Trump and Clinton at the third and final presidential debate

(Damon Winter/The New York Times)/ReduxPictures (Trump); Ethan Miller/Getty Images (Clinton)
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Trump Refuses to Say He’ll Accept Election Results

During their final presidential debate, Donald Trump said he would keep the nation in suspense over whether or not he would accept the results of the election if he loses to Hillary Clinton.

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump battled last night in their third and final presidential debate. With less than three weeks left before Election Day, the two candidates faced off at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Chris Wallace of Fox News served as moderator. His questions challenged each candidate on their positions regarding issues in the United States and overseas. While stating their beliefs and plans, both Clinton and Trump frequently turned to slamming their opponent’s record, behavior, and judgment. The biggest shock, though, came when Trump refused to say whether he would accept the results of the election if he lost.

A SHOCKING STATEMENT

Toward the end of the debate, Wallace asked Trump about accepting the results of the election if Clinton wins. Trump said, “I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, OK?” No presidential candidate has ever made such a statement before. A key tradition of our American democracy is that we have free and fair elections. The loser is expected to accept the decision of the voters and concede (accept as valid) the election to the victorious candidate. Clinton called his answer “horrifying.” She continued, “That is not the way our democracy works. We've been around for 240 years. . . . We've accepted the outcomes when we may not have liked them.”

Trump’s statement came as a surprise to viewers as well, including many of his supporters. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina sharply criticized the comments. “During this debate Mr. Trump is doing the party and country a great disservice by continuing to suggest the outcome of this election is . . . ‘rigged’ against him,” Graham said. “If he loses, it will not be because the system is rigged but because he failed as a candidate.”

Trump has repeatedly claimed that the election is rigged against him and continued to do so during the debate. Trump has blamed the media for “poison[ing] the minds of the voters” against him. He also said that there are “millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn't be registered to vote.” Experts have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud on either side.

THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE

Earlier in the evening, the candidates had an in-depth discussion of immigration for the first time during a debate this fall. Trump wants to build a physical wall that stretches the entire length of the border between Mexico and the United States to prevent illegal immigration. (A fence currently runs along 30 percent of the border.) “We need the wall,” he said. He has also called for major deportations, which means sending undocumented immigrants back to the countries they came from, starting with people with criminal records.

In response, Clinton pointed out that there are 11 million undocumented people in America, many of whom have children that were born in the United States and are automatically American citizens. She argued that Trump’s plan to deport all illegal immigrants is unreasonable and hurtful. “I don't want to rip families apart. I don't want to be sending parents away from children,” she said. Clinton wants to give “a path to citizenship” to undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes.

RACE TO THE FINISH

Clinton currently holds a solid lead over Trump in national polls, so Trump will need to use the next two-and-a-half weeks to convince many voters to support him to have a chance of winning the race.  Both candidates will continue to campaign across the country. On Tuesday, November 8, tens of millions of Americans will cast their votes.