Trump refuses to guarantee he'll accept election results in final debate
Wednesday night's faceoff opened with sharp exchange on abortion
Republican Donald Trump said on Wednesday he might reject the outcome of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election if he loses, an unprecedented challenge to a cornerstone of American democracy.
During the last of three debates against his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, Trump was asked by moderator Chris Wallace whether this meant the New York businessman would not commit to a peaceful transition of power.
"What I'm saying is that I will tell you at the time. I'll keep you in suspense. Ok?" Trump replied.
Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state, said Trump's comment was "horrifying."
"That is not the way our democracy works," she said. "We've been around for 240 years. We've had free and fair elections. We've accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them. And that is what must be expected of anyone standing on a debate stage during a general election."
In a fiery debate that centred more on policy than the earlier showdowns, Trump accused Clinton's campaign of orchestrating a series of accusations by women who said the businessman made unwanted sexual advances against them.
Trump said all of the stories were "totally false" and suggested Clinton was behind the charges. He called her campaign "sleazy."
"I think they either want fame or her campaign did it, and I think it's her campaign," Trump said.
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Clinton said the women came forward after Trump said in the last debate he had never made unwanted advances on women. In a 2005 video, Trump was recorded bragging about groping women against their will.
"Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. 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," Clinton said.
She cited other minorities she said Trump had maligned.
"This is a pattern. A pattern of divisiveness, of a very dark and in many ways dangerous vision of our country where he incites violence, where he applauds people who are pushing and pulling and punching at his rallies. That is not who America is," she said.
Trump seeks to reverse his fading momentum in an election that opinion polls show is tilting away from him. The New York businessman has raised concerns by claiming the election will be rigged against him. He has urged supporters to patrol polling places in inner cities to prevent voter fraud.
The two presidential rivals had tough but issues-based exchanges on abortion, gun rights and immigration during the 90-minute showdown.
Trump, 70, and Clinton, 68, battled sharply over the influence of Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, with Clinton calling Trump the Russian president's puppet and Trump charging that Putin had repeatedly outsmarted Clinton.
Clinton said Trump had refused to condemn Putin and Russia for recent cyberattacks.
"He'd rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence officials that are sworn to protect us," Clinton said.
U.S. intelligence agencies and the Department of Homeland Security have said the Russian leadership was responsible for recent cyberattacks on the Democratic National Committee and the leaking of stolen emails.
Trump rejected the idea that he was close with Putin, but suggested he would have a better relationship with Russia's leader than Clinton.
"He said nice things about me," Trump said. "He has no respect for her, he has no respect for our president and I'll tell you what, we're in very serious trouble."
Clinton responded: "Well that's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the United States."
"No, you're the puppet," Trump retorted. "Putin has outsmarted her and Obama every single step of the way," he said in a reference to U.S. President Barack Obama, a Democrat like Clinton.
Clinton also said Trump had been "cavalier" about nuclear weapons and should not be trusted with the nuclear codes.
Supreme Court showdown
Clinton promised to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would uphold a woman's right to abortion laid out in the court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, while Trump promised to appoint what he called "pro-life" justices who would overturn the decision.
Under existing law, Trump said, "You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby."
"Honestly, nobody has business doing what I just said, doing that as late as one or two or three or four days prior to birth," Trump said.
Clinton said Trump's "scare rhetoric is just terribly unfortunate."
"This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make and I do not believe the government should be making it," Clinton said.
The debate gave Trump, making his first run for elected office, perhaps his best remaining chance to sway the dwindling number of Americans who are still undecided about their vote.
Clinton Foundation 'criminal enterprise': Trump
Clinton, a former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady, leads in national polls and in most of the battleground states where the election will likely be decided. The debate was her opportunity to make a closing argument on why she is best suited to succeed Obama.
Clinton has struggled to get past concerns about transparency raised over her use of a private email server for work communication while she was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
The two candidates clashed over accusations that Clinton as secretary of state did favours for high-dollar donors to her family's Clinton Foundation. Asked about a potential conflict of interest, she said she acted "in furtherance of our country's values and interests."
She and Trump talked over each other, Clinton defending her ties to the foundation, saying "there is no evidence" of a conflict, while Trump said the foundation should return millions of dollars to countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who treat gay people harshly.
"It's a criminal enterprise," Trump said.
Clinton said she would be happy to compare the Clinton Foundation to Trump's charitable Trump Foundation, which among its activities was to buy "a six-foot portrait of Donald."