US presidential debate

The final US presidential debate live from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Hugh Linehan Thu, Oct 20
LIVE: US presidential debate

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  • 23:49
    Good evening and welcome to this Irish Times liveblog of the third and final debate of the 2016 US presidential campaign. I'm Hugh Linehan.
  • 23:52
    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face off at 2am Irish time at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for 90 minutes in a debate moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace. The debate will cover debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots, and "fitness to be president" — topics selected by Wallace.
  • 23:58

    What kind of a moderator will Wallace be? Here's a preview from Vox:

    Wallace, who anchors Fox News Sunday and has three primary debates under his belt this election cycle, has already articulated how he would like to be remembered after this third and final presidential face-off:
    "If people say, 'it was a great debate and I don't remember you being there,' I will have done my job," he told Fox News.
    It’s part of Wallace’s rather controversial idea of what role the moderator should play: Wallace has made it very clear that he does not believe it is the moderator’s role to engage with the candidates beyond posing the questions.
    Wallace hasn’t always acted that way: During the Fox News debate in Detroit in March, he asked Trump to lay out specifically how he would close the deficit, before correcting him to say, “Your numbers don’t add up, sir,” and proceeding to display two graphics contrasting the facts with Trump’s math.
    "I think it's literally the only time a graphic has gotten an ovation at a debate," Wallace said, reflecting on the applause his debate fact-check got. "It's kind of like what [Washington Post fact-checker] Glenn Kessler does — fact-checking a candidate — except I was doing it in real time in front of millions of people."
    But when asked how he would counter Trump’s habit of stating outright lies during the third presidential debate, Wallace made it clear that he didn’t see it as his role to correct Trump’s false claims.
    "That’s not my job. I do not believe that it’s my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that,” he said in an interview with Howard Kurtz. “I view it as kind of like being a referee in a heavyweight championship fight. If it succeeds, after it's over people will say, 'You did a great job. I don't even remember you being on the stage.'"
    As it turns out, a lot of fact-checking experts don’t agree with Wallace on this one.
    “The danger of leaving it up to the candidates to fact-check each other is that it doesn’t necessarily bring us any closer to the truth,” Lucas Graves, a fact-checking expert at the University of Wisconsin Madison, told me before the first debate in September. He continued:

    Full article here.

  • 00:13

    Irish Times Foreign Correspondent  Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is in Las Vegas this evening for the debate.


  • 00:20

    From Politico:


    Polls continue to show Trump now losing nearly every demographic group save for white men and the electoral map tipping toward a Clinton landslide, with new surveys showing that even reliably red states like Georgia and Arizona may be about to turn blue. Even a much improved performance in the second debate, when Trump put Clinton on the defensive, did little to slow Trump’s free fall.
    Clinton and Trump at the first two presidential debates. But a sense of anti-climax in Las Vegas does not mean this final fight will be drama-free. There is no telling what an increasingly desperate Trump, a reality TV showman whose entire campaign has been an unmitigated flouting of conventional political, cultural and behavioral norms, will do in his final 90 minutes on the debate stage to try and affect a race that appears to be over or, perhaps more pragmatically, to attempt to save face by blaming his dim electoral prospects on an allegedly biased media and the unsubstantiated claims of a rigged election.

    Full article here.

  • 00:27

  • 00:36

    Among the Trump campaign's invited guests at tonight's debate is the current president's brother, Malik Obama.  



  • 00:59
    If you're planning on a debate night drinking game, you can be pretty sure the phrase "Drain the Swamp" will crop up at least once. Donald Trump has used the hashtag #DrainTheSwamp 17 times in the last 24 hours.
  • 01:07

    From the New York Times:


    Hours before the final presidential debate begins here at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, students going to and from classes mingle with the dozens of camera crews that have taken over the quads.

    Some stop to gawk; others hurry by, hoping there are still a few quiet places left on campus to study. U.N.L.V. cheerleaders in red sequined dresses and the Runnin’ Rebel mascot mill in the crowd alongside Trump and Clinton supporters, everyone vying for a cameo in one of the networks’ daylong live broadcasts.

    More here.

  • 01:15

  • 01:19
    The people who we now apparently call "surrogates" are out in force on the US networks, bigging up their candidates. Trump's reality TV rival Mark Cuban has been sparring with Rudy Giuliani on CNN. Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman is in the spin room explaining why she's supporting Clinton.
  • 01:21

  • 01:33

    The New York Times reports


    This intensely antagonistic election has shattered another quaint campaign ritual: the handshakes between opposing candidates’ family members before a debate.

    At previous debates, former President Bill Clinton has shaken the hand of Melania Trump — and sometimes the hands of the children of Donald J. Trump — as part of the predebate protocol.

    It provides the audience in the room, and the people watching at home, with a moment of graciousness and a touch of celebrity.

