Clinton, Trump take stage for final presidential debate

Presidential candidates had 1 last chance to impress voters

LAS VEGAS - Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump's long and acrimonious battle for the White House is speeding toward the end.

Both candidates took the debate stage Wednesday night at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for one final prime-time showdown. The debate was moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News. 

Trump and Clinton spared for nearly two hours during the debate on issues such as immigration, abortion and who is fit to be president. 

There were a lot of interruptions and harsh accusations made by both candidates.  

The debate began to take a turn when Trump and Clinton clashed over the Republican nominee's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Clinton blasted Trump as a "puppet" of Putin and directly called on him 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. Wallace 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 to the women because they were not sufficiently attractive.

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

"Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger. He goes after their dignity and their self-worth," Clinton said.

For Trump, the debate was perhaps his last opportunity to turn around a race that appears to be slipping away.

His predatory comments about women and a flood of sexual assault accusations have deepened his unpopularity with women and limited his pathways to victory. Trump has denied the accusations and his supporters remain intensely loyal, but there are few signs he's attracting the new backers he desperately needs.

Clinton took the stage with challenges of her own.

While the electoral map currently leans in her favor, the Democrat is facing a new round of questions about her trustworthiness, concerns that have trailed her throughout the campaign.

The hacking of her top campaign adviser's emails revealed a candidate who is averse to apologizing, can strike a different tone in private than in public, and makes some decisions only after political deliberations.

Wednesday's contest in Las Vegas came just under three weeks from Election Day and with early voting underway in more than 30 states. At least 2.1 million voters have cast ballots already.

Trump has leaned on an increasingly brazen strategy in the campaign's closing weeks, including peddling charges that the election will be rigged, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in U.S. presidential contests.

Trump said during the debate that he refused to say he would accept the result of the presidential election if he loses to Hillary Clinton, raising the possibility of an extraordinary departure from principles that have underpinned American democracy for more than two centuries.

"I will look at it at the time," Trump said when asked during the final presidential debate whether he would concede if he loses on November 8, following his claims that the election is "rigged" against him.

He added: "I will keep you in suspense."

His running mate, Mike Pence, has insisted they'll accept the election results.


Copyright 2016 by WPLG The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.