LAS VEGAS — At Wednesday’s presidential debate, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton again sparred over the GOP nominee’s friendly posture toward Russia, with Trump accusing Clinton of being “outsmarted” by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Clinton accusing Trump of being a “puppet” for the Kremlin.
The exchange came in the midst of a discussion about immigration reform, when Clinton, while defending a claim that she supports “open borders,” openly questioned whether Trump would condemn Russia for trying to influence the U.S. election. The U.S. intelligence community has said that major email leaks from Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party were linked to Russian actors.
“When did we get off to Putin?” Trump said, accusing Clinton of dodging the question.
The GOP nominee answered the question anyway, insisting, as he often does, that he does not know Putin. However, he defended the idea of a closer relationship with Russia, arguing that the Kremlin could join forces with the United States in defeating the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Look, Putin, from everything I see, has no respect for this person,” Trump said of his rival.
Clinton, a few feet away, shot back, “Well, that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States.”
“You’re the puppet,” Trump declared, showing his first flash of anger in the debate.
The GOP nominee insisted that Clinton trashes Putin because he “has outsmarted her at every step of the way.”
Pressed on whether he condemns Russia’s alleged interference in the campaign, Trump he said he did. But the GOP nominee pushed back on the idea of whether Russia truly was responsible for hacking Democratic emails — though he has reportedly been briefed by federal intelligence officials who have said that they believe Russia is responsible for the act.
“She has no idea whether it’s Russia, China or anybody else,” he insisted. “She has no idea.”