Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton speak during the presidential debate...

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton speak during the presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. Credit: Sipa USA / Getty Images

Republican Donald Trump took the gloves off early in the first presidential debate, while Democrat Hillary Clinton countered, landing her own punches in the highly anticipated faceoff, which some pundits said could swing the close election.

While most commentators expected the nominees to be wary of each other at first, it took only about 10 minutes for each to go on the attack in a televised clash that was expected to draw a record global audience.

Clinton accused Trump of hiding something “terrible” by refusing to release his tax returns, which presidential candidates commonly do, in a debate that at times was so raucous that moderator Lester Holt lost control as both candidates shouted over him.

“Donald, I know you live in your own reality,” Clinton said at one point.

“We have no leadership, and honestly that starts with Secretary Clinton,” Trump said.

“I have a feeling by the end of this evening I will be blamed for everything,” Clinton said with a laugh.

“Why not?” Trump shot back.

Both candidates appeared to slow themselves down midway through the debate.

Clinton continued her lengthy explanations of topics including lethal interactions between police and young black men, and detailed her immigration policies.

Late in the debate, Trump tried to make the case that he would make tough decisions to defeat terrorism and protect America, which he said Clinton failed to do as secretary of state.

Trump tried to turn criticism of his temperament, which included name-calling and threats during the primaries, into an asset.

“I have much better judgment than her, no question about that,” Trump said. “I also much better temperament than her. . . . I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. I know how to win. She doesn’t.”

“Woo! OK,” Clinton said with a smile, again dismissing his policy positions as simplistic. She said a man who can be enraged by a tweet shouldn’t have access to nuclear weapons.

In one of his final shots, Trump raised the health issue that he has fueled since Sept. 11 when she physically stumbled. Her campaign blamed it on pneumonia.

“I don’t believe she has the stamina,” Trump said. “To be president of this country you have to have the stamina.”

When Trump travels to 100 countries and testifies 11 hours straight before Congress, “then he can talk to me about stamina,” she responded.

Clinton brought a slim lead that’s eroded in recent weeks to the debate at Hofstra University. A McClatchy-Marist poll on Friday showed a 7-point lead among likely voters while six other polls tracked by Real Clear Politics found Clinton led by 1 percentage point up to 6 points.

The 90-minute debate got underway at 9 p.m. and was divided into three sections: America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity and Securing America. It was split into six 15-minute sections with one candidate having 2 minutes to answer the question, then the other candidate responding for 2 minutes, and the remaining time was used for back-and-forth.


Clinton said “We want to invest in you,” and said “We have to make the economy fairer” by raising the minimum wage and profit-sharing with employees. She said the country has to help people balance work with family.

She also said she is for paid family leave, earned sick days and debt-free college tuition.

She said, “Donald, it’s good to be with you.”

Trump said, “Our jobs are fleeing the country.” He said other countries are “using our country as a piggy bank.” He cited Ford’s small car division leaving and going overseas. He said he agreed with Clinton on child care and stressed that “we have to stop jobs from being stolen from us.”

“Under my plan I will be reducing taxes tremendously. . . . That is going to be a job creator.” He said new companies will start and old companies will expand.

Trump stressed the need to renegotiate trade deals. “What I am saying is we can stop them from leaving,” referring to other countries.

Clinton said eight years ago the economy was the result of a “perfect storm,” with Trump as a contributor. “Nine million people lost their jobs. . . . We have come back from the abyss . . . but the last thing we need to do is go back to the policies that failed us in the first place.” She said Trump’s tax plan would “blow up the debt” and could trigger another recession.

The county had the worst financial crisis since the 1930s eight years ago, Clinton said. It was because leaders slashed taxes for the wealthy, among other things.

“Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis,” she said.

“That’s called business, by the way,” Trump interjected amid some of her comments.

She said Trump’s plan would blow up the debt by $5 trillion and make us lose 3 1⁄2 million jobs.

“Donald thinks climate change is a hoax” invented by the Chinese, she said, which Trump denied.

Trump said the Obama administration has only increased the country’s debt. “We have to do a much better job at keeping our jobs . . . and giving companies incentives to build new companies and expand.”

He went after Clinton for the NAFTA trade deal that President Bill Clinton signed.

“You called it the gold standard of trade deals,” he said.

But Clinton said her opinion changed.

“Donald, I know you live in your own reality.”

“You are going to drive jobs out,” Trump said, adding“You are going to regulate these businesses out of business.”

“Your plans would add $5 trillion to the debt,” Clinton said.

His opponent would raise taxes $1.3 trillion, Trump counterclaimed.


Trump said his plan will mean the wealthy are going to create jobs. He said the wealthy are leaving the country because taxes are too high. “They can’t bring their money back into our country because of bureaucratic red tape,” he said.

Clinton accused Trump of saying “crazy things” and said his tax proposal would not accomplish those goals.

“You have the Trump loophole because it would so advantage you and the business you do. . . . It’s a tax benefit for your family.”

“Trickle-down didn’t work. . . . It got us into the mess we had,” she said, adding, “I don’t think top-down works in America. . . . Investing in the middle-class . . . those are the kinds of things that will really boost the economy . . . not more advantages for people at the very top.”

Trump responded “Typical politician.”

Trump, commenting on releasing his tax returns, said he would disclose them after an audit. “I will say this. . . . I will release my taxes, against my lawyer’s wishes, as soon as she releases those 33,000 emails that have been deleted.”

Clinton called Trump’s comments a “bait and switch.”

He said presidential candidates should release their tax returns. “Maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Maybe he’s not as charitable as he says he is,” she said, and maybe he “has paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Trump responded: “That makes me smart.”

Clinton said using her private email was a mistake and “I take responsibility for that.”

“This is something the American people deserve to see,” Clinton said. “There is something he is hiding.”

“I made a mistake using a private email. It was a mistake and I take responsibility,” Clinton said.

“That was not a mistake. That was done purposely,” Trump said. “This country thinks it’s disgraceful.”


Clinton said, “Unfortunately race still determines too much.” She pointed to police shootings of black men in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, that have triggered widespread protests. “We have to restore trust between communities and the police. . . . Make sure they are prepared to use force only when necessary. . . . Everyone should respect the law.”

She said her platform would remedy problems in the criminal justice system. “We have to bring communities together . . . and get guns out of the hands” of people who shouldn’t have them. “We have to tackle the problem of gun violence.”

Trump responded, “We need law and order in our country” and pointed to his endorsement by the Fraternal Order of Police. “Our inner cities . . . African-Americans, Hispanics are living in hell. You walk down the street and you get shot.”

He said “stop and frisk” strategies may have to be employed.

He added there needs to be a better relationship between the community and the police. “So there’s some really bad things going on. We need law and order in the inner cities. . . . It’s very unfair to them, what our politicians are allowing to happen.”

Clinton said Trump paints a “negative” picture of black communities, which elicited an audible sigh from Trump.

“There’s a lot we have to be proud of,” she said, adding that stop and frisk was ineffective and unconstitutional.

“If you’re a young African-American man and you do the same thing as a young white man,” the black man is more likely to get arrested, she said, adding you have to address that inequality and “do more than just saying ‘law and order.’ ”

She said “our police are outgunned” and urged “comprehensive” background checks.

She said “implicit bias” is inherent in not just the police, but the country. “When it comes to policing, since it could have fatal consequences,” police should be retrained to deal with such bias. “They want more support, they want more training” and the federal government can supply it.

Trump said Clinton used the term “superpredator” with regard to young black youth. He said stop and frisk had a “tremendous impact” on bringing down crime in New York City.

Asked about Trump’s longtime claim that President Barack Obama was not born in United States — which he recently recanted — Clinton said, “He tried to put the whole birther lie to bed,” but it was a “racist” attack on the first black president.

“There was absolutely no evidence for it,” she said.

“When they go low we go high,” she said, recalling Michelle Obama’s words, and Barack Obama “went high” in his response to those attacks, she said.

She cited a lawsuit that Trump settled over allegations by the federal government that he refused to rent to blacks.

Asked about racial healing, Trump said, “I think I have developed very good relationships over the last little while with the African-American community.”

He said Clinton is trying to act “holier than thou” despite her efforts to attack Obama during her last presidential campaign.


Clinton said cyberwarfare will be a great challenge to the next president. She said it was important to “make clear” that “state actors” can’t go after private citizens’ information online and cited Russian hackers. She said Trump had “invited” Russian hackers to go online and said it was an example of how he was unfit to be president.

Trump has befriended Russian President Vladimir Putin, Clinton said.

Putin’s government has hacked into files in the U.S., she said.

She said she was “shocked” when Trump invited Putin to hack into U.S. computers.

Trump responded by citing his endorsement of various admirals and generals as opposed to the “political hacks” who have led the country. He said it could have been other countries or “someone sitting in their bed who weighs 400 pounds” who hacked computers.

‘Whether that was Russia, whether that was China, we don’t know” and said “Under President Obama, we have lost control.”


Clinton stressed the need to defeat ISIS and cited the killing of Osama bin Laden, in which she played a role.

Trump said Obama and Clinton “created a vacuum” in Iraq and it led to the formation of ISIS. “They wouldn’t have even been formed” if troops had been left in Iraq.

Clinton said Trump supported the invasion of Iraq, which prompted Trump to say “Wrong!”

The U.S. is working with Muslim-majority countries to fight terrorism, she said, adding that Trump’s rhetoric is harming our relations with these countries

She said President George W. Bush decided when troops should leave Iraq, not Obama.

Trump said of NATO that many countries are not paying their “fair share” and it “could be obsolete” soon. He said the organization had focused on terrorism “largely” because he had criticized them for not doing that.

“You’re talking about taking out ISIS, you were there when it was an infant” and now it has grown and “You’re going to stop ISIS?” he asked Clinton.

He vehemently denied supporting the war in Iraq, citing his opposition as recorded in several interviews with personalities and Fox television host Sean Hannity.

Trump added “I have a much better temperament than she does. . . . I have a winning temperament. She does not know how to win.” He said Clinton was “totally out of control” at times.

Clinton, saying “Whew!” at her opponent’s claims, added that the 28 nations of NATO said they would support the U.S. in Afghanistan to fight terror after 9/11.

Iran was weeks away from making a nuclear bomb, Clinton said, saying she supported tough sanctions against Iran.

Trump has a “cavalier” attitude about nuclear weapons, she said, and would be a dangerous person to have a finger on the nuclear button.

She said Trump’s “attitude toward nuclear weapons” is deeply “troubling.”

Trump responded that the single greatest problem the world has is the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

“The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems,” Trump said.

Clinton said “words matter” and said “I want to reassure our allies” that America will honor mutual defense treaties.

She said the deal with Iran “put a lid” on nuclear weapons and gave the U.S. access to nuclear facilities.

She accused Trump of failing to specify what kind of deal he would have negotiated.

“We cannot let those who would try to destabilize the world . . . interfere with American interests,” Clinton said.

Trump said, “I want to help all of our allies,” but added the U.S. should not be the policeman of the world.

He said Clinton should have “taken care of” the problems she wants to address while she was secretary of state.

He said Clinton “doesn’t have the stamina” to be president and to negotiate trade deals with various countries.

Clinton said “As soon as he travels to 112 countries and negotiates a trade deal, a cease fire” or spends “11 hours testifying in front of a congressional committee, then you can talk to me about stamina.”

Trump responded, “She’s got experience, but it’s bad experience . . . and this country can’t afford to have another four years of that experience.”

Clinton said Trump was a sexist who called women “pigs, slobs and dogs.”

Trump believes women don’t deserve equal pay, she said, and called one woman Miss Piggy, she said.

Trump said he was “going to say something extremely rough” at one point in the campaign about Clinton and her family, but refrained from doing so, while she spent hundreds of millions on negative ads that “aren’t true.”

He said “It’s not nice.”


Clinton said she would support the winner and urged people to vote “to determine the future of the country.”

Trump said he wanted to “make America great again.”

“If she wins, I will absolutely support her.”

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