With America exactly three weeks from Election Day, GOP nominee Donald Trump challenged Hillary Clinton in a final showdown in Las Vegas, Nevada, Wednesday.
The third – and last – presidential debate of the election season took place at the University of Nevada. Fox News' Chris Wallace moderated. Debate topics included debt and entitlements, immigration, the economy, Supreme Court, foreign hot spots and Hillary and Trump's fitness for the presidency.
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As his guests, Trump brought Project Veritas' James O'Keefe; for Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin; President Barack Obama's Kenyan-born half-brother, Malik; and Patricia Smith, mother of Benghazi victim Sean Smith. He also invited Leslie Millwee, a woman who accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual assault on at least three separate occasions in 1980. Hillary invited well-known billionaires Meg Whitman and Mark Cuban to the event.
Supreme Court and Constitution
The debate began with a question about Supreme Court appointments and interpretation of the Constitution. Wallace said the next president could have two or three appointments and "determine the balance of the court for the next quarter century."
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Asked if the founders meant what they said about the Constitution or if it is a "living document," Hillary declined to answer the specific question.
"I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people, not on the side of the powerful corporations and wealthy," Hillary said. She said she wants a court that will reject Citizens United.
"I feel that at this point in our country's history that it is important that we not reverse marriage equality, that we not reverse Roe v. Wade … The Supreme Court should represent all of us." Hillary said she would nominate judges that represent the people.
Trump replied, "It's so imperative that we have the right justices."
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Trump said, "The Second Amendment is under siege," and he wants justices who will uphold it.
"The justices that I'm going to appoint will be pro-life. They'll have a conservative bent. … They will interpret the Constitution the way the founders intended it. … It's all about the Constitution. And so important, about how the Constitution was intended to be."
Trump has released a list of possible nominees to the Supreme Court in an effort to convince voters he would put a judge on the bench in the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
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Abortion and the states
The next issue Trump and Hillary debated was abortion. Wallace asked Trump if he wants the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
"If they overturned it, it would go back to the states," Trump said.
Wallace continued to press him with specific questions about whether he wants to see the decision overturned.
Then Trump said Roe v. Wade would likely be overturned because he would install pro-life justices on the Court.
Regarding Roe v. Wade, Hillary said, "I strongly support a woman's right to choose." She condemned states' "stringent regulations" on abortion. Hillary also blasted Trump for suggestions he would stop funding Planned Parenthood.
Asked why she voted against a ban on partial-term abortion, Hillary claimed she was thinking of the "life and health of the mother."
"I do not believe the United States government should be stepping in and making those most important positions," she said.
Trump responded, "If in the ninth month, you can take the baby and you can rip the baby out of the womb of the mother … that's not OK with me."
Immigration: 'We have some bad hombres here'
On the issue of immigration, Trump said, "We have to have strong borders. We have to keep the drugs out of our country. … We cannot give amnesty. I'm going to build a wall, we need the wall."
Trump said he would remove the illegal-alien criminals and drug traffickers from America: "We have some bad hombres here, and we're going to get them out."
Hillary claimed she doesn't want to "rip families apart."
"I have been for border security for years. I voted for border security in the Senate," she said.
Then Hillary said, "Anybody who should be deported, we should deport them."
She said she will introduce comprehensive immigration reform in her first 100 days and offer a "pathway to citizenship."
Trump noted, "Hillary Clinton wanted the wall. Hillary Clinton fought for the wall in 2006, or thereabouts. Now, she never gets anything done, so, naturally, the wall wasn't built. But Hillary Clinton wanted the wall."
Hillary shot back: "I voted for border security."
"And the wall," Trump said.
Hillary replied, "There are some limited places where that was appropriate."
"It is clear, when you look at what Donald has been proposing, he started his campaign bashing immigrants, calling Mexican immigrants rapists, criminals and drug dealers, that he has a very different view about what we should do to deal with immigrants," Hillary said.
Trump noted, "Under Obama, millions of people have been moved out of this country. They've been deported."
On Monday came news that U.S. agents caught 39,501 illegal aliens entering the U.S. in September alone, a number that's up 95 percent over last year, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report. The report revealed 9,609 of the illegals were members of family units and 5,699 were "unaccompanied children."
Condemning Russia: 'This is not my best friend'
Wallace asked Trump, "Even if you don't know for sure if they (Russia) are (behind email hacks), do you condemn any interference by Russia in the American election?"
Trump emphatically responded, "By Russia or anybody else."
Wallace asked, "Do you condemn their interference?"
"Of course I condemn! Of course," Trump said, adding, "This is not my best friend. But, if the United States got along with Russia, it wouldn't be so bad.