    But for the final debate, Hillary Clinton’s campaign wants a different setup, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation who requested anonymity to speak candidly about debate negotiations.

    Read more here.

  • 01:34

  • 01:47
    The reality is that there's no historical precedent for a lead as commanding as the one currently held by Hillary Clinton (approximately seven pecentage points in the polls) being hauled in between the third debate and the actual election. In the 2000 election Al Gore clawed back from a three per cent deficit to win the popular vote (but lose the election - look it up). So, if - and it is a big if - Donald Trump believes he can still win this contest, he has to do something extraordinary tonight to change those historical dynamics. You have been warned.
  • 01:54
    If you're just joining us, welcome to the Irish Times liveblog of the third and final debate of the 2016 US presidential campaign. I'm Hugh Linehan. At 2am Irish time  Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will debate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for 90 minutes. The debate, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, will cover debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court, foreign hot spots, and "fitness to be president". You can contact me with your thoughts and opinions by email at or on Twitter at @hlinehan.
  • 01:57
    The preliminaries are underway and the candidates will be onstage in just a couple of minutes.
  • 02:00
    Chris Wallace now talking to the audience. Strict instructions to behave themselves. "Silence, please. Blessed silence."
  • 02:05
    Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the stage. No handshake.
  • 02:05

  • 02:06
    First question is on the Supreme Court and their view on how the Constitution should be interpreted. Clinton speaks first. "What kind of country are we going to be? The court needs to stand on the side of the people, not corporations or the wealthy."
  • 02:08
    Clinton: "I have major disagreements with my opponent." Mentions Roe v Wade and Citizens United (on corporate political funding) as key issues. Criticises the Senate for blocking Obama's attempt to fill current SC vacancy.
  • 02:10
    Trump: "The Supreme Court is what it's all about." Raises issue of judge Ruth Ginsburg criticising him. Cites Second Amendment (right to beararms) as vital. Says he'll appoint pro-life judges who will interpret constitution "the way the founders wanted it interpreted".
  • 02:11
    This is all rather more sober and dignified than we've seen in previous debates. Follow-up question on the Second Amendment. Clinton: "I support the Second Amendment but there must also be regulation." Calls for bakground checks and other measures.
  • 02:14
    First-name terms between both candidates. First time (I think) that Trump has referred to his opponent as Hillary.
  • 02:15
    Trump: "I don't know if Hillary is saying it in a sarcastic manner, but I'm very happy to have the support of the National Rifle Association.
  • 02:17
    On abortion: Do you want to see the court overturn Roe v Wade? Trump: "It will happen automatically if I put two or three pro-life judges on the court. Then the issue will go back to the states." Clinton: "Donald is in favour of defunding Planned Parenthood. I will defend it."
  • 02:19
    Why did Clinton vote against a ban on late-term partial abortions? "The kind of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most painful or heartbreaking. I do not think the US government should be stepping in." Trump: "If you take what Hillart's saying, you can rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day."
  • 02:21

  • 02:23
    Now onto immigration: Trump: "We have no borders. Hillary wants open borders." Says the biggest problem in New Hampshire is heroin pouring in from the south. "One of my first acts will be to get the drug lors out. We have some bad hombres here and we're going to get them out."
  • 02:24
    Clinton: "I don't want to rip families apart. He said every undocumented person would be subject to deportation. That means people going home to home, school to school, rounding up people to put them on buses out of the country."
  • 02:26

  • 02:27
    Clinton: "Donald knows a lot about this. He used undocumented workers to build the Trump Tower."
  • 02:29
    Trump bingo card players please note: "Bigly" has already cropped up three times.
  • 02:30
    Clinton is asked about the quotes ascribed to her in the Wikileaks documents, that she's in favour of "open markets and open borders". Clinton pushes back on Russian espionage and asks will Clinton repudiate it. Trump: "That was a great pivot on the open borders".
  • 02:31
    Trump: "I don't know Putiin. If he says nice things about me, that would be good. He has no respect for her and no respect for our president."
  • 02:33
    Clinton: "That's because he'd rather have a puppet as president of the US. He has a very clear favourite in this race. 17 intelligence agencies have all concluded these come from the Kremlin." Trump: "I doubt that".
  • 02:34
    Wallace presses him on whether he condemns Russian intereference: "If the US got on with Russia, it wouldn't be so bad."
  • 02:35

  • 02:36
    Defence: "All I said is we have to renegotiate these agreements because we can't afford it."
  • 02:39

  • 02:42
    On the economTrump: "We're gonna have a lot of free trade. More free trade than we have now... We're bringing our jobs back. I'm going to renegotiate NAFTA and if we can't we're going another way."
  • 02:44
    Clinton says Trump's tax cuts will add 20 trillion dollars to the national debt. "Cutting taxes on the wealthy. We tried that."
  • 02:47
    Trump: "Our country is stagnant. We've lost our jobs. We've lost our businesses."
  • 02:49

