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Donald Trump insists he never backed the Iraq war. But did he?

Donald Trump claims he was against the war in Iraq.

Donald Trump stated falsely in Sunday night's debate that he opposed the Iraq War from the start. He supported it.

Months before the 2003 U.S. invasion, Trump told shock-jock Howard Stern that he supported the invasion.

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"Yeah, I guess so," Trump responded, when asked in September 2002 whether he supported invading Iraq. "I wish the first time it was done correctly."

Trump has stated that he said privately to Fox News anchor Sean Hannity, one of his most staunch supporters, that he opposed the war, but produced no evidence of that.

Trump has also said that he was among the first and chief critics of the war, another claim that is not substantiated. The public record shows that he grew increasingly critical of the war as it unfolded, as did broader public opinion.

According to PolitiFact, several months after the Stern interview, Trump expressed apprehension about the war during a Fox News interview.

"Well, [Bush] has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps shouldn't be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know," Trump said. "He's under a lot of pressure. I think he's doing a very good job. But, of course, if you look at the polls, a lot of people are getting a little tired. I think the Iraqi situation is a problem. And I think the economy is a much bigger problem as far as the president is concerned."

He declared the war a "mess" a week after it began. More than a year later, in an interview with Esquire, Trump offered his most critical take, predicting destabilization once the United States left and no gain for the nation.

"What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who've been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong," Trump said. "All this for nothing!"

Hillary Clinton's 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war dogged her 2008 campaign, as rival Barack Obama used the vote to argue that Clinton showed poor judgment and would continue President George W. Bush's foreign policy if elected to the White House.

In this year's Democratic primary, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tried to use it as a wedge issue, and GOP nominee Donald Trump has hammered her for the vote, falsely saying that he always opposed the war.

Clinton was one of 77 senators to vote for the resolution in October 2002. At the time, in a floor speech in the Senate, she argued that she was not calling for a unilateral foreign policy, but rather a diplomatic solution that led to increased inspections of Saddam Hussein's weapons, with use of force as the last option.

Her vote was not a "rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our president. And we say to him: Use these powers wisely and as a last resort," Clinton said at the time, in what many now cast as a naive understanding of the Bush administration.

In the 2008 campaign, Clinton repeatedly responded to criticism of her vote by saying that Bush had abused the authority he was given, and that had she known how he would act, she would not have voted for the resolution. But she declined to label her vote a mistake.

Six years later, as she prepared for another presidential run, Clinton expressed regret for the vote in her memoir "Hard Choices."

"Many senators came to wish they had voted against the resolution. I was one of them. As the war dragged on, with every letter I sent to a family in New York who had lost a son or daughter, a father or mother, my mistake [became] more painful," Clinton wrote. "I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn't alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple."

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Since then, Clinton has consistently called her vote a mistake, most recently during a national security forum this month.

During that same forum, Trump repeated the falsehood that he opposed the war in Iraq since before it was launched, a claim he has frequently made throughout the campaign, and which he repeated Monday.

Times staff writer Mike Memoli contributed to this report.

For the latest on national and California politics, follow @LATSeema on Twitter.

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