"Let me tell you, Putin has outsmarted her and Obama at every single step of the way. ... She has been outsmarted by Putin, and all you have to do is look at the Middle East. They've taken over. We've spent $6 trillion – they've taken over the Middle East. She has been outsmarted and outplayed worse than anybody I've ever seen in any government whatsoever."
Related columns (story continues below):
Win, lose or draw? by Joseph Farah
Hillary's got the media, Trump the issues by Ann Coulter
Christians, a President Clinton will declare war on you by Michael Brown
The G-man who can stop Hillary by Jack Cashill
Election 2016: What's a faithful Christian to do? by Stu Weber
Women: Vote with your brains, not your genitals by Jane Chastain
Hillary's hypocrisy on 'black folks' by Larry Elder
On the economy
On the economy, Hillary pledged her plans wouldn't "add a penny to the national debt."
"He's going to advocate for the largest tax cuts we've ever seen," she said. "Three times more than under the Bush administration. I have said repeatedly throughout this campaign I will not raise taxes on anyone making $250,000 or less. I also will not add a penny to the debt.
"I have costed out what I'm going to do. He will, through his massive tax cuts, add $20 trillion to the debt."
Trump replied, "Look, our country is stagnant, we've lost our jobs, we've lost our businesses, we're not making things anymore, relatively speaking. Our product is pouring in from China, pouring in from Vietnam, pouring in from all over the world. I've visited so many communities. This has been such an incredible education for me, Chris. I've gotten to know so many, I've developed so many friends over the last year, and they cry when they see what's happened.
"I passed factories that were thriving 20, 25 years ago, and because of the bill that her husband signed (NAFTA) and she blessed 100 percent, it is just horrible what's happened to these people in these communities.
"Now, she can say that her husband did well, but boy did they suffer as NAFTA kicked in. Because it didn't really kick in very much, but it kicked in after they left. Boy, did they suffer. That was one of the worst things that's ever been signed by our country. Now she wants to sign Trans-Pacific Partnership. And she wants it. She lied when she said didn't call it the gold standard in one of the debates. She totally lied."
The U.S. economy has consistently ranked as the top issue for Americans this election. According to the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of registered voters have said the economy is "very important" to their vote in November.
Fitness to be president: 'She's lied hundreds of times'
Wallace discussed nine women who have claimed Trump groped them or kissed them without their consent. He asked Trump, "Why would they all make up these stories?"
"Those stories have been largely debunked. I don't know those people."
Trump said he has a feeling Hillary's campaign brought the women into the headlines.
He pivoted to Hillary-linked agitators causing violence at Trump rallies.
Trump called the acts of violence "a criminal act" and said "people could have been killed in that riot," referencing a violent incident at a campaign event.
"Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger," Hillary charged. "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.
"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, particularly for our children and our grandchildren."
Trump responded, "Nobody has more respect for women than I do. Nobody. Nobody has more respect. And, frankly, those stories have been largely debunked. And, I really just want to talk about something slightly different."
He continued, "She mentions this, which is all fiction. All fictionalized. Probably, or possibly, started by her and her very sleazy campaign. But, I will tell you, what isn't fictionalized are her emails where she destroyed 33,000 emails. Criminally. Criminally. After getting a subpoena from the united States Congress. What happened to the FBI? I don't know.
"We have a great general. Four-star general today, you read it in all the papers, who will potentially spend five years in jail for lying to the FBI. One lie. She's lied hundreds of times. To the people, to the Congress and to the FBI.
"He's going to probably go to jail. This is a four-star general. And she gets away with it? And she can run for the presidency of the United States? That's really what you should be talking about.
Wallace asked Hillary: "At your Senate confirmation, you promised no conflict of interest with Clinton Foundation. But donors had special access, your emails show. Did you keep your pledge?"
"Everything I did as secretary of state was in furtherance of our country’s interest and our values," Hillary said. "But I am happy, in fact I am thrilled, to talk about the Clinton Foundation, because it is a world-renowned charity.”
She trailed off into a discussion of HIV/Aids treatment.
Trump replies, "It's a criminal enterprise, Saudi Arabia giving $25 million ... These are people that push gays off buildings. Why don’t you give back the money that you’ve taken from certain countries?”
"The Clinton Foundation spent 90 percent of all the money that is donated on behalf of programs around the world. I’d be happy to compare to the Trump Foundation that took money from other people and bought a six-foot portrait of Donald. I mean, who does that?"
America's national debt
The Congressional Budget Office recently issued a report revealing the $19.6 trillion national debt is expected to grow rapidly through 2026, with total budget deficits of $8.5 trillion during that period. America's national debt has more than tripled since 2000. And since Obama became president in 2009, it has soared by $9 trillion, or 85 percent. Just in the last fiscal year, it grew by $1.5 trillion.
