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Third Presidential Debate

The staff of The Intercept analyzed the final, terrible televised confrontation between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Last updated 3 years ago

Trump blithely craps on America’s most important tradition

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump walks off stage after the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The United States is unique in many ways, but the most important is that we have had 240 years of uninterrupted peaceful, democratic transitions of power. The military follows civilian orders, so we’ve never had a coup. Presidents who are voted out leave office, so we’ve never had an armed revolution.

No other country in the world comes close. It’s by far American citizens’ most valuable political inheritance.

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that Donald Trump just declared that he’s happy to throw it all away, like an underperforming casino or a 40-year-old first wife.

When asked by moderator Chris Wallace whether he would “absolutely accept the result of the election,” Trump replied “I will look at it at the time” — and then launched into a long diatribe about how the election is unfairly rigged against him.

Trump’s tantrum has to be viewed in the context of this American history:

Almost all revolutions end up with the winners clinging onto power until they’re forcibly dislodged. The most remarkable thing about the American Revolution is not that George Washington took office but that he voluntarily left office after two terms.

The U.S. went on to develop a tradition of accepting election results even under the most shocking conditions. For instance, during the final stretches of the 1968 president race between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey, President Johnson learned that Nixon had been privately negotiating with the government of South Vietnam to prolong the war and prevent a peace deal that would help Humphrey.

Johnson considered making the information public. However, his advisor Clark Clifford counseled him that “some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have [Nixon] elected. It could cast his whole administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our country’s best interests.”

In 2000, Al Gore conceded to George W. Bush even though Gore has won the popular vote, even though the Florida recount was conducted in a state governed by Bush’s brother Jeb, and even though one of the five justices on the Supreme Court voting to halt the recount had been appointed by Bush’s father.

Here’s what Gore said after he called Bush:

Stephen Douglas told Abraham Lincoln, who had just defeated him for the presidency, “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism. I’m with you, Mr. President, and God bless you.”

Well, in that same spirit, I say to president-elect Bush that what remains of partisan rancour must now be put aside, and may God bless his stewardship of this country.

Lots of people and things get called “un-American” and it’s almost never true. But Donald Trump is genuinely, deeply un-American.

Trump promise to keep Americans “in suspense” over accepting results stuns viewers

For many observers, the most shocking moment of the night was Donald Trump refusing to offer a clear statement that he would accept the results of the election.

Asked by the moderator, Chris Wallace, if he would say “that you will absolutely accept the result of the selection,” Trump refused to answer and digressed into complaints common in right-wing media about non-existent voter fraud.

“But sir, there is a tradition in this country,” Wallace interjected, “that no matter how hard fought a campaign is, that at the end of the campaign, that the loser concedes to the winner — not saying that you are necessarily going to be the you loser or the winner — but that the loser concedes to the winner and that the country comes together in part for the good of the country. Are you saying that you are not prepared now to commit to that principle?”

Trump answered: “What I’m saying is, I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?”

Hillary Clinton then jumped in, saying, “that is horrifying.”

The horror was shared across the political spectrum on social networks, even prompting rebukes from Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Laura Ingraham, a dedicated Trump supporter.

Political reporters suggested that Trump dodging the question would be the headline in many newspapers. Indeed the Wall Street Journal quickly obliged.

A short time later, Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, sought to defuse the threat by saying, “Donald Trump will accept the results of the election because Donald Trump is going to win the election.”

This conservative special interest group has been cited four times during the debates

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an organization that advocates for debt reduction, has been cited four times during the course of the debates — an astounding amount of influence for just one special interest group.

During the debate tonight, moderator Chris Wallace cited CRFB twice to ask about the national debt. During his first question, Wallace claimed that “the Committee for Federal — Responsible Federal Budget has looked at both of your plans and they say neither of you have a serious plan that is going to solve the fact” that Medicare and Social Security are running out of money.

During the vice presidential debate earlier this month, moderator Elaine Quijano cited the group twice to ask nearly identical questions about the national debt and entitlements as those that came up tonight.

CRFB has been funded for many years by the billionaire Pete Peterson and is dedicated to raising fears about the national debt. The group has faced accusations that it has spread irresponsible fears about the national debt and promoted policies that would depress economic growth while rolling back vital welfare benefits. As my colleague Zaid Jilani has pointed out in the past, the debt is in fact fairly low and debt reduction should not be a high priority. Economist Dean Baker has noted that interest payments on the debt are currently less than 1.0 percent of GDP.

Wikileaks emails were stolen, but Clinton should still have to answer for them

When Chris Wallace asked Hillary Clinton to respond to an excerpt from the transcript of one of her paid speeches released by Wikileaks, she did not deny that it was accurate, or challenge the transcript’s authenticity. Instead, she quickly pivoted to saying the hacking came “clearly from Putin himself” and accusing Trump of being a Russian “puppet.”

