LAS VEGAS (CN) — Constitutional issues, and the expected sniping, dominated the last presidential debate Wednesday night in Las Vegas, whose biggest surprise came when Donald Trump refused to say whether he would honor the results of the election.
Saying Hillary Clinton was “guilty of a very serious crime” for using a private email server when she was secretary of state, Trump said his Democratic opponent should not have been allowed to run for president.
Asked by moderator Chris Wallace if he would accept the election results if he lost, Trump replied, “I will look at it at the time. I’m not committing to anything now. I will look at it at the time.”
When asked again, he said: “I’ll keep you in suspense.”
Clinton responded: “That’s horrifying.”
She added: “He is denigrating — he is talking down our democracy. And I am appalled that someone who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that position.”
The debate often swerved from policy to personal attacks. Trump insisted that the election is being “rigged,” and attacked the Clinton Foundation as a “criminal enterprise” that accepted money from Saudi Arabia, which treats women and homosexuals “horribly.” He challenged Clinton to return its donations, and said that people in Haiti “hate the Clintons” because of the Clinton Foundation’s activities there.
Clinton responded that the Clinton Foundation is a “world-renowned charity” that has helped 11 million people get treatment for HIV, spends only 10 percent of its money on overhead and raised $30 million to help Haiti after its massive earthquake, whereas Trump’s foundation spent donors’ money on “a 6-foot portrait of Donald.”
“I mean, who does that?” she asked.
Trump acknowledged that his foundation is smaller than the Clinton’s, but said it has done much good, and that he plays by the same rules Clinton helped establish for her political backers such as George Soros and Warren Buffet.
Clinton countered that since Trump has not revealed his tax returns, there is no way to know how much good his foundation has done.
As expected, the candidates clashed over the future of the Supreme Court. Trump, whose public statements on abortion rights have changed over the years, said he intends to appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.
“If we put another two or perhaps three justices on, that’s really what will happen. That’ll happen automatically, in my opinion,” Trump said.
When Clinton responded that “the government has no business in the decisions that women make,” Trump retorted: “Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby,” a remark that clearly infuriated Clinton.
Trump, saying “the Supreme Court is what it’s all about,” said that Clinton, if elected, would gut the Second Amendment, making it “a very, very small replica of what we have now.”
Clinton, clearly prepared for that attack, said, “I support the Second Amendment,” but with 33,000 Americans dying of gunshots wounds every year, including children and toddlers, “we need more comprehensive background checks.”
She said there is “no conflict between saving people’s lives and the Second Amendment.” During a separate section of the debate, Clinton added that people on “no-fly” lists should not be allowed to buy guns.
On immigration, Trump, who has said recently, without evidence, that the Obama administration has opened the southern border to let undocumented people in to vote, said Clinton “wants to have open borders,” and would grant amnesty to illegal entrants. He repeated the claim that launched his candidacy, that a porous border allows criminals to enter, bringing drugs, particularly heroin.
“We’re getting the drugs; they’re getting the cash,” Trump said. “We’ve got some bad hombres here.”
Clinton acknowledged, “I don’t want to see the deportation force that Donald has talked about in action in our country.” Implicitly referring to a much-contested Obama administration initiative to protect children who were brought here illegally by their parents, she said, “I don’t want to rip families apart.”
“We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws,” Clinton said, adding she would introduce a “path to citizenship” in the first 100 days of her administration.
Throughout the debate Clinton needled Trump, saying he “choked” when he met with the president of Mexico this summer but failed to discuss the 30-foot-tall, 1,947-mile-long border wall that Trump says he will make Mexico pay for.
Trump replied that in 2006 Clinton “wanted the wall,” but she “never gets anything done.”
Using open borders to introduce foreign policy, Clinton cited Russian influence in hacking Democratic Party emails and providing information to Wikileaks.
Trump complimented Clinton on “pivoting” away from the open borders question, and criticized her support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, which her husband signed. He said NAFTA decimated the U.S. manufacturing base and said it should be renegotiated or scrapped.
Clinton accused him of crying hypocritical “crocodile tears,” after building a hotel in Las Vegas “with Chinese steel.”
Portraying himself as a stronger leader, Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin has “no respect” for Clinton, to which she responded: “He’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.” To which Trump responded: “No puppet. No puppet. You’re the puppet.”
Trump said Putin has outsmarted Clinton and Obama “at every step of the way.”
“All you have to do is look at the Middle East,” Trump said. “They have taken over.”
Clinton said she would not put U.S. troops in Iraq to fight the so-called Islamic State. She predicted that Syria will continue being a “hotbed of terrorism,” and called for an “intelligence surge” rather than U.S. troops on the ground.
Trump blamed Clinton and Obama for the humanitarian disaster in Aleppo, Syria.
He added, “Iran is taking over Iraq,” and criticized the Obama administration for allowing thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States, suggesting that many of them are sympathetic to the Islamic State. He also blasted the Obama administration’s deal on nuclear weapons with Iran.
“You know whose going to be the beneficiary? Iran,” Trump said.
They reprised the controversy over Trump’s view of the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq, Trump saying he opposed it all along, Clinton saying the record belies that.
Trump said Clinton, as a senator from New York, voted to invade Iraq, but did not do what was necessary to keep it secure.
Turning to the economy, Clinton said she wants to create the biggest jobs program since World War II, using clean energy and working with small businesses to create jobs.
“I want to make college debt-free,” she said, providing affordable higher education particularly for families with income of less than $125,000 a year.
Long-term support for education would create millions of jobs, Clinton said, while Trump’s tax plan, “cutting taxes for the wealthy … truly would be trickle-down economics on steroids,” and would cost the country millions of jobs.
She said Trump proposes to cut taxes three times more than the major tax cut under George W. Bush, which would double the $20 trillion national debt. Clinton described her tax plan as investing “from the middle out” rather than the “top down,” and said it would not add a “penny of debt,” largely by increasing taxes for corporations and families who make more than $250,000 a year.
Trump insisted: “Her tax plan is a disaster. We’ll have a massive, massive tax increase under her.” He said his plan would take back jobs from other countries and help restore the nation’s manufacturing base.
In response to the night’s final question, on Medicare and Social Security, and how to preserve them, Trump proposed repealing Obamacare, which he called an expensive “disaster.” He predicted that Obamacare premiums will increase by 100 percent next year, and said that repealing it will provide more funding for Medicare and Social Security.
Clinton said more money must be put into the Social Security Trust Fund, through tax increases for the wealthy. “I will not cut benefits,” she said, but would try to enhance benefits for low-income workers and women.
Social Security provided two of the night’s memorable lines, when Clinton said that under her plan, “My Social Security payroll contribution will go up, as will Donald’s, assuming he can’t figure out how to get out of it,” prompting Trump to respond: “Such a nasty woman.”
Little time was spent on the nine women who have accused Trump of sexual harassment over the years. Trump said the allegations were manufactured by Clinton’s campaign and have been “totally debunked.”
Clinton responded by quoting Trump’s recent remarks about two of his accusers, whom he said were not attractive enough for him to harass.
“Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger,” Clinton said. “He goes after their dignity, their self-worth; and I don’t think there is a woman anywhere who doesn’t know what that feels like.”
The debate over, the crowd filed out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas hall into a breezy, pleasant night, while some 5,000 reporters hastened to file their stories.
Photo caption 1:
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton at UNLV in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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