In Heated Debate, Trump And Clinton Spar Over Issues — And Personal Digs
After the wildest 48 hours yet in the presidential campaign, the second debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton began in the same fashion. The two even declined the traditional handshake the outset, setting the tenor for the evening.
The leaked 2005 video that showed the Republican presidential nominee making lewd comments about women was the cornerstone of the first clash between the two. As Trump explained away his remarks as "locker-room banter," Trump threw out former President Bill Clinton's alleged sexual misconduct to rebut those charges, even holding a surprise appearance with Juanita Broaddrick, who alleges Bill Clinton raped her nearly 40 years ago, and Paula Jones, who accused Clinton of sexual harassment, before the debate and seating them in the audience.
Moderators Martha Raddatz of ABC News and Anderson Cooper of CNN tried to control the conversation but one-third of the debate centered around those controversies. The NPR politics team also live fact-checked the debate. Here are the highlights of the night:
Trump's leaked audio: "It's locker room talk"
On his lewd comments on the video — which caused more than 30 Republican officials to withdraw their endorsements and call on him to drop out — Trump flat out denied that the way he described grabbing female genitalia or kissing women unprompted constituted sexual assault and said he had never done that.
"It's locker room talk, and it's one of those things," Trump said, trying to turn the subject to ISIS. Trump said he was "embarrassed" by the comments and that he has "great respect for women," but didn't seem like the robust apology many worried Republicans were hoping for.
Clinton said the tape speaks for itself, and that he's offended many people beyond just women, pointing out his past controversial comments about Hispanics, immigrants, Muslims and prisoners of war. "He has said that the video doesn't represent who he is. But I think it's pretty clear to anybody who heard it that it represents exactly who he is," Clinton said.
Cooper repeatedly pressed Trump on whether or not he had, in fact, done the things he described he in the tape. His response: "Women have respect for me, and I will tell you know I have not, and I will tell you that I'm going to make our country safe."
Trump goes there on Bill Clinton
17 minutes in, Trump went exactly where he had long threatened to — Bill Clinton's alleged sexual misconduct. "There has never been anyone in the history of politics who has been as abusive to women," Trump charged. "If you look at Bill Clinton, far worse — mine are words, his was action. His was far worse — what he's done to women, there's never been anyone in the history of politics in this nation who has been so abusive to women...Hillary Clinton attacked those same women and attacked them viciously."
Clinton's response was to quote first lady Michelle Obama — "When they go low, we go high" — and turn the topic back to the leaked audio, pointing out that while Trump may have apologized for those comments, he hadn't for many of his other controversial comments, including the Kahn family, a judge of Mexican heritage and for perpetrating the conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn't born in the U.S. Trump again falsely alleged that Clinton was the one who had started that rumor.
Trump says Clinton would "be in jail" if he's president
The GOP nominee's response on his lack of apologies was to turn the conversation to Clinton's controversial private email server and missing emails; after an investigation, the FBI recommended no charges.
"[People's] lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you've done. And it's a disgrace. And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourself," Trump said.
"If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception," Trump also said, and later retorted that she would "be in jail" if he were president — hearkening to a popular chant at his rallies.
"Of course" I used tax loophole, Trump says
Another recent bombshell was a New York Times story that Trump may have avoided paying federal income taxes for 18 years because of a nearly $1 billion loss in 1995. That's something Trump — who still hasn't released his personal tax returns — confirmed in the debate.
"I absolutely used it," Trump said of the loop hole. "And so did Warren Buffett, and so did George Soros and so did many people who Hillary is getting money from."
"I understand the tax code better than anyone and it's complex," Trump argued.
Trump splits with Pence on Syria and Russia
In a surprising moment, Trump said he disagrees with his running mate on the foreign policy approach to Russia and Syria. Trump said that while he doesn't like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, he's been effective at fighting ISIS.
"One thing I have to say is I don't like Assad at all," he explained. "But Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS. And Iran is killing ISIS. And those three have now lined up because of our weak foreign policy."
At the vice-presidential debate on Tuesday, Pence said that if Russia continued to be involved in attacks on Aleppo, that the U.S. should be prepared to use force.
"Okay. He and I haven't spoken, and I disagree," Trump responded. When asked what would happen if Aleppo did fall, he claimed that "it basically has fallen." The city is divided and has not fallen.