  • 02:52
    Trump hitting Clinton hard on her 30-year record. "You talk but you don't get anything done." Clinton has a rebuttal ready comparing what she's done over the last 30 years with what Trump's been doing with his 30 years. Trump: "I think I did quite a lot. I built a phenomenal company."
  • 02:53
    Next question is about fitness to be president. Wallace asks about the nine women who've come forward with accounts of sexual assault by Trump. Trump: "I believe it was her campaign that did it. Pivots to allegations of Clinton team fomenting violence.
  • 02:55
    Trump: "They either said it for fame or becase she got these people to step forward." Clinton: "A number of women came forward. He said he could not possibly have done those things because they weren't attractive."
  • 02:58
    Trump brings up the emails scandal, says "she's lied hundreds of times to the people, Congress and the FBI."
  • 02:59

  • 03:01
    Wallace brings up the Clinton Foundation. "Emails show donprs got special access to you." Everything I did as Secretary of State was done for our country's interests. But I am so proud of what the Clinton Foundation has done."
  • 03:05
    Clinton: "The Trump Foundation took charity money to buy a six-foot picture of Donald. I mean, who does that?" Trump: "I don't buy boats. I don't buy planes." Wallace follows up on some of the allegations about Trump Foundation. Clinton dives in to point out Trump hasn't released his tax returns. "we have undocumented immigrants in this country paying more tax than a billionaire."
  • 03:07

  • 03:08
    Will Trump accept the result of the election. "I will look at it at the time. If you look at the rolls, you'll see millions of people who are registered to vote who shouldn't be registered."
  • 03:09
    Wallace: "There is a tradition of a peaceful transition of power." Trump: "I'll keep you in suspense." Clinton: "every time he loses, he says it was rigged. There was even a time he said the Emmys were rigged against him. This is not the way our democracy works."
  • 03:12

  • 03:14
    Now discussing the attack on Mosul and strategic objectives against Isis. Trump: "McArthur and Patton spinning in their graves because of the stupidity."
  • 03:15
    Trump: "Iran is taking over Iraq, something we've made so easy for them."
  • 03:17
    Clinton pushes back hard on Trump's lie about not supporting Iraq war. Talk about how she was taking out Osama bin Laden while he was on Celebrity Apprentice.
  • 03:19
    Trump in full yah boo sucks mode now: "John Podesta said some horrible things about you and I think he's right."
  • 03:22

  • 03:24
    Discussion about what to do about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo. Clinton says "she is not going to slam the door on women and children". Says that does not stop efforts to stop internal threats. The person who attacked the pulse nightclub was born in Queens, "the same place Donald was born".
  • 03:27
    Last subject: the US national debt. Wallace - debt would rise under both candidates' plans. Trump: "We will have created a great economic machine. I'm going to create the kind of country that we were.".
  • 03:30

  • 03:31
    You have to admire the way Chris Wallace is persevering with his thesis that this is a normal election which will be decided on substantive policy.
  • 03:34
    It is quite astonishing that over the course of three debates there hasn't been one question on climate change.
  • 03:36
    Closing statement time. Clinton: "I've been privileged to see the presidency up close... I will stand up for families against powerful interests, I hope you'll give me the chance to serve."  Trump: "we're going to make America great again. We take care of people who come into the country illegally more than we do our vets. I will do more for the African-Americans and Latinos than she ever will."
  • 03:37
    And that is that. Wallace exhorts viewers to use their vote and bids them goodnight. No handshake again.
  • 03:43
    That was a strange debate, veering between quite low-key and (by the standards of this campaign) almost rational exchanges of views, to quite unprecedented moments such as Trump's refusal to say he would accept the results of the election. While he was for the most part more in control of his impulses, he seemed to unravel in the middle of the debate, and failed to press home any possible advantage on issues such as Wallace's question about Bill Clinton's history.
  • 03:44
    Kellyanne Conway of the Trump team: "Trump will accept the result of the electiin because he'll win the election."
  • 03:49
    The immediate post-debate reaction is very focused on Trump's "I'll keep you in suspense" line on whether he'll accept the election. Criticism of the reality gameshow language being used.
  • 03:49

  • 03:55

  • 04:01

  • 04:06

    The first snap reports are rolling in. Here's Politico:


    Donald Trump delivered another unprecedented historical moment during the final presidential debate Wednesday night when the Republican nominee, who appears on his way to a landslide loss, refused to say that he would accept the election’s outcome.
    “I will look at it at the time,” said Trump — just hours after his daughter, campaign manager and running mate all insisted that he would respect the voters’ will, win or lose.

     More here.