“What is important about that is that the Russian government has engaged in espionage against Americans,” said Clinton.

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19:  Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate on Oct. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images


There are many questions about how Wikileaks obtained emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, and what it has done with them. But just because the emails may have been hacked by a foreign power does not mean Clinton should not have to answer for their contents.

Among other things, the Wikileaks emails show Clinton smearing the anti-fracking movement as a Russian-backed conspiracy, and saying that Wall Street reform should come from industry executives. When asked about those comments, she should not be able to deflect by pointing to how they were disclosed.

Richard Nixon adopted similar distraction tactics in response to the Pentagon Papers, accusing the New York Times of printing “stolen goods.” Many of the most influential leaks in U.S. history have come from stolen property — like when activists in 1970 broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, and discovered that agents were infiltrating activist groups.

The Wikileaks disclosures may have been a grand strategy by Russia to influence the U.S. election. That does not mean that Clinton gets a free pass for what she said while touring the country, getting paid millions of dollars to give closed-door speeches to moneyed interest groups

Donald Trump claims Iraq is trying to retake Mosul from ISIS just to help Hillary Clinton

As the debate turned to wars in the Middle East, it became apparent that Donald Trump has the sort of grasp on military matters that can be gained from watching old movies, but little idea of the geopolitical realities of the situation.

In a discussion of the current Iraqi government offensive to retake Mosul — the country’s second-largest city — from ISIS, Trump repeated his frequent lament that the U.S. no longer engaged in sneak attacks, like those he said the American generals Douglas MacArthur and George Patton would have favored.

He then claimed that the offensive to recapture Mosul was driven purely by a desire to help Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“I’m just amazed that he seems to think the Iraqi government and our allies and everybody else launched the attack on Mosul to help me in this election,” Clinton replied.

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19:  Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) debates with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images


When the moderator, Chris Wallace, noted that Trump said in the previous debate that the Syrian city of Aleppo “has basically fallen,” even though it had not, the candidate interrupted, saying “Its a catastrophe — have you seen it? Have you seen what happened to Aleppo?”

As the back-and-forth progressed, it became clear that Trump seemed to have no idea that the word “fallen,” in this case, means that the city had been taken over by one of the two warring factions. Instead, he appeared to think the word was simply a way of saying that bad things are happening there.

The Clinton Foundation’s work in Haiti is a scandal, not just a talking point

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19:  Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton proudly defended the Clinton Foundation’s work during a heated back and forth during the debate, shrugging off Donald Trump’s charge that “what happened in Haiti with the Clinton Foundation is a disgrace.”

But Trump had a point.

As The Nation reported in 2011, many of the shelters built by the Clinton Foundations in Haiti following the devastating earthquake the previous year were plagued with problems including being laced with formaldehyde that caused health problems for the residents. The foundation said that the trailers they provided in Haiti, which have been used as classrooms, would also be “hurricane-proof.” But experts have said that they were structurally unsound, and posed a danger to residents.

Clinton did not reference the trailer scandal, instead boasting that, “Bill and I have been involved in trying to help Haiti for many years. The Clinton Foundation raised $30 million to help Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake and all of the terrible problems the people there had.”

Chris Wallace bungles sexual assault question

Debate moderator Chris Wallace asked why women would come forward with sexual assault allegations against him, opening the door for Trump to discredit the accusers.

“Why would so many different women in so many difference circumstances… make up these stories?” Wallace asked.

As we’ve noted before, cable news hosts have helped spread the notion that it was political motivations that spurred the accusers to come forward. In fact, several of the accusers explained exactly why they came forward: the release of the Access Hollywood tape with Trump’s boasts about serial groping, followed by his denial at the last debate.

Wallace noted nine women who have come forward with sexual assault allegations, a low estimate.

Trump’s own answer was far from satisfactory.  “I think they want either fame, or her campaign did it,” he said.

“I didn’t apologize to my wife,” about the sexual assault allegations he said. He did, however, apologize to Melania over his comments on the 2005 Billy Bush tape.

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19:  Fox News anchor and moderator Chris Wallace waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Fox News anchor and moderator Chris Wallace waits for the start of the third U.S. presidential debate on Oct. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Trump says the U.S. doesn’t know who hacked Democrats, contradicting U.S. intelligence

In an exchange about the hacked emails published by Wikileaks, Donald Trump insisted that Hillary Clinton was wrong to assert that the hacking of Democrats’ emails was directed by Russia, as the Director of National Intelligence asserted earlier this month.

Trump replied, “She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China or anybody else. She has no idea. Hillary, you have no idea. Our country has no idea.”

