 Howard Stern interview. "I wish the first time [the first Gulf War] it was done correctly."

He reiterated this support two days after the invasion on March 21, 2003, saying that it “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint."

But six days after the invasion, he told the Washington Post that he thought the war was “a mess.”

Republican Nominee Donald Trump

TRUMP CLAIM: “I never said take the VA ... private."

FACTS: Just seconds before Trump said he "never" said he would "take the VA ... private," he said he would allow veterans to use private hospitals to seek care.

"Under a part of my plan, if they have that long wait, they walk outside, they go to the local doctor, they choose the doctor, they choose the hospital whether it's public or private," he said during the forum. "We will pay the bill. They go outside. They get a doctor. They get a prescription."

While Donald Trump has never said he would never "take the VA ... private," one of his points of his 10-point plan says that he would allow VA patients to use private doctors. His plan “will insure every veteran has the choice to seek care at the VA or at a service provider of their own choice.”

TRUMP CLAIM: A military veteran who struggles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder asked Trump how he would handle the 20 suicides of veterans daily. Trump said "actually, it’s 22."

THE FACTS: Trump's correction was false; his numbers are out of date. The Department of Veterans Affairs released what the Military Times called “the most comprehensive suicide study ever conducted" in July, finding that 20 veterans commit suicide a day. This study dispelled the previous estimate — that 22 veterans commit suicide daily — from less comprehensive data.

TRUMP CLAIM: “I heard Clinton say I was not against the Iraq war, I was.”

THE FACTS: Trump supported the Iraq war before it started, but within a week of the invasion he began speaking out against it.

"Yeah, I guess so," Trump said in a 2002 Howard Stern interview of his support for going into Iraq. "I wish the first time [the first Gulf War] it was done correctly."

He reiterated this support two days after the invasion on March 21, 2003, saying that it “looks like a tremendous success from a military standpoint.”

But six days after the invasion, Trump told the Washington Post that he thought the war was “a mess,” and he has stated his opposition frequently since.

TRUMP CLAIM: “He [President Obama] came in, said go get everybody out, ISIS formed, terrible decision, never got a shot."

THE FACTS: Trump supported this strategy in 2007.

“You know how they get out? They get out. That's how they get out,” Trump told CNN in 2007 ahead of the withdrawal. “Declare victory and leave. Because I'll tell you, this country is just going to get further bogged down. They’re in a civil war over there, Wolf. There's nothing we're going to be able to do with a civil war. They are in a major civil war.”

TRUMP CLAIM: “Clinton said vets treated fine, over exaggerated ... She said she was satisfied with what is going on with the Veterans Administration.”

THE FACTS: Clinton has argued that the problems with the VA aren’t as widespread as initially reported and that many veterans are satisfied with the care they receive, but she has also advocated for reforming and improving the VA and said she was outraged by the ineffective stories she’s seen — as recent as a half hour before Trump made these remarks.

TRUMP CLAIM: Defending his positive remarks on Putin, Trump said the Russian president had an 82 percent approval rating.

THE FACTS: PolitiFact rated a similar claim — that Putin’s approval rating is at 80 percent — as true. “Multiple American polls have found Putin’s approval rating to hover around 80 percent among the Russian public, including a recent study that aimed to adjust for any possibility that respondents have been lying to pollsters out of fear or social expectations.”

It is impossible, however, to account for Putin’s notoriously tight control on the media and how his leadership is reported on.

It’s also worth noting that Putin has rock bottom low approval ratings in America: just 8 percent of respondents in an NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll in May approved of the Russian leader while 59 percent disapproved of him — a nearly identical negative rating to Trump's May rating himself.