U.S. presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have sparred over economic and foreign policy in a tense one-on-one debate, with the two rivals exchanging insults and interrupting each other in the first of three such match-ups ahead of the November 8 election.
Trump and Clinton shook hands as they strode on stage on September 26 for the highly anticipated event before a television audience estimated at 90 million. Throughout the debate, Clinton called her opponent "Donald," while Trump referred to her as "Secretary Clinton."
But despite a polite beginning, the bitter attacks quickly began to fly, with Clinton, 68, attacking her Republican rival’s temperament and credibility. She portrayed Trump as a deceitful man who will say "crazy things" to get elected and accused him of encouraging Russian President Vladimir Putin to unleash cyberattacks against American targets.
"You live in your own reality," she told Trump, 70, a wealthy businessman and former reality-television star who has never held elected office.
Trump, meanwhile, touted his outsider status to a nation suspicious of Washington insiders, repeatedly scorning establishment politicians for allegedly leaving the United States "weakened and demoralized."
He called Clinton, a former U.S. senator who served as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, a "typical politician. All talk, no action. Sounds good, doesn't work."
Much of the debate was devoted to the economy and trade policy, with Trump accusing Clinton of backing trade deals that he says have led to jobs flooding out of the country.
Clinton, meanwhile, highlighted Trump’s privileged upbringing and accused him of supporting tax policies that would further enrich the wealthy at the expense of the middle and lower classes.
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'No Doubt' About Russian Hacking
Turning to national security and foreign policy, Clinton responded to a question about cybersecurity by saying there was "no doubt" that Russia had conducted cyberattacks against U.S. political organizations and accused Trump of having "publicly invited" Putin to hack American targets.
"This is one of [Russia's] preferred methods of trying to wreak havoc and collect information," Clinton said.
Clinton said she was "shocked" when Trump suggested in July that Russia should hack her e-mails, referring to correspondence that Clinton said she deleted because she considered them personal.
Trump later said he was "being sarcastic."
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Trump, who has praised Putin as a strong leader and said he would improve ties with Russia, responded to Clinton's accusations by saying that "it could be Russia, but it could also be China" behind the attacks.
Cybersecurity experts and U.S. officials have said they believe Russia engineered the release of embarrassing e-mails from Democratic Party officials to influence the election.
Discussing NATO, Clinton pledged to support U.S. allies, including those on the eastern flank of the military alliance who are worried about Russia’s annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory in 2014 and backing of armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
"It is essential that America's word be good," Clinton said.
Trump, who has questioned the wisdom of Washington’s commitment to NATO, said the United States should not be "the policeman of the world."
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It was the first one-on-one debate against any candidate for Trump, the real-estate tycoon who captured the Republican nomination portraying himself as an outsider capable of shaking up Washington.
Clinton, meanwhile, is a veteran of such encounters, having challenged President Obama face-to-face on several occasions as the two competed for the Democratic Party nomination in 2008.
Two other candidates in the November 8 election -- Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein -- are not participating in the debate because neither reached the 15 percent threshold in national polls required to secure an invitation.
With reporting by AFP, AP, dpa, and Reuters