  • 04:10

    The New York Times verdict:


    In a final debate on Wednesday that swung wildly between civil and caustic, Hillary Clinton charged that Donald J. Trump would be “a puppet” of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia if elected, while he argued that Mr. Putin had “outsmarted and outplayed” her as secretary of state.

    Mr. Trump, under enormous pressure to halt Mrs. Clinton’s steady rise in opinion polls, sought to rally conservative voters by promising to deport illegal immigrants, support gun rights and appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn abortion rights.

    But he also lashed out repeatedly at Mrs. Clinton, arguing that her campaign was behind the nine women who have come forward to accuse him of unwanted sexual advances and assaults.

    Mr. Trump also insisted, as he has in recent days, that the general election has been rigged against him, and he twice refused to say that he would accept its result.

    Full report here.

  • 04:14

    Here's the Washington Post's take:


    ...the closing minutes of the debate played out as Democrats would have hoped – and Republican elites would have feared – when Trump was nominated. Clinton made a closing statement that sought to reach for unity, despite the wide distrust of Democrats and her particularly. “I’m reaching out to all Americans,” she said, in rhetoric that matched the intent but never the power of President Obama’s from 2008. “We need everybody to help make our country what it should be.”

    Trump, by contrast, finished the last debate of 2016 as a very different character than he was when he swaggered and bullied a Republican field that had underestimated him. In the last minutes against Clinton, he was left interrupting, contradicting and muttering, having lost the ability to dominate a debate.

    “Such a nasty woman,” Trump said at one point, as Clinton talked about fiscal policy. It almost sounded as if he was talking to himself.

    Read more here.

  • 04:22

  • 04:28
    In this writer's opinion, this was Hillary Clinton's best performance of the three debates. She was measured, calm, expertly pivoted away from awkward questions about her emails and her husband. A number of what were clearly well-prepared responses - on Trump's treatment of women, on her own 30-year record in politics, on Wikileaks - did what they were supposed to do. We've had three debates with differing tones, but the winner has always been the same person.
  • 04:34
    CNN's debate poll is in. Clinton wins by 52 per cent to Trump's 39 per cent, a narrower margin than the previous encounters.
  • 04:38
    This was also Donald Trump's best performance of the debates. He was relatively calm and coherent for most of the first 30 minutes. But again his inability to keep focus meant he let Clinton off the hook on potential vulnerabilities, such as her highly ambiguous position on trade. But if you think about these debates as generating a series of short clips which define the whole, then Trump undoubtedly loses. All the best soundbites - including Clinton's attacks - are bad for Trump.
  • 04:41

  • 04:49

  • 05:18

    Susan Chira in the New York Times:

    Donald J. Trump dismissed Hillary Clinton with all the anger and contempt of a man who has repeatedly been called out for how he treats women. “Such a nasty woman,” he said.

    Mrs. Clinton has pursued a calculated strategy of baiting her opponent to see if he would lash out. She called him a puppet of Vladimir Putin, among other digs. Mr. Trump clearly could no longer contain himself by the end of this debate.

    That cutting dismissal, as well as his taunt that her husband didn’t agree with her, played to the heart of the gender dynamics of this election. A man hypersensitive to criticism of any kind was under constant challenge from a confident, assertive woman.

    Read the full article here.

  • 05:19

  • 05:35

    This is particularly important as it's the Associated Press story which will be carried by hundreds of American newspapers and websites this morning. The unusually strong opening clause will have an impact.


  • 05:39

    Our Washington Correspondent, Simon Carswell, has this:


    Asked again whether he would accept a peaceful transition of power to the winning candidate, Mr Trump said: “I will tell you at the time,” referring to the election day. “I will keep you in suspense.”
    “That’s horrifying,” Mrs Clinton responded. “I am appalled that someone who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that position.”
    She pointed to Mr Trump’s long tradition of making allegations of bias against him, even pointing to his complaint about not winning an Emmy award for his television show, The Apprentice.
    “Should have gotten it,” said the celebrity businessman, reinforcing Mrs Clinton’s argument.
    Trailing badly in the polls with just 19 days to go to election day, Mr Trump has spent much of the past week complaining about a biased electoral system and warning about widespread voter fraud.

    Simon's full report is here.

  • 06:03
    So, with 20 days to go to election day, Hillary Clinton is on the home stretch towards what now looks like a comfortable victory. With an average lead of seven per cent over Donald Trump in the polls, she delivered a highly competent and at times combative performance in the final debate. No presidential candidate has ever overturned such a gap so close to the election, and the question now arises of whether more Republicans will consciously uncouple from Trump in an effort to save their own Congressional or Senatorial skins. And what of Trump himself? How is he likely to behave over the next three weeks? And will he drift even further towards far-right white nationalism as it becomes increasingly apparent that he can't win?