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Clinton, Trump Clash Over Russia In Final U.S. Presidential Debate

  • RFE/RL

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrive on stage for the third and final presidential debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas on October 19.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (left) and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrive on stage for the third and final presidential debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas on October 19.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clashed over Russia in their final debate of the campaign, with Clinton directly accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering cyberattacks to help her Republican rival win.

The sparring over Russia was one of several fierce exchanges on October 19 during a debate in which Trump, who claims the election is being "rigged" by the media and the U.S. political establishment to keep him out of the White House, refused to say he would accept the results of the November 8 election.

Clinton alleged that the string of cyberattacks targeting U.S. political organizations and prominent individuals were "clearly" ordered by "Putin himself" in order to swing the election in Trump's favor.

She said that the Russian president considers Trump, who has spoken warmly of Putin and advocated a warming of battered ties between Washington and Moscow, a potential "puppet" in the White House.

As he has previously done, Trump rejected the allegation that Moscow is trying to meddle in the election on his behalf and accused Clinton of trying to shift the discussion on immigration during which their sharp exchange over Russia erupted.

He said that Putin did not respect Clinton or U.S. President Barack Obama and had "outsmarted" both of them "at every single step of the way."

U.S. officials have accused Moscow of coordinating the cyberattacks, including on the Democratic National Committee, ahead of the election.

WATCH: Clinton, Trump Clash Over Russia

During the debate, Clinton accused Russia of handing the stolen information to the antisecrecy website Wikileaks, which has published troves of e-mails from her campaign.

WikiLeaks on October 15 released hacked transcripts of paid speeches she made to Wall Street firms in which she avoided directly criticizing the powerful U.S. finance industry for causing the 2008 financial crisis.

Those and other leaked e-mails have raised questions about Clinton’s authenticity and trustworthiness, though the electoral map currently leans in her favor.

Trump said he would condemn Russia "or anyone else" who was behind the cyberattacks, but added that Clinton "has no idea whether it's Russia, China, or anybody else" responsible.

The Kremlin has repeatedly rejected accusations that the Russian government is behind the cyberattacks and trying to meddle in the U.S. election.

Groping Charges And 'Rigged' Election

The debate at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada, comes amid Trump's weakening support among voters since the release on October 8 of recordings from 2005 in which he made lewd and predatory comments about women.

Several woman have come forward since then and accused Trump of sexually assaulting them.

Trump continued to vigorously deny the accusations during the debate, calling them "all fiction."

"Those stories are all totally false," Trump said. "I didn't even apologize to my wife, who's sitting right here, because I didn't do anything."

Clinton responded by citing personal attacks Trump has launched against his accusers, saying that her opponent "thinks belittling women makes him bigger."

"He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don't think there's a woman anywhere who doesn't know what that feels like," she said.

Since the release of the video featuring his lewd remarks, Trump has repeatedly lashed out at what he calls a "rigged" political and media system aimed at hurting his campaign, in an apparent preemptive effort to discredit the election prior to the vote.

WATCH: Trump Refuses To Commit To Accepting Election Results

Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, said earlier on October 19 that the Republican candidate would accept the results of the election, remarks that come amid fears that his supporters could take action to challenge the results if they feel Trump lost unfairly.

"He'll either win or he won't win and I believe he'll accept the outcome either way," she said in an interview with MSNBC.

But during the debate, Trump refused to say that he would accept the results of the election regardless of the outcome. "I'll look at it at the time," he said. "What I've seen is so bad."

Clinton responded to his remark with disbelief, saying that she was "appalled that somebody who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that kind of position."

On October 20, speaking in the battleground state of Ohio at his first public appearance since the final debate, Trump told his supporters: "I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election if I win."

He went on to say: "I will accept a clear election result, but I will also reserve my right to contest and file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result."

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, NPR, and The Washington Post
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