Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump threw character and judgment charges at each other in a final contentious debate Wednesday, with Trump saying that he won’t yet decide whether to accept the election’s results.
With 20 days until Election Day, and polls suggesting Clinton is gaining momentum in swing states, Clinton looked to paint Trump as unfit for office, saying his refusal to accept the election decree is “horrifying.”
The debate could be one of Trump’s last opportunities to appeal to voters beyond his loyal supporters who have cheered his rhetorical attacks. He widened his attack on Clinton, accusing her of running a “criminal enterprise” with the Clinton Foundation and saying her use of a private email server disqualified her from running for president.
The debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was the last of three and came as polls suggest that Trump will need a historic comeback to overtake Clinton. A Bloomberg Politics poll Wednesday showed Clinton leading Trump, 47-38 percent.
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WikiLeaks issue leads to Putin
A dispute over immigration devolved into an argument over Trump’s praise for Russian leader Vladimir Putin when moderator Chris Wallace asked Clinton about saying in a speech divulged by WikiLeaks that she backed “open borders.”
Clinton said she was talking about energy resources crossing borders, and called on Trump to denounce what she said was Russia’s unprecedented intervention in the election by hacking into private emails and providing them to WikiLeaks.
“Will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this?” she said.
Trump accused her of looking to pivot off immigration and charged her with wanting open borders.
As for Putin, he said he didn’t know him, but said that he’s said “nice things about me, if we got along well, that would be good.”
He charged that the Russian leader “has no respect” for Clinton.
“That’s because he’d rather have a puppet,” Clinton charged.
“You’re the puppet,” Trump snapped back.
Clinton continued, “You’re willing to spout the Putin line, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do.”
Trump questioned whether there was evidence that Russia is hacking the U.S., though Clinton noted 17 US intelligence agencies say it is.
Allegations of sexual improprieties
The two also fought over allegations that Trump sexually assaulted women – with Trump charging that Clinton’s campaign was behind the charges.
Trump insisted that the women who came forward with allegations told “lies and fictions.”
“I didn’t know any of these women; I think they want either fame or her campaign did it,” Trump said
Clinton said the charges speak about Trump’s unfitness for office.
“Donald thinks that belittling women makes him bigger,” Clinton said, adding that “he never apologizes or says he’s sorry for anything.”
She dodged moderator Chris Wallace’s question about her husband’s behavior, not mentioning it as she criticized Trump.
Hours before the debate started, the news site, Breitbart, whose former chairman, Stephen Bannon, is now Trump’s campaign chair, published an interview with a former Arkansas television news reporter who claimed she was sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton in 1980. Trump also brought three women who have accused Bill Clinton of molesting them to the last debate.
After Trump denied at last week’s debate that he had ever sexually assaulted women, nine women came forward with allegations of unwanted kissing, groping or sexual advances. Trump on the campaign trail called their stories a fabrication and ridiculed their looks.
Choices for the Supreme Court
The debate quickly exposed differences between Clinton and Trump on the court, gun control, and abortion.
Clinton said she envisions a Supreme Court that won’t reverse same-sex marriage, upholds Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that made abortion legal in the U.S., and strike down the 2010 Citizens United ruling, which has allowed a swell of donor money to campaigns.
“The Supreme Court should represent all of us,” she said. “The kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on our rights as Americans.”
Trump said he would appoint justices from a list of 20 conservative potential nominees who would uphold a Second Amendment that he says is “under seige.” He said his picks will be “pro-life.” But when asked if he wants to see abortion abolished, Trump avoided the question, but said his justices would return to the states the decisions on abortion.
The contrast over foundations
They tangled bitterly over the Clinton Foundation, with Trump accusing the charity of running a pay-to-play scheme. And he said Clinton took money from countries with poor human rights records.
“Its a criminal enterprise,” Trump said. “You talk about women and women’s rights. These are people that push gays off buildings. Yet you take their money.”
Clinton said she was happy, “in fact, thrilled,” to talk about the Clinton Foundation, saying it spends 90 percent of its money on programs to benefit health care and the poor.
She contrasted that work with the Trump Foundation, noting it spent $10,000 on a “6-foot portrait of Donald. Who does that?”