Trump won't commit to accepting election results in final debate

Final 2016 presidential debate
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/AP

The final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was overall more cordial and more policy-focused than their nasty second debate faceoff. But the stunning moment that will stand out is the GOP nominee's statement that he won't necessarily accept the results of the election on Nov. 8.

"I will tell you at the time," Trump said in a shocking statement that signals a break from the traditional transfer of power. "I will keep you in suspense."

His hard-line stance came after a week in which he has ramped up talk that the election is "rigged" in favor of Clinton, even as national polls and surveys in battleground states show the Democratic nominee opening up a consistent lead. But both Trump's daughter Ivanka and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, have said recently that Trump would accept the election results.

The Las Vegas debate, moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News, focused more on issues facing the country compared with the two previous events. Wallace opened by asking the candidates about the Supreme Court and their positions on gun control and abortion, and he also delved into their plans for immigration reform and the economy.

The two candidates did have bitter exchanges over the allegations from multiple women who say Trump groped them or made unwanted sexual advances. The GOP nominee pressed Clinton again on her deleted emails from her private server when she was at the State Department. He frequently interrupted her, and even at the end of the debate, interjected that she was a "nasty woman."

Here are some of the key moments of the debate:

Will Trump accept the results of the election? "I will keep you in suspense"

A huge cloud that hung over the past week were Trump's repeated claims that the election is "rigged." While Pence has said that the campaign will accept the results on Nov. 8, Trump struck a very different and shocking tone on Wednesday night.

"I will look at it at the time," Trump said. When pressed by Wallace, the reality TV star responded, "What I'm saying now is I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, OK?"

"That's horrifying," Clinton responded.

"You know, every time Donald thinks things are not going in his direction, he claims whatever it is, is rigged against him," she continued. "The FBI conducted a yearlong investigation into my emails. They concluded there was no case. He said that the FBI was rigged. He lost the Iowa caucus; he lost the Wisconsin primary. He said the Republican primary was rigged against him. Then Trump University gets sued for fraud and racketeering. He claims the court system and the federal judge is rigged against him. There was even a time when he didn't get an Emmy for his TV program three years in a row and he started tweeting that the Emmys were rigged."

"Should have gotten it," Trump interjected, still apparently holding a grudge for the snub of The Apprentice.

Trump says Clinton is behind women's allegations against him

On the story that has consumed the last week of the campaign — the multiple women who have come forward to charge that Trump once groped or kissed them without permission — Trump said their claims had been "largely debunked" and that he didn't know any of the women.

"I have a feeling how they came. I believe it was her campaign that did it," Trump said, adding that his opponent was also behind a Chicago rally he held earlier this year that was disrupted by violence. Trump claimed the women "want either fame or her campaign did it and I think it's her campaign."

"Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger," Clinton said in one of her strongest moments of the debate. "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." She continued:

"So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women. That's who Donald is. I think it's really up to all of us to demonstrate who we are and who our country is, and to stand up and be very clear about what we expect from our next president, how we want to bring our country together, where we don't want to have the kind of pitting of people one against the other where instead we celebrate our diversity, we lift people up, and we make our country even greater. America is great because America is good. And it really is up to all of us to make that true now and in the future and particularly for our children and our grandchildren."

"Nobody has more respect for women than I do, nobody," Trump said, a frequent refrain of his throughout the campaign. "Nobody has more."

The audience began to laugh at that statement, and moderator Chris Wallace had to quiet it down.

The Supreme Court and the Second Amendment

The debate kicked off with a discussion between the candidates of what kind of justices they would appoint to the Supreme Court, showcasing a wide divide between them on two of the most hot-button issues — gun control and abortion. Clinton said she would appoint justices who would "stand up on behalf of women's rights [and] on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community" and would overturn the Citizens United decision, which allowed for "dark, unaccountable money" in politics. Trump said that "the Supreme Court is what it's all about" and that he would nominate justices who are "pro-life, have a conservative bent, will protect the Second Amendment and interpret the Constitution the way the Founders wanted it." Clinton said that her position on gun control had been misconstrued. "There's no doubt that I respect the Second Amendment. That I also believe there's an individual right to bear arms. That is not in conflict with sensible, common-sense regulation," she said. Clinton explained that she was upset over the District of Columbia v. Heller decision because the nation's capital was trying to protect toddlers who might injure themselves or others from guns. "I see no conflict between saving people's lives and defending the Second Amendment," the Democratic nominee said.

On abortion, Clinton reaffirmed her support for a "woman's right to choose" and explained why she supported late abortions, arguing that such "cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make" and that the government shouldn't be regulating "those most personal decisions." Trump called it a terrible thing "to think you can rip the baby out of the womb of the mother, just prior to the birth."

Trump said he was "pro-life" and that the justices he would nominate are all "pro-life." Even when pressed by Wallace, he wouldn't say whether he wants Roe v. Wade to be overturned. But he did say that the justices he would appoint would overturn Roe and the decision would be sent back to the states.

Immigration reform and "bad hombres"

Trump's promise to deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally and build a massive wall along the Mexican border has been one of his signature issues of this campaign. He repeated the need for strict border controls during the debate:

"In the audience tonight we have four mothers of, I mean these are unbelievable people that I've gotten to know over a period of years, whose children have been killed, brutally killed, by people that came into the country illegally. You have thousands of mothers and fathers and relatives all over the country. They are coming in illegally. Drugs are pouring in through the border. We have no country if we have no border. Hillary wants to give amnesty she wants to have open borders."

And he also argued that the border problem was contributing to the drug and opioid crisis in the country by allowing them to pour over the border.

"We're going to get them out, we're going to secure the border, and once the border is secured, at a later date, we'll make a determination as to the rest, but we have some bad hombres here, and we're going to get them out," Trump said. That comment quickly blew up on social media after the debate, with many interpreting it as a racial slur.

Clinton said she didn't want to "rip families apart. I don't want to be sending parents away from children. I don't want to see the deportation force that Donald has talked about in action in our country." Clinton pointed out that she voted for increased border security as a senator and that any violent person should be deported.

"I think we are both a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws, and that we can act accordingly and that's why I am introducing comprehensive immigration reform within the first hundred days with a path to citizenship," Clinton promised.

Russia, Vladimir Putin and WikiLeaks hack

The relatively cordial discussion on immigration reform quickly devolved into talk of the email hack into Clinton's campaign chairman's account that U.S. intelligence has said was done by Russian entities.

"They have hacked American websites, American accounts of private people, of institutions, then they have given that information to WikiLeaks for the purpose of putting it on the Internet," Clinton said. "This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government, clearly from Putin himself."

Trump, who has praised Putin repeatedly throughout the campaign, said, "I don't know Putin. He said nice things about me. If we got along well that would be good. If Russia and the United States got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good. 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 shot back: "Well, that's because he'd rather have a puppet for president than the United States and it's pretty clear."

Trump interrupted: "No puppet. You're the puppet."

And as to U.S. intelligence reports that the hacking came from Russia, Trump said Clinton has "no idea whether it's Russia, China or anybody else."

"Do you doubt 17 military and civilian agencies, as well?" Clinton asked incredulously. "He'd rather believe Vladimir Putin than the military and civilian intelligence professionals who are sworn to protect us. I find that just absolutely striking."

Then it was Trump's turn: "She doesn't like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way, excuse me. Putin has outsmarted her in Syria, he has outsmarted her every step of the way." But Trump later did say that he would "of course" condemn Russia if it was behind the hacks.

Clinton Foundation vs. Trump Foundation

The two also defended their own family's charitable endeavors. Clinton argued there was no conflict of interest between the Clinton Foundation and her work at the State Department. "It is a world-renowned charity, and I am so proud of the work that it does," she said, detailing the work it does to provide HIV/AIDS treatment.

Trump responded that it was a "criminal enterprise" that accepted foreign money from countries that don't protect women's rights and LGBT rights.

"I was at Little Haiti the other day in Florida and I want to tell you they hate the Clintons," he said. "Because what happened in Haiti with the Clinton Foundation is a disgrace."

But speaking about his own foundation, Trump said "100 percent" of the money "goes to different charities including a lot of military. I don't get anything; I don't buy boats, I don't buy planes." However, reporting from the Washington Post during the campaign has shown Trump last contributed to the foundation in 2008 and that he has used foundation money to pay legal bills and to buy a portrait of himself.

Clinton used this as a chance to attack Trump over not releasing his tax returns, a break from every other modern presidential candidate. He defended a tax loophole that allowed him to not pay federal income taxes for almost two decades.

"Hillary, what you should've done, you should've changed the law when you were a United States senator. Because your donors and your special interests are doing the same thing as I do, except even more so." Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit