Trump, during debate, won't say if he'd accept an election loss
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — At Wednesday night's presidential debate, Republican candidate Donald Trump threatened to overturn a basic pillar of American democracy. He refused to say he would accept the results of the November election if he loses. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton called Trump's response "horrifying."
Free and fair elections, with the loser peacefully stepping aside for the winner, have been part of America's democratic tradition since the country's founding 240 years ago.
Trump has spent the days leading up to the third and final presidential debate warning voters that the election will be "rigged." Asked whether he would accept the results, he said, "I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense."
A "Puppet" For President?
Trump also refused to accept the U.S. government's claim that Russia has tried to interfere in the election by hacking Clinton’s emails. Clinton accused Trump of favoring Russia's leader over American officials.
Clinton said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was backing Trump because the Republican candidate would advance Russia's interests. She said Putin would "rather have a puppet as president of the United States."
Trump denied any relationship with Putin. He also said he would condemn any foreign interference in the election. But he also refused to accept U.S. officials' assessment that Russia was involved in the hacking of Democratic organizations.
The debate opened with a measured, policy-focused discussion about immigration, gun rights and the Supreme Court. It was a strong contrast to the heated and personal clashes of the previous debates. However, Trump quickly reverted to his previous style. He repeatedly interrupted Clinton as well as moderator Chris Wallace.
The 90-minute debate in Las Vegas came just under three weeks before Election Day. Early voting has already begun in more than 30 states.
Different Approaches To Supreme Court Picks
The candidates outlined sharply different visions for the Supreme Court. Trump declared that he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Roe v. Wade ruling. That 1973 Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in the United States.
Clinton vowed to appoint justices who would uphold the ruling. "We have come too far to have that turned back now," she said.
No Common Ground On Immigration, Trade
Trump pressed Clinton on immigration, accusing her of wanting an "open borders" policy, a characterization she strongly disputes. "People are going to pour into our country" under a Clinton presidency, Trump said. The Republican has called for building a wall the length of the U.S.-Mexico border.
Clashing on trade, Trump said Clinton had misrepresented her position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an open trade agreement the U.S. has with 11 other countries, including Mexico. Some people think it could hurt U.S. businesses and put people out of work. Trump noted that she had originally called it the "gold standard" of trade agreements. Clinton shot back that once the deal was finished, it didn't meet her standards. "I'll be against it when I'm president," she said.
For Trump, Last Chance To Win Back Voters
For Trump, the debate marked one of his final chances to reshape a race that he appears to be losing. Clinton's campaign is confidently expanding into traditionally Republican states, while Trump's narrow electoral path is shrinking. The Republican candidate is already unpopular with a majority of Americans. He has also faced harsh criticism over his comments about his treatment of women.
Clinton began the debate with a lead in most battleground states. Her challenge was to both keep up her efforts to paint Trump as unfit to be president and start moving to ease America's deep divisions. This is no easy task for the Democratic candidate, given the public's lingering questions about her honesty and trustworthiness.
Clinton Quizzed About Aide's Hacked Emails
Clinton faced debate questions for the first time about surprising information in her top adviser's hacked emails. WikiLeaks has released thousands of the hacked emails, embarrassing the Clinton campaign. The messages show her to be more friendly with Wall Street banks than her public comments suggest. Clinton quickly turned the discussion to Russia's possible role in stealing the emails.
Trump entered the final debate facing a string of new accusations from women who say he touched them without their permission. The Republican candidate denied the claims, saying the women coming forward "either want fame or her campaign did it."
Clinton said Trump thinks bullying women "makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity, their self-worth."