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First Read: Breaking Down Trump's Comments at Commander-in-Chief Forum

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the Commander in Chief Forum in Manhattan
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the Commander in Chief Forum in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 7, 2016.MIKE SEGAR / Reuters

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

In 24 minutes, Trump made nine controversial statements

In last night’s NBC/MSNBC Commander-in-Chief Forum, which served as a kind of scrimmage before the presidential debates, Hillary Clinton struggled. She immediately found herself on the defensive -- once again -- over her emails. And she promised she wouldn’t have U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and Syria (even though we already do have some forces there). Yet those struggles paled in comparison to what we count were nine controversial statements Donald Trump made in his 24 minutes on the stage.

  • He criticized U.S. military generals to explain why he knows more about ISIS than they do

"I think under the leadership Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it's embarrassing for our country." WATCH

  • Suggested that he'd fire current generals if he becomes president

“Well, they'll probably be different generals” -- in response to a question about how he accepts their advice after saying they've been “reduced to rubble.”

  • Praised Vladimir Putin

"Well, he does have an 82% approval rating, according to the different pollsters, who by the way, some of whom are based right here." (FYI: In the May NBC/WSJ poll, just 8% of American voters said they had a favorable view of Putin, versus 59% with an unfavorable one.) WATCH

  • Said Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama

"I mean, the man has very strong control over a country. And that'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."

  • Said that, by reading the body language of the intelligence officials who gave him his intelligence briefing, he could tell these people aren't happy with President Obama

"I'm pretty good with the body language. I could tell they were not happy." WATCH

  • Said his trip to Mexico was a success because official who was responsible for it resigned

“I think if you saw what happened in Mexico the other day, where I went there. I had great relationships, everything else... And if you look at what happened, look at the aftermath today where the people that arranged the trip in Mexico has been forced out of government.”

  • Defended his tweet suggesting that sexual assault in the military is due to men and women serving together in military

"Well, it is-- it is-- it is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that that's absolutely correct. And we need to have a strength." (Trump's tweet from May 2013: "26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”) WATCH

  • Repeated his claim that the United States should have taken Iraq's and Libya's oil: "If we would've taken the oil, you wouldn't have ISIS. Because ISIS formed with the power and the wealth of that oil." WATCH
  • And explained that you take the oil by "leaving a certain group behind"

“We would leave a certain group behind and you would take various sections where they have the oil: “They have-- I-- people don't know this about Iraq. But they have among the largest oil reserves in the world-- in the entire world... You know, it used to be the victor belong the spoils.”

Clinton: “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again”

As for Hillary Clinton’s statement about group troops in Iraq/Syria, here is exactly what she said: “We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counterterrorism goal. And we've gotta do it with airpower. We've gotta do it with much more support from the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS… We're going to work to make sure that they have the support. They have special forces, as you know. They have enablers. They have-- surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance help. They are not gonna get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we're not putting ground troops into Syria. We're to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops.” To parse that statement, Clinton was admitting that you might have U.S. special forces and intelligence operatives in Iraq and Syria, but you won’t have a substantial land army there. Still, that’s quite a promise if she ultimately becomes president. What if her military commanders need additional troops to help the Kurdish and Arab allies in the region? WATCH

So how did the Clinton-Trump forum play in Ohio?

Be sure to check out this video of the focus group NBC’s Katy Tur and Kristen Welker conducted in Columbus, OH of voters who watched last night’s forum.

Obama on Trump: "I don't think the guy is qualified to be president of the United States and every time he speaks that opinion is confirmed”

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters in Laos, President Obama reacted to Trump’s comments at last night’s forum. "I don't think the guy is qualified to be president of the United States and every time he speaks that opinion is confirmed," he said, per CNBC. "The most important thing for the public and the press is to just listen to what he says and follow up and ask questions on what he says, which appear to be either contradictory or uninformed or outright wacky ideas."

Yes, Colin Powell instructed Clinton how to avoid email scrutiny

The Wall Street Journal: “Former Secretary of State Colin Powell told Hillary Clinton at the start of her tenure at the State Department that he used a personal computer to conduct government business and took steps to ensure his digital correspondence wasn’t 'going through the State Department servers.' An email exchange released by House Democrats on Wednesday night reveals new details of Mr. Powell’s candid advice to his successor for avoiding State Department computer systems and the scrutiny they bring due to federal records preservation and disclosure laws.”

On the trail

Hillary Clinton holds a rally in Charlotte, NC at noon ET, and later delivers a speech to the National Baptist Convention in Kansas City, MO at 6:00 pm ET… Donald Trump gives an education speech in Cleveland, OH at 2:00 pm ET… Mike Pence delivers a national-security speech at the Reagan Library in California at 1:00 pm ET… And Chelsea Clinton stumps in Scranton, PA.

Countdown to first presidential debate: 18 days

Countdown to VP debate: 26 days

Countdown to second presidential debate: 31 days

Countdown to third presidential debate: 41 days

Countdown to Election Day: 61 days