Wallace asked, "Secretary Clinton, under your plan, debt would rise to 86 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. Mr. Trump, under your plan, they say it would rise to 105 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. The question is, why are both of you ignoring this problem?"
"Well, I said they're wrong because I'm going to create tremendous jobs," Trump replied. "We're bringing GDP from 1 percent, which is really what it is now, and if she got in it'll be less than zero, but we're bringing it from 1 percent up to four percent. And I actually think we can go higher than four percent.
"I am going to create the kind of country that we were, from the standpoint of industry. We used to be there. We've given it up. We've become very, very sloppy. We've had people that are political hacks making the biggest deals in the world. Bigger than companies. You take these big companies, these trade deals are far bigger than these companies.
"And yet, we don't use our great leaders. Many of whom back me and many of whom back Hillary, I must say. But we don't use those people. These are the greatest negotiators in the world. We have to use them to negotiate our trade deals. We use political hacks. We use people that get the position because they made a campaign contribution. And they're dealing with China and people that are much smarter than they are. ...
"We will create an economic machine the likes of which we haven't seen in many decades. And people, Chris, will again go back to work and they'll make a lot of money and we'll have companies that will grow and expand and start from new."
Watch Hillary and Trump's closing statements:
'Master of the head fake'
Going into the final debate, RealClearPolitics' poll average showed Hillary leading Trump by 6.5 points, 48.6 percent to 42.1 percent. A Quinnipiac University poll showed Hillary leading in three swing states – Colorado (45 to 37 percent), Florida (48 to 44 percent) and Pennsylvania (47 to 41 percent) – and tied with Trump in the swing state of Ohio (45 percent). An Investor's Business Daily poll released before the debate showed Trump leading Clinton by 1 percent nationally.
Trump campaign CEO Steve Bannon told CNN Wednesday that Trump is "master of the head fake." He added, "Right now, he really, really thinks he's going to win [the election]. What the media misses is the amount of anger that's out there. Trump didn't create that."
If America believes Trump delivered a strong performance in the debate, the GOP nominee could see a boost in his poll numbers in the wake of an onslaught of mainstream media reports accusing him of making unwanted sexual advances toward women decades ago.
Meanwhile, many of those news organizations have devoted minimal or no coverage to explosive revelations contained in a new FBI report on her email scandal, a series of Hillary secret speech transcripts and emails released by WikiLeaks and new Project Veritas undercover videos of a Democrat operative bragging that his party has been rigging elections "for 50 years" and admitting that his agents and cohorts are intentionally "starting anarchy" by creating "conflict engagement ... in the lines at Trump rallies."
Another video reveals convicted felon Robert Creamer – a consultant with close ties to the Hillary campaign and the White House – discussing methods of committing large-scale voter fraud. Creamer has reportedly visited the White House 342 times, including meetings in the Oval Office and the Obama family's residence.
Clinton and WikiLeaks revelations
WikiLeaks has released at least 15,000 Hillary campaign emails revealing anti-Catholic sentiment, collusion with journalists on media coverage and strategies to court black voters and billionaire donors. In a revelation Wednesday, it was reported a Hillary aide warned it would be "really dicey" for her to push tougher bribery laws. Another email revealed more evidence Donna Brazile was helping Hillary attack Bernie Sanders. Yet another 2015 email from Hillary campaign manager Robby Mook proposed branding Republicans as "bigoted and extreme": "I think branding the GOP as bigoted and extreme is more in line with our bigger picture, long term goals, so I would favor sticking with asking why they didn't speak out against [Trump]."
The hacktivist group also published many of Hillary's secret transcripts of speeches she made to Goldman Sachs.
In one $225,000 speech made to the National Multi-Housing Council in 2013, Hillary explained, "Politics is like sausage being made. It's unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody's watching ... then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position."
In yet another $225,000 speech to Brazilian Banco Itau in New York City in 2013, Hillary said, "My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere."
Shortly after WikiLeaks published the transcripts of speeches to Goldman Sachs, news came that WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the embassy in West London since 2012 over Swedish rape charges, had his Internet access cut off by Ecuador. Assange has vowed to release documents "every week" until Election Day on Nov. 8.
Earlier this month, allegations surfaced claiming Hillary once suggested silencing Assange by executing him with a planned drone strike in 2010, when Hillary was secretary of state.
WikiLeaks retweeted a report by the True Pundit blog indicating Hillary, during a State Department meeting, had asked, "Can't we just drone this guy?"