The third and final debate of the
caustic 2016 US presidential election started with a sober tone… but ended up
with Donald Trump questioning the fundamental underpinnings of the nation. Here
are four key moments:
If Americans entered the debate
concerned about what happens the day after this brutally fought election, Trump
did little to assuage their fears.
An hour into the 90-minute battle,
the Republican nominee was asked whether he would respect the election result
and concede if he lost. His answer will go into the history books.
“I’ll look at it at the time. What
I’ve seen is so bad,” he said, repeating unfounded allegations of vote rigging.
Fellow Republicans rushed to
denounce him, and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton declared herself
“appalled” by what she said was an attack on 240 years of US democracy.
Asked about embarrassing leaked
emails, Clinton pivoted to Trump’s much scrutinized relationship with Russian
President Vladimir Putin and the Republican’s refusal to pin the leaks on
Clinton suggested Putin wanted a
“puppet” in the White House, which prompted a remarkable exchange.
“No puppet. No puppet,” said Trump,
talking over Clinton. “You’re the puppet!”
“No, you’re the puppet,” he
Composing himself, Trump said “I
never met Putin. This is not my best friend. But if the United States got along
with Russia, it wouldn’t be so bad.”
Both Clinton and Trump threw plenty
of meat to their core political bases — ticking boxes on guns, abortion and
Trump was again on the defensive
over his policy of forcibly deporting millions of illegal migrants.
“We have some bad hombres here, and
we’re going to get them out,” he said.
Clinton described that as an idea
“that would rip our country apart.”
Some of the sharpest exchanges came
when Trump accused Clinton and her campaign team of drumming up allegations
that he has groped several women.
“I believe,” Trump said, “she got
these people to step forward,” accusing Clinton of running a “very sleazy
campaign” and adding of the claims aired by several women dating back decades:
“It was all fiction.”
Trump boasted, “I didn’t even
apologize to my wife,” saying he did nothing wrong and so had nothing to
Later, when the topic turned to
taxes, Clinton suggested that Trump might try to wriggle his way out of paying.
“Such a nasty woman,” Trump said,
leaning into the microphone.