U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican rival Donald Trump clashed in a fiery debate on October 9, with Trump vowing to “jail” the Democratic nominee if he is elected and Clinton assailing her rival’s character and denouncing him as unfit for the White House.
In an acrimonious duel, Clinton and Trump traded blows over a video released days earlier in which Trump was heard talking about kissing and groping women and making other uninvited advances, Clinton’s handling of classified materials, and Russia’s alleged attempts to interfere in the November 8 election.
The debate at Washington University in St. Louis came just two days after the 2005 video with Trump’s crude remarks was leaked to the media, plunging the Republican Party into crisis as prominent lawmakers and governors in the party publicly said they would not vote for Trump.
Responding to the outcry over the video at the start of the debate, Trump called the comments he made nothing more than “locker-room talk.”
He added that he is “not proud” of the remarks but that the rise of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group and “the carnage all over the world” are more pressing issues for the United States.
He denied that he had actually committed any of the actions that he bragged about on the tape.
WATCH: Trump Threatens To Jail Clinton If He Wins
He said that U.S. President Bill Clinton, his opponent’s husband who had been accused of sexual misconduct, had done "far worse" to women.
"Mine are words and his are action," Trump said.
Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, said during the debate that the video is further evidence that Trump is unfit for the White House.
"He has said the video doesn't represent who he is, but I think it's clear to anyone who heard it that it represents exactly who he is," she said in response to Trump.
The release of the video on October 7 came after a Reuters-Ipsos poll earlier that day showed Clinton leading Trump by five percentage points in the race.
The fireworks and viscerally bad blood between the two continued as they debated other issues, including Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server during her tenure as secretary of state during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term.
Trump vowed that if elected, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.
WATCH: Clinton Suggests Russia Working For Trump To Win
Clinton hit back by saying it was a "good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country," to which Trump replied: "Because you'd be in jail."
Clinton also accused Russia, which has become a central issue in the election amid Washington’s battered ties with Moscow over the Ukraine crisis and the Syria conflict, of orchestrating cyberattacks against U.S. organizations and individuals in order to help Trump get elected.
She said that recent cyberattacks, which Washington has accused Moscow of ordering, are part of an unprecedented campaign of interference in a U.S. election by a foreign power.
“We have never in the history of our country been in a situation where an adversary, a foreign power, is working so hard to influence the outcome of the election. And believe me, they’re not doing it to get me elected. They're doing it to try to influence the election for Donald Trump,” Clinton said.
Her claim came two days after the Obama administration for the first time accused the Russian government of directing the recent cyberattacks and leaks seemingly aimed at disrupting the election.
She suggested that Russians were behind a fresh dump of stolen digital documents -- some of which related to her views on trade and open borders, as well as financial reform -- that included private e-mails among her staff written as recently as the past few months.
Trump, who has spoken approvingly of Russian President Vladimir Putin and supports improving ties with Moscow, responded during the debate by calling Clinton’s assertion “so ridiculous.”
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in the cyberattacks.
With reporting by Reuters, dpa, AFP, and NPR