Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were grilled Wednesday night by veterans in a wide-ranging forum that touched on Clinton's email scandal and the fitness of both to be commander in chief.
During the forum — where the candidates appeared separately in front of an audience made up largely of veterans — Trump suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a better leader than President Barack Obama.
"[Putin] has very strong control over a country," Trump said during the town hall, which was hosted by MSNBC and NBC on the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York City. "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 did very little to tamp down controversy over how he has been friendly with Russia throughout his campaign.
"I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin. I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Russia," Trump said.
During the forum, Clinton was grilled about her use of a personal email server and handling of classified information — issues that have plagued her on the campaign trail.
"It was a mistake to have a personal account. I would certainly not do it again. I make no excuses for it," she said, repeating her assertion that the classified emails she received on her private server were not properly marked as classified.
"I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system," she said, in response to a question from an audience member who was a Republican former member of the Air Force and the Navy. "I took it very seriously. When I traveled, I went into one of those little tents that I'm sure you've seen around the world, because we didn't want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it is that I was seeing that was designated, marked and headed as classified. So I did exactly what I should have done, and I take it very seriously. Always have, always will."
Clinton also declared that she would never send additional ground troops to defeat ISIS.
"They not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again, and we are not putting ground troops into Syria. We're going to defeat ISIS without committing American ground troops," she said.
She added, "We've got to do it with much more support for the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS," and she said she would plan to include those troops as part of a larger global operation.
When it was his turn, Trump talked about the war in Iraq and the rise of ISIS, saying he would have handled the situation differently.
"It used to be, 'To the victor belongs the spoils.' Now, there was no victor there, believe me. But I always said, take the oil," he said.
When asked whether anything he learned in his recent intelligence briefing shocked or alarmed him, Trump said, "Yes."
"There was one thing that shocked me," he said.
"I'm pretty good with the body language. They were not happy," Trump said, referring to intelligence officials. "Our leaders did not follow what they were recommending."
One veteran in the audience asked Trump what he would do to curb sexual assault in the military, and Trump suggested that the solution lies in further prosecution.
"It's a massive problem. The numbers are staggering," Trump said.
"The best thing we can do is set up a court system within the military. Right now, the court system practically doesn't exist. Takes too long," he said.
He stood by a tweet that he posted in 2013.
26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2013
Trump said, "It is a correct tweet," but added that he did not mean that women should be forced to leave the military.
"No, not to kick them out, but something has to be happen. Right now part of the problem is nobody gets prosecuted," Trump said.