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Hillary Clinton blasts Trump's comments on Putin

Published 08/09/2016

Donald Trump speaks with Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer in New York (AP)
Donald Trump speaks with Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer in New York (AP)

Hillary Clinton has blasted Donald Trump for his condemnation of American military generals and his praise for Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying he has "failed" at proving he can be commander in chief.

"Every Republican holding or seeking office in this country should be asked if they agree with Donald Trump about these statements," Mrs Clinton said in a morning news conference.

Mrs Clinton's remarks followed a Wednesday night national security forum where the presidential candidates made back-to-back appearances.

The Democrat was repeatedly challenged on her controversial email use at the State Department and her vote as a senator for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

She also flushed out several national security priorities if she is elected, including trying to take out the leader of the Islamic State and vowing to defeat the extremist group without putting US troops on the ground in Iraq or Syria.

Mr Trump did little to counter the criticism that he lacks detailed policy proposals, particularly regarding the Islamic State group. He both insisted he has a private blueprint for defeating the extremist group and that he would demand a plan from military leaders within 30 days of taking office.

But he was also harshly critical of the military, saying America's generals have been "reduced to rubble" under Barack Obama. Asked to square his request for military options with that criticism, Mr Trump said simply: "They'll probably be different generals."

The Republican also renewed his praise for Mr Putin and his disdain for President Obama, saying that the Russian enjoyed an 82% approval rating. "The man has very strong control over a country," Mr Trump said. "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."

Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, Mrs Clinton suggested she agreed with Democrats who say she is being held to a different standard in the White House race.

"I don't understand the reasons for it," she said. "I find it frustrating, but it's part of the landscape we live in."

Wednesday's forum served as a preview of sorts for Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump's highly-anticipated presidential debates. The candidates will face off for the first time on September 26 at Hofstra University.

By virtue of a coin flip, Mrs Clinton took the stage first and quickly found herself responding at length to questions about her years in government.

She reiterated that she had made mistakes in relying on a personal email account and private server as secretary of state and in voting for the 2003 invasion of Iraq as a senator. But she defended her support for US military intervention to help oust a dictator in Libya, despite the chaotic aftermath.

"I'm asking to be judged on the totality of my record," said Mrs Clinton, who grew visibly irritated at times with the repeated focus on her past actions.

Mrs Clinton, who has cast Mr Trump as dangerously ill-prepared to be commander in chief, tried to centre the discussion on her foreign policy proposals.

She vowed to defeat the Islamic State group "without committing American ground troops" to Iraq or Syria. And she pledged to hold weekly Oval Office meetings with representatives from the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs to stay abreast of health care for veterans.

Mr Trump stood by a previous comment that appeared to blame military sexual assaults on men and women serving together, but added he would not seek to remove women from the military. And for the first time, he opened the door to granting legal status to people living in the US illegally who join the military.

"I think that when you serve in the armed forces, that's a very special situation," Mr Trump said. "And I could see myself working that out."

The Republican also repeated an incorrect claim that he was opposed to the war with Iraq before the invasion. That assertion is contradicted by an interview Mr Trump did with Howard Stern in September 2002 in which he was asked whether he supported the invasion. He replied, "Yeah, I guess so."

With just two months until election day, national security has emerged as a centrepiece issue in the White House race. Both candidates believe they have the upper hand, with Mrs Clinton contrasting her experience with Mr Trump's unpredictability and the Republican arguing that Americans worried about their safety will be left with more of the same if they elect Mr Obama's former secretary of state.

While Republican candidates are often seen by voters as having an advantage on military and national security issues, Mr Trump is far from a traditional Republican. He has no military experience and has repeatedly criticised the skill of the armed forces.

A flood of Republican national security experts have instead chosen to back Mrs Clinton, helping bolster her case that Mr Trump is broadly unacceptable. Earlier on Wednesday, former defence secretary William Cohen joined the list of Republican officials supporting Mrs Clinton.

AP

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