U.S. intelligence officials have not made public any proof to support their attribution of responsibility to Russia, but an unnamed U.S. intelligence official told NBC News last week that the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election have come up in the security briefings given to both nominees for the presidency. “To profess not to know at this point is willful misrepresentation,” the official said.

Being skeptical of intelligence community assessments is arguably a good thing — but in this case, Trump’s argument sounded more like defensive know-nothingism.

Donald Trump now accepts Saudi Arabia’s lobby cash

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19:  Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump adjusts the microphone during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump adjusts his microphone during the third U.S. presidential debate on Oct. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


During the debate, Donald Trump attempted to shame Hillary Clinton over the Clinton Foundation’s decision to raise funds from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other foreign governments.

“Why don’t you give back the money,” Trump demanded, calling the foundation a “criminal enterprise.”

The latest filing from Trump Victory, his presidential campaign committee, reveal that Trump now receives donations from lobbyists associated with the very regimes Trump denounced on stage.

Marc Lampkin, a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, gave recently to the Trump campaign. Lobbyists for BGR Group, another firm representing the Saudi government, have given to the Trump campaign.

Donald Trump’s “high representatives of India” are Bollywood stars and some Indian-Americans

Donald Trump cited some “high representatives of India” he recently met in his discussion about that country’s economic growth rate and the need for more economic growth in the United States.

Trump was apparently referring to an event with Republican Hindu-Americans in Edison, New Jersey. The gathering featured Bollywood stars, Indian-American Republican activists, and other assorted backers of the Republican Hindu Coalition — certainly a segment of Indian civic strata, but not high representatives of the Indian government.

“I am a big fan of Hindu and I am a big fan of India,” Trump told the audience.

TOPSHOT - Signs expressing Hindu support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are seen during a Hindu political organization's anti-terror fundraiser, October 15, 2016, in Edison, NJ. / AFP / DOMINICK REUTER        (Photo credit should read DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

Signs expressing Hindu support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are placed on chairs at a Hindu political organization’s anti-terror fundraiser on Oct. 15, 2016, in Edison, New Jersey.

Photo: Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images

What Obama’s record deportations look like

Donald Trump noted during the third presidential debate that the Democratic president, Barack Obama has deported millions of people. Indeed, Obama has deported more people than any modern president. Reuters illustrates this:

Trump says woman’s right to choose will be overturned “automatically”

Donald Trump said Roe v. Wade would be overturned “automatically” if he became president.

 

 

Trump mistakes C-section for abortion

Speaking about his opposition to abortion, Donald Trump baffled many listeners by appearing to confuse late-term abortion with a C-section.

“I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby,” Trump said.

Every presidential debate has ignored in-depth discussions of racial justice

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 19:  A candidates podium seen prior to the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tonight is the final debate ahead of Election Day on November 8.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A candidate’s podium seen prior to the start of the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas Mack Center on Oct. 19, 2016, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Here’s one thing you won’t see tonight: an in-depth discussion of racial justice and what it will take to make America a place where people of all backgrounds and treated fairly.

In the two prior presidential debates and one vice presidential debate, the closest we’ve seen was a question in the vice-presidential debate about “race relations” — specifically relationships between ethnic minorities and the police.

But the phrase “race relations” suggests that the root problem is a lack of comity between people of different racial backgrounds, rather than recognizing that the lack of comity is one symptom of a larger problem of racial inequalities and injustice.

Here’s some important facts about racial justice in America:

  • Nearly two out of every five black kids live in poverty, a rate three times as high as white kids.
  • White median household wealth is nearly 13 times higher than black household wealth, with Hispanics only slightly ahead of African Americans.
  • African Americans are incarcerated at six times the rate of white Americans.
  • Systemic inequalities that are often drawn along racial lines have created an immense human toll. The black homicide rate is almost seven times as high as the white homicide rate. In New Orleans, “54 percent of children ages 10 to 16 have had a close friend or relative murdered and nearly 40 percent have witnessed domestic violence.”

Discussion of these issues is mired in rhetorical landmines, and rubs up against many of the taboos of American political discussion. But it may be the “necessary trouble” that is needed to create an America where racial equality isn’t just a slogan but a reality.

Trump’s crazy idea for pre-debate drug testing came from the alt-right

Somewhat lost in the pre-debate circus orchestrated by Donald Trump’s campaign is the deeply weird suggestion he made on Saturday that he and Hillary Clinton should be tested for performance-enhancing drugs.

The idea made sense, Trump claimed, because presidential candidates “are like athletes,” in some unexplained way, and athletes these days need to prove that they are not using medication to gain an unfair advantage.

Speaking in New Hampshire, Trump suggested that a drug test was necessary because he suspected that Clinton was preparing for the debate by “getting pumped up for Wednesday night.”

