Clinton shifts debate away from WikiLeaks revelations by blaming Putin for cyberattacks
The third and last presidential duel could well have passed with no mention of Russia, which grabbed the spotlight unexpectedly amid a debate over immigration, essentially serving as Clinton’s shield from what could have evolved into a rather uncomfortable discussion.
Moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, had asked Clinton to clarify her opinion on “open borders,” an issue that Donald Trump has been accusing her of pushing through, risking a “disaster.”
While Clinton rejects that she ever supported “open borders,” Wallace found an inconsistency. He pointed to a $25,000 speech to a Brazilian bank, recently exposed by WikiLeaks, in which Clinton said that her “dream is a hemispheric common market, and open trade and open borders.”
“Is that your dream, open borders?” Wallace asked.
Clinton resorted to a brief answer, taking the debate to a different hemisphere.
“You are very clearly quoting from WikiLeaks. What’s really important about WikiLeaks is that the Russians have engaged in espionage against Americans,” she said, accusing the “highest levels of the Russian government” and “Putin himself” of the cyberattacks on the US. “They have given that information to WikiLeaks for the purpose of putting it on the internet.”
In support of her accusations, she cited unsubstantiated conclusions from “17 of our intelligence agencies.” She then continued her defense with attacks on Trump, accusing him of seeking help from Putin.
“I actually think that the most important question of this evening, Chris, is, ‘Finally will Donald Trump admit and condemn that the Russians are doing this, and make it clear that he will not have the help of Putin in this election, that he rejects Russian espionage against Americans that he actually encouraged in the past?’” she said. “Those are the questions we need answered.”
Trump, however, did not take the bait. He steered back toward the immigration discussion, but did not miss the twist.
“That was the great pivot that she wants open borders. How did we get all to Putin?” he asked.
As he got to talking about the Russian president, Trump repelled Clinton’s accusations, saying repeatedly that he does not know Putin.
“I don’t know Putin. He said nice things about me. If we got along well, that would be good. If Russian and the US get along well and went after ISIS that would be good,” Trump said, prompting even harsher response from Clinton.
She went on to accuse her Republican rival of being “willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do,” calling Trump Putin’s “puppet.”
“It’s pretty clear you won’t admit the Russians have engaged in cyberattacks against the US, that you encouraged espionage against our people,” she said.
When asked whether Trump condemns Russia’s alleged interference in the US elections, he said: “Of course I condemn, be it Russia or anybody else.”
He remained firm on his position that neither the US government, nor Clinton have any direct evidence against Russia.
“She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China, or anybody else,” Trump said. “She has no idea.”
At the first debate in September, Trump said that cyberattacks targeting Clinton could be “by China” or “could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Yet tonight, Trump offered his explanation for Hillary Clinton’s ire toward President Putin.
“She doesn't like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her at every step of the way,” he said, making an example of Syria and a missile agreement. “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.”