Presidential debate: Clinton, Trump clash on policy

Posted at 9:29 PM, Oct 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-20 00:08:12-04

(CNN) — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are striking a more sober tone Wednesday after two brutal debates, largely sticking to substance and keeping personal slights to a minimum during their final face-to-face showdown.

The presidential debate in Las Vegas began on a frosty note as the candidates once again abandoned the tradition of shaking each other's hands at the outset. And there were moments of serious clashes, including over Trump's history with women, his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Republican nominee's immigration positions.

"We have some bad hombres here and we're gonna get them out," Trump said.

But overall, the first 30 minutes of the debate were dominated with exchanges over substantive policy issues harkening back to previous election cycles that lacked the drama and bitter personal battles of 2016. Clinton and Trump had a serious exchange, for instance, about the Supreme Court and gun rights.

Clinton said the court should "stand on the side of the American people, not on the side of powerful corporations and the wealthy."

Trump said that the Supreme Court is "what it is all about" and rebuked liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for recent remarks in which she criticized him, before apologizing. He warned that if Clinton was President, she would gut Americans' Second Amendment right to bear arms.

"If my opponent should win this race, which I don't think will happen," Trump said, the Second Amendment will be a "small replica of what we have now."

Clinton denied that she opposes the Second Amendment but called for firearms legislation that included comprehensive background checks, and efforts to close the so-called gunshow loophole.

The candidates also clashed over abortion rights with Clinton insisting she would defend Planned Parenthood and the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision.

"I will defend women's rights to make their own health care decisions," Clinton said, bringing up a previous remark by Trump when he said that women should be punished for getting an abortion.

Trump hit back, saying she would allow late-term abortions.

"You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month," Trump said.

Clinton accused Trump of adopting "scare rhetoric" on the issue.

Heated clash over Putin

The debate became more heated Clinton and Trump furiously clashed over Russia, with the Democratic nominee blasting her foe as a "puppet" of Putin. Clinton directly called on Trump to condemn what she said was a Russian effort to use cyber attacks to influence the election in her opponent's favor.

Trump replied that Putin had no respect for Clinton or President Barack Obama.

"That's because he would rather have a puppet as President of the United States," Clinton said, implying that Putin wanted Trump to win the election.

"No puppet. You are the puppet," Trump said.

Trump said he had never met Putin but allowed that the Russian leader had said nice things about him, and said it would be good if Washington and Moscow worked together to fight ISIS.

But he added: "This is not my best friend."

Clinton and Trump also bitterly sparred over the theme of who is qualified to be President. The debate moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, pressed Trump on why so many women had come forward to accuse him of sexual assault if the allegations were not true.

Trump said the claims had been "largely debunked."

"I think they want either fame or her campaign did it," Trump said, referring to the women that came forward after he said at the last debate he had never been abusive to any women.

Clinton noted that Trump had implied at several rallies that he could not have made inappropriate advances towards the women because they were not sufficiently attractive.

Trump wrongly denied that he had ever made such a remark.