Turning his final presidential debate appearance into an unprecedented assault on U.S. political convention, Republican Donald Trump said on Wednesday he might reject the outcome of the Nov. 8 U.S. election if Democrat Hillary Clinton wins.
During the last of three debates against Clinton, Trump was asked by moderator Chris Wallace at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas 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 debate that for the first time focused more on policy than character, the two candidates nonetheless lashed out at each other.
Trump, 70, called Clinton “such a nasty woman,” accused her campaign of orchestrating a series of accusations by women who said the businessman made unwanted sexual advances and said that both she and President Barack Obama were behind disturbances at his rallies. He said the Clinton Foundation was a criminal enterprise and as a result she should not have been allowed to seek the presidency.
Clinton, 68, said Trump himself had incited violence, belittled women and posed a danger to the United States. She said Trump, a former reality TV star, had in the past also complained that his show was unjustly denied a U.S. television Emmy award.
“I should have gotten it,” Trump retorted.
Clinton also accused the billionaire businessman of being a “puppet” for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country has been accused by U.S. intelligence officials of meddling in the U.S. election.
Putin has been repeatedly thrust into the campaign for the U.S. election. Trump has praised him as a stronger leader than U.S. President Barack Obama, drawing criticism from Clinton and some Republicans that he is too cozy with the Russian president. Trump has also refused to concede that Russia was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails.
During Wednesday’s presidential debate, Trump said he did not know Putin but would likely get along better with the Russian leader than Clinton, a former secretary of state.
“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, adding Clinton disliked Putin because he “has outsmarted her at every step of the way.”
Trump predicts an electoral surprise — what he calls a “new Brexit” — when Americans vote.
But it remains an open question whether his stunts will have a positive impact with voters.
Clinton leads by more than six points in an average of national polls compiled by RealClearPolitics.