He went on to say that “we should take a drug test prior to the debate … because I don’t know what’s going on with her, but at the beginning of her last debate she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like … she could barely reach her car.”

Leaving aside Trump’s odd take on the previous debate — perhaps Clinton simply tired of him yelling at her for 90 minutes — where did his bizarre concept of a pre-debate drug test come from?

It turns out that the idea has been something of a meme among Trump’s alt-right supporters all year, playing on the fabricated notion that Clinton is suffering from some serious illness.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, suggestions that Clinton must be somehow using drugs to enhance her performance seem to spike every time she gets a boost in the polls after a convincing public appearance, such as her acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, and her obliteration of Trump in the first debate.

The idea is so engrained in the alternative universe around Trump’s campaign, in fact, that a pro-Trump Super PAC even produced a television commercial on the theme a week before the candidate introduced it into his act in New Hampshire.

Donald Trump’s picks for SCOTUS look to Scalia legacy

Donald Trump has promised to pick Supreme Court judges “very much in the mold of Justice Scalia.” He released his list of SCOTUS picks in May with the help of the the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. He’s continued to add to the list.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 1: Justice Joan Larsen of the Michigan Supreme Court and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at his memorial service at the Mayflower Hotel March 1, 2016 in Washington, DC. Justice Scalia died February 13 while on a hunting trip in Texas. (Photo by Susan Walsh-Pool/Getty Images)

Justice Joan Larsen of the Michigan Supreme Court and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaks at his memorial service at the Mayflower Hotel March 1, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Photo: Susan Walsh/Getty Images


Judicial Crisis Network Director Carrie Severino is impressed. “Donald Trump continues to take unprecedented steps to demonstrate that he intends to appoint justices like Scalia, Thomas and Alito,” she said.

Here are some of the people he might want:

  • Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady, who coined the term “partial-birth abortion” in 1995.
  • U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Timothy Tymkovich, who wrote the Tenth Circuit’s opinion in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby — which allowed certain corporations to opt out of covering their employees’ contraceptive care.
  • Michigan State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young, who was endorsed by the Tea Party.
  • Joan Larsen, of the Michigan Supreme Court, who was a law clerk for Scalia.
  • Utah Senator Mike Lee, who recently urged Trump to drop out, and whose spokesperson said he “already has the job he wants.”
  • He hasn’t been on an official list, but Peter Thiel, an investor, is rumored to be a choice. He recently gave $1.25 million to Trump’s campaign.

 

Russia or Putin have been mentioned 45 times more than climate change in the debates so far

Journalist Adam Johnson composed a chart of what’s been mentioned — and what’s been left out — of the general election presidential debates so far. Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin have saturated the discussion.

 

Chris Wallace propaganda aims at cutting Social Security and Medicare

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27:  Chris Wallace takes part in an interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on  "FOX News Sunday" at the FOX News D.C. Bureau on July 27, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

Chris Wallace

Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Chris Wallace, anchor of Fox News Sunday and tonight’s moderator, has selected six topics for tonight’s debate.

The first, “debt and entitlements,” is pure D.C. propaganda.

To start with, most normal Americans don’t know “entitlements” means Social Security and Medicare. So when Wallace asks, as he surely will, whether we need to get the cost of “entitlements” under control, they won’t immediately realize he’s talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits.

More importantly, there’s no more reason to link the U.S. national debt with Social Security and Medicare than there is to link it with  other things, such as our wars or deregulation of the financial industry.

The U.S. government spends about $2.2 trillion a year on Social Security and Medicare. That sounds like a lot until you realize that the Iraq War will eventually cost us about $6 trillion and the 2007 recession caused by Wall Street has cost us about $8 trillion in lost output — and counting.

Even more important, our spending on Social Security and Medicare gets us healthy, living citizens. For the Iraq War and the recession we’ve gotten much worse than nothing.

GOP megadonor Adelson has provided 95% of the funds for Nevada’s anti-pot campaign

Prior to tonight’s debate, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump sat down for a private meeting with one of the party’s largest donors, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson — who lives in Nevada, the state of tonight’s debate.

Adelson is known for his Nevada-based Sands casino empire and support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, but he is also bankrolling anti-marijuana legalization campaigns across America.

Campaign finance record filed last night show that Adelson has provided $2 million to the campaign against Nevada’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative95 percent of the total funds the campaign has raised.

As world cooks, no questions scheduled on global warming

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Illustration:

The Nib/Nibmoji

It was 83 degrees yesterday in New York City, the highest temperature ever recorded on that date. Last month was the hottest September in recorded history. 2016 will almost certainly be the hottest year in recorded history.

However, none of the six debate topics chosen by moderator Chris Wallace involve global warming or the environment. This is fine.

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