In the final presidential debate on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton called for GOP nominee Donald Trump to admit and condemn Russian espionage and interference in American elections. Trump, after several minutes of back and forth, did finally condemn interference in general — but still doubted that there was interference in the first place.
Chris Wallace, the moderator, asked Clinton about a leaked copy of a speech she made years before mentioning the goal of open borders (for energy trading, not migration). Clinton responded, and then addressed the source of the hacked emails.
But you are very clearly quoting from WikiLeaks and what is important about that is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans. 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. This has come from the highest levels of the Russian government clearly from Putin himself, in an effort, as seventeen of our intelligence agencies have confirmed, to influence our election. So I actually think the most important question of this evening, Chris, is finally, will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans, which he actually encouraged in the past. Those are the questions we need answered. We’ve never had anything like this happen in any of our elections before.
Earlier this month, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said that the leaked emails “are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”
Trump retorted, “That was a great pivot off of the fact that she wants open borders, okay? When did we get off to Putin?”
Some in the audience reacted audibly to that, and moderator Chris Wallace urged them to be quiet. Trump then spoke about open borders and terrorism before pivoting back to Putin.
“I don’t know Putin,” Trump said. “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. Because we have a country with tremendous numbers of nuclear warheads, eighteen hundred by the way where they expanded and we didn’t. Eighteen hundred nuclear warheads and she’s playing chicken. Look, Putin, from everything I see has no respect for this person.”
“Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet for president than the United States and it’s pretty clear…” Clinton responded, before getting cut off by Trump.
“No puppet,” Trump replied. “You’re the puppet. No, you’re the puppet.”
Clinton then turned back to the beginning of the exchange about the source of the WikiLeaks hacked emails.
“It’s pretty clear that you won’t admit the Russians have engaged in cyber attacks against the United States of America, that you encouraged espionage against our people, that you are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do and that you continue to get help from him because he has a very clear favorite in this race,” she said. “So I think that this is such an unprecedented situation. We have never had a foreign government trying to interfere in our election. We have seventeen intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election. I find that deeply disturbing…”
Trump cut in with “She has no idea whether it’s Russia China or anybody else, she has no idea.”
Clinton said she was quoting seventeen intelligence agencies, and asked Trump if he doubted them. “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.”
“She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted at every step of the way, excuse me,” Trump repeated several times after that.
Wallace pushed Trump for a direct answer, saying, “even if you don’t know for sure whether they are, do you condemn any interference with Russia in the American election?”
Trump demurred, saying, “By Russia or anybody else.” Wallace pushed him again to say whether he condemned interference.
Trump briefly said “of course I condemn.” Then he launched into an answer where he repeated that he doesn’t know Putin, hasn’t met him, and is not best friends with him.