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There was a moment in Sunday’s US presidential debate when Democrat Hillary Clinton was trying to fend off an attack from Republican rival Donald Trump about her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
“It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” Clinton said of her rival for the Nov. 8 election. “Because you’d be in jail,” Trump shot back, drawing a mix of gasps and applause from the crowd that was defying instructions to remain silent.
It was one of the most explosive moments of the debate in St. Louis, and unprecedented for one presidential candidate to suggest on a debate stage that his opponent should be in jail.
The debate was crammed with moments that could at best be described as petty and at worse vicious – as the candidates traded personal attacks and sarcastic one-liners.
Trump frequently interrupted Clinton and sparred with the two debate moderators, who in turn chastised the crowd for occasional outbursts.
When moderator Anderson Cooper asked Clinton if Trump had the discipline to be a good leader, Clinton responded with one word: “No.”
“I’m shocked to hear that,” Trump responded sarcastically.
He called Clinton names, including referring to her as “the devil” when discussing the support for her by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.
“We have a divided nation, because people like her – and believe me, she has tremendous hate in her heart,” Trump said a few minutes later.
Clinton in turn jabbed at Trump for his lewd remarks about women captured on a 2005 videotape released on Friday that has thrown his candidacy into crisis.
“OK, Donald, I know you’re into big diversion tonight, anything to avoid talking about your campaign and the way it’s exploding and the way Republicans are leaving you,” Clinton said.
After 90 minutes of such harsh exchanges, the mood changed suddenly when the final question came from an audience member who asked each candidate to describe one admirable quality about the other.
“I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald,” Clinton said.
Trump said of Clinton: “She doesn’t quit, she doesn’t give up, I respect that.”
At the close of the debate, they shook hands, something they had notably avoided doing when the night started.