The final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was overall more cordial and more policy-focused than their nasty second face-off. But the stunning moment that will stand out is the GOP nominee’s statement that he won’t necessarily accept the results of the election on November 8th.
“I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense,” Trump said, a shocking statement that threatens to contradict the foundation of American democracy.
His hardline stance came after a week in which he’s ramped up talk that the election is “rigged” for Clinton, even as national polls and surveys in battleground states show the Democratic nominee opening up a consistent lead. But both his daughter Ivanka and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, had said recently that Trump would accept the election results.
Overall though, the Las Vegas debate, moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News, was markedly more policy-focused than the two previous events. He opened with asking the candidates about the Supreme Court, their positions on gun control and abortion, and also delved into their plans for immigration and the economy.
But the two had bitter exchanges over the allegations from multiple women who say Trump groped them or kissed them unwanted in the past. And the GOP nominee pressed Clinton again on her deleted emails from her private server at the State Department. He frequently interrupted her, and even at the end interjected that she was a “nasty woman.”
Here are some of the top moments of the debate below:
Will Trump accept the results of the election? ‘I will keep you in suspense’
A huge cloud that hung over the past week were Trump’s repeated claims that the election is “rigged.” While his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, has said that the campaign will accept the results on November 8th, Trump struck a very different and shocking tone on Wednesday night.
“I will look at it at the time,” Trump said. When pressed by Wallace, the reality TV star responded, “What I’m saying now is I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?”
“That’s horrifying,” Clinton responded.
“You know, every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is is rigged against him,” she continued. “The FBI conducted a year-long investigation into my e-mails. They concluded there was no case. He said that the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus; he lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering. He claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn’t get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged.”
“Should have gotten it,” Trump interjected, still apparently holding a grudge for the snub of “The Apprentice.”
Trump says Clinton is behind women’s allegations against him
On the story that’s consumed the last week of the campaign — the multiple women who have come forward to charge that Trump once groped or kissed them without permission — Trump said their claims had been “largely debunked” and that he didn’t know any of the women.
“I have a feeling how they came. I believe it was her campaign that did it,” Trump said, also charging that his opponent was also behind a Chicago rally he held earlier this year that was disrupted by violence. Trump claimed the women “want either fame or her campaign did it and I think it’s her campaign.”
“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere doesn’t know what that feels like,” Clinton said in one of her strongest moments of the debate. “So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women. That’s who Donald is. I think it’s really up to all of us to demonstrate who we are and who our country is, and to stand up and be very clear about what we expect from our next president, how we want to bring our country together, where we don’t want to have the kind of pitting of people one against the other where instead we celebrate our diversity, we lift people up, and we make our country even greater. America is great because America is good. And it really is up to all of us to make that true now and in the future and particularly for our children and our grandchildren.”
“Nobody has more respect for women that I do, nobody,” Trump said, a frequent refrain he’s said throughout the campaign. “Nobody has more.”
The audience began to laugh at that statement, and moderator Chris Wallace had to quiet them.
The Supreme Court and the Second Amendment
The debate kicked off with a discussion between the candidates on what kind of justices they would appoint to the Supreme Court, showcasing a wide divide between the candidates on two of the most hot-button issues — gun control and abortion. Clinton said she would appoint justices who would “stand up on behalf of women’s rights [and] on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community” and would overturn the Citizens United decision, which allowed for “dark, unaccountable money” in politics. Trump said that “the Supreme Court is what it’s all about” and that he would nominate justices who are “pro-life, have a conservative bent, will protect the Second Amendment and interpret the constitution the way the founders wanted it.”
Clinton said that her position on gun control had been misconstrued. “”There’s no doubt that I respect the second amendment. That I also believe there’s an individual right to bear arms. That is not in conflict with sensible, common-sense regulation,” she said. Clinton explained that she was upset over the District of Columbia v. Heller decision because the nation’s capital was trying to protect toddlers who might injure themselves or others from guns. “I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment,” the Democratic nominee said.
On abortion, Clinton reaffirmed her support for a “woman’s right to choose” and explained why she supported late-term abortions, arguing that such “cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make” and that the government shouldn’t be regulating “those most personal decisions.” Trump called it a terrible thing “to think you can rip the baby out of the womb of the mother, just prior to the birth.”
While Trump said he was “pro-life” and that the justices he has listed that he would nominate are all pro-life and that if they are appointed, he wasn’t exactly clear as to whether he wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned, but said that the justices he would appoint would overturn it and the decision would be sent back to the states.
Immigration Reform and ‘Bad Hombres’
Trump’s promise to deport illegal immigrants and build a massive wall along the Mexican border has been one of his signature issues of this campaign. “They are coming in illegally. Drugs are pouring in through the border. We have no country if we have no border. Hillary wants to give amnesty, she wants to have open borders,” the GOP nominee argued.
And he also argued that the border problem was contributing to the drug and opioid crisis in the country by allowing them to pore over the border.
“We’re going to get them out, we’re going to secure the border, and once the border is secured, at a later date, we’ll make a determination as to the rest, but we have some bad hombres here, and we’re going to get them out,” Trump said.
Clinton said she didn’t want to “rip families apart. I don’t want to be sending parents away from children. I don’t want to see the deportation force that Donald has talked about in action in our country.” She pointed she voted for increased border security and that any violent person should be deported.
“I think we are both a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws, and that we can act accordingly and that’s why I am introducing comprehensive immigration reform within the first hundred days with a path to citizenship,” Clinton promised.
Russia, Vladimir Putin and WikiLeaks hack
The relatively cordial discussion on immigration reform quickly devolved into talk of the email hack into Clinton’s campaign chairman that U.S. intelligence have said came from Russian entities.
“They have hacked American websites, American accounts of private people, of institutions, then they have given that information to WikiLeaks for the purpose of putting it on the Internet. This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government clearly from Putin himself,” Clinton said.
Trump, who has praised Putin repeatedly throughout the campaign, said “I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. If we got along well that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good. He has no respect for her. He has no respect for our president. And I’ll tell you what, we’re in very serious trouble.”
“Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet for president than the United States and it’s pretty clear,” Clinton said.
“No puppet. You’re the puppet,” Trump interrupted.
And as to U.S. intelligence reports that the hacking came from Russia, Trump said Clinton has “no idea whether it’s Russia, China or anybody else.”
“Do you doubt seventeen military and civilian agencies, as well?” Clinton asked incredulously. “He’d rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us. I find that just absolutely striking.”
“She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted at every step of the way, excuse me. Putin has outsmarted her in Syria, he has outsmarted her every step of the way,” Trump said, but did later say that he would “of course” condemn Russia is they were behind the